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Friday, September 10, 2010

Here is a Chance to Help Yourself

One of the biggest mistakes made in harness racing in the United States was when the recall rule was changed without implementing a fair start rule.  Prior to the change in the recall rule, if a horse refused to come to the starting gate or was otherwise non-competitive, a recall was ordered and the horses would be regrouped for another start attempt.  After two recalls, the horse would be scratched and the gamblers would have their wagers refunded. 

Horsemen hated the recall rule.  Having to attempt a second start would come at a disadvantage for the horses that behaved so the rule was modified.  Only one problem, they eliminated the protection gamblers had of a possible refund.  In what could be considered an anti-gambler action, the decision was made to consider the horse a starter even if it was hopefully outdistanced.  The reason for this?  Plain and simple racetracks and horsemen did not want to refund the wagers and give up their commission on wagers; apparently under the mistaken opinion this money will not be wagered in a subsequent race.

As a result, gamblers who wager on a horse who is not competitive well before the start of the race, while other people are still wagering, end up losing their wager.  How does the industry justify not refunding wagers when a race hasn't started?  It would be one thing if gambling on the race was halted, then you can argue the race had started, but this is basically stealing from the customer.  Could you imagine a blackjack dealer dropping the deck of cards shuffling after you put down your bet telling you that you lost your wager before you even saw a card?  Could you imagine a thoroughbred refusing to get loaded into a gate and the track announcer telling you that the horse is being scratched and you are not getting a refund (In the case of a runner refusing to leave once the gate opens, it is a totally different situation.  Wagering has ceased; the race actually has started)?  Yet, we are basically doing the same thing every time a wager is lost when a horse is non-competitive fifteen seconds or more before a race begins.

We want to develop new gamblers.  How many times will a new gambler tolerate losing a wager this way before they decide they will never come back?  Probably only once.  Will the next time a regular horse player loses a bet this way be the time he walks away?  The tracks and horsemen are pulling a money grab for short term gains, yet chasing customers away.

In Canada, the racing commissions protect the public.  They implemented the fair start rule which mean any horse that was 200 feet or more behind when the race started, the horse would be declared a non-starter and the wagers would be refunded.  Horsemen eliminated their recall and the wagering public was protected.  In Canada, they are doing something for the gambler, whereas it seems in the United States we are trying to push gamblers away.

Fortunately, we have a chance to correct this situation.  A proposed rule change to implement a fair start rule in New Jersey has been published for public comment.  The proposed amendment to The proposed amendment to N.J.A.C. 13:71-17.1 will implement a "fair start pole," which will be erected approximately 200 feet before the start.  The fair start pole would be used to disqualify a horse from the pari-mutuel wagering pools if the horse has not reached the fair start pole by the time the starting gate reached the starting pole.   The judges will order the 'Inquiry' sign to be lit and the horse will be removed from the wagering and the gambler will get a refund.

However, for this to occur, the New Jersey Racing Commission needs to hear from you.  The public comment period has begun and concludes on November 6, 2010.  Without the racing commission hearing from the public that they want this to occur, this proposal may very well go down to defeat.  If you care about this issue, the time has come for you to act.  If you want a fair star rule to be implemented, you need to send in your comment to the NJRC (emails are not accepted).  In this day of simulcast wagering, you don't need to be a New Jersey resident to voice your opinion.

To comment, you need to send your comments to:

Submit written comments by November 6, 2010 to:

Frank Zanzuccki, Executive Director
New Jersey Racing Commission
P.O. Box 088
140 E. Front Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08625

Make sure you specify your comments are in reference to Proposal Number: PRN 2010-185.

Once this rule is approved in New Jersey, hopefully other states will get the message and make a similar change.

The fate of this rule is in your hands.

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