I must confess a little confusion. If the industry is really looking for survival, why can't the industry spend as much time trying to fix the sport as it does in attempting to get slot machines? In Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky and other states, the emphasis is on getting slot machines and not improving the racing product.
If not for Governor Christie, New Jersey would be included in the list. Like it or not (NOT), thanks to the Governor, the New Jersey standardbred industry has called on Jeff Gural, perhaps one of the few track operators who believes in the product, to save the industry; there they may be grumbling but they have no choice but to attempt to improve the product. Thankfully, the Democratic controlled legislature was willing to give the racing industry some tools to give it a fighting chance to figure it out.
Oh, people will say slots does improve the product. It gives us bigger purses which allows us to have better horses to race, the breeders and horsemen haven't done so well in ages in these slot states, Well your wrong. A product is something that people, the public, want to buy. All slots are doing is lining the pockets of breeders, owners and horsemen as the product continues to whither; fewer people attending and lower handle. In plain language, slots are nothing more than artificial price support for a product which continues to get rejected by the public; it is like the record industry being paid to produce eight track tapes that will just sit in warehouses. I am being charitable when I call it artificial price support (the politically incorrect term is welfare).
Where I get confused is in wondering if people in the industry feel there is a future for horse racing (and those thoroughbred and quarterhorse horsemen, you are included). Where are all the attempts to get handle increased, some more people in the stands, people excited about racing? Not a couple of token events so horsemen and tracks can say "See, we did something". With the exception of a few tracks and horsemen groups I just don't see the effort being made.
Oh, I see the industry fighting for slots and subsidies but let's look at the track record of some states with slots or attempting to get slots. (in no particular order): Maine - State legislators are wondering why horse racing is getting any slot revenue. Illinois - A slot bill gets killed in the last minute of the previous legislative session. Massachusetts - No slot movement. New Hampshire - No slots this year, meaning Rockingham Park will likely be closed another season. Pennsylvania - Has twice cut the amount horse racing receives; what is to stop the next cut from coming? Indiana - Proposing a 47% reduction in contributions to racing. It may not be 47% this year, but who knows how much and how quick they will be coming back for more? Delaware - Now they want to open two more casinos in the state, which may take business away from Harrington Raceway, Delaware Park, and Dover Downs. Don't talk about the enabling laws intent to provide support for racing. You know laws are as good as the paper they are written on and unless you have a constitutional amendment guaranteeing you a fixed amount of slot proceeds; you are going to be fighting every year to keep your share of the pot and odds are it is a losing game; subsidies being whittled down until there is nothing left to the subsidy. Is this anyway to keep the product viable or merely a way to pad bank accounts before forced retirement comes?
Logically, if people had faith in their industry, they would spend more time on fixing the product instead of trying to get slots or maintaining their share of the revenue and the truth is with the exception of New Jersey on a state-wide basis, it is totally the opposite. A fixed product can last for years while slot revenue is fleeting. Where are the industry leaders, the USTA Directors, heads of the local horsemen and breeder groups who have faith in their product spending most of their time on making the product more appealable to the public?
There are a lot of young people in the industry so I guess my question to them is can you explain to me why you continue to elect the same officers, year in, year out who are more concerned with getting welfare payments instead of making the product desirable and self sufficient?