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Monday, December 20, 2010

Racing Needs To Do It On Its Own

First of all, I was hoping not to write this soon after creating my naughty and nice list so if you haven't seen it yet, please read it here.

Last night Governor Christie and others were on 60 Minutes.  What Christie and others have said is available below (if you can deal with the pharmaceutical commercial).

If we thought the situation in New Jersey is unique, we are certainly wrong.  If you watch this video, you will see why it took almost a year for the 2009 World Trotting Derby purse winners to receive their purse money and while it was cancelled this year.  You will understand why racing was decimated in Michigan and Rockingham Park cancelled their meet this year.  We are also seeing why casinos are popping up all over. We don't hear about thoroughbred problems that much because we cover harness racing, but rest assured they are hurting.. 

Being unable to raise funds, states are financially broke and pulling in their spending wherever possible.  Unfortunately, when you have police and teachers to pay, hospitals to fund, and all that massive debt you have acquired over the years from both Republican and Democrat administrations; there is little money to spend on horse racing.  While not meant to be a political commentary, our problem is America is a society which wants programs but doesn't want to raise taxes to pay for them.  In the United States, we lack the political courage to raise taxes to pay for our programs so governments (from the federal all the way down to local towns) borrow money.  After all, it is easy to spend other people's money.  In the boon days, with raising tax revenues (income, corporate, sales) it was easy to borrow.  But when the band stops playing (the economy tanks, it is a different story).

And then the band stopped playing.  Welcome to the great recession (I still say history will look at this as a depression when all is said and done).  Tax revenue is down and with the refusal of raising taxes (and now may not be the time to do it), the band wants to be paid.  So it started with tracks getting racinos and then the states moved on to casinos.  Nothing better than a voluntary tax, where people hand their money over to the government. 

True confession time, with the exception of refusing to allow a casino in the Meadowlands to regain revenue we  are losing to Pennsylvania and New York, I understood what Chris Christie was doing (of course my living is not dependant on horse racing).  Yes, Christie favored Atlantic City over horse racing.  Do I think Atlantic City can be saved?  Heck no.  But there is one difference, Atlantic City is going to fund their own attempted revitalization.  Horse racing was going to require the state to provide funding; something it didn't have.  Hence, until three days before the deadline when Jeff Gural came to the bargaining table, Meadowlands racing was about to join Jimmy Hoffa in the Meadowlands.  Jeff Gural and his partners are proposing to fix the problem on their own, without government money.  If a lease can be worked out, what we will have is Gural and his partners fixing racing their own.

Those horsemen depending on supplements are in for a rude shock.   I don't care about what state law allowed racinos to be built, but it is a matter of time until most states reduce or cut subsidies to horse racing.  It may not be 2011, 2012, or even 2013, but the time is coming.  And horsemen sit still doing nothing.

For racing to survive, it will be up to racing to do it on its own; expect no government assistance..  Remember Canada One?  Where is USA One, where there is a simulcast channel which allows racing to start on the East Coast at 11:00am and works its way through different tracks until the action ends at Cal Expo?  Two tracks at a time.  Each track gets their revenue with some exotic wagers spanning tracks being split between the tracks.  By being the only harness tracks racing at a given time, the simulcast dollars are not being divied between twenty harness tracks.  The action is relatively constant to keep people's attention.  Those who attend one track, notice no difference.    Lower the takeouts to draw additional bettors.

Think of a possible schedule of USA One:

11AM:  Freehold and Monticello Raceway (alternating races)
2PM:  The Meadown and Chester Downs (alternating races)
5PM:  Yonkers Raceway and Tioga Downs (alternation races)
8PM:  Meadowlands and Balmoral (alternating races)
11pm:  Cal-Expo and TBA (alternating races)

Different days different tracks get slotted in on alternating basis.  Customers want more wagering choices so we are going to be forced to race with a second tier and more than a mile at times.

The days of government bailing out racing are over.  ":Racing, Fix Yourself".  Make your physical plants entertainment centers.  American's love to shop, add malls to your property.  There is a reason Gural is looking to tear down the old Meadowland grandstand and build a new one.  The old grandstand is obsolete.  If obsolete at the Meadowlands, it is obsolete elsewhere.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post.Well articulated from an all around view rather then the myopic harness racing rhetoric which has worked for years.