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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Briefs

A columnist is Massachusetts claims casinos funding horse racing is inherently unfair.  The writer, Aaron Nicodemus is so wrong.  You see if horse racing was an unregulated business like Walmart (which he cites in his column) Nicodemus would have a valid argument.  But in some ways, it was the regulation of horse racing by the state which does not allow racing to respond to be competitive.  Don't you think if Plainridge Racecourse and Suffolk Downs was unregulated, they would have taken some different steps to keep their business going well?  Like it or not, gambling is regulated in Massachussets and other states and the legislation passed could have restricted casinos to the racetracks as they already have gambling.  As much as I think racing on the whole is doing nothing but collecting their welfare payments,  the fee the casinos are being required to pay is a fee for giving the casino industry the right to run casinos instead of exclusively to the racetracks.  Mr. Nicodemus, this is not capitalism; it is regulated industry so the whole model is different.

Bringing More Integrity to Harness Racing.  One of the biggest problems harness racing has is its nepotistic roots.  The family owns horses, trains horses and drives them.

Let's take a look at the Thoroughbred rule in Ontario:

9.15.01 A jockey or an aprentice jockey shall not:
(a) be an owner or trainer of any thoroughbred race horse,
(b) compete in any race against a horse owned or trained by his or her spouse, or
(c) compete in any race against a horse owned by his or her mother, father, brother or

Yet in harness racing, the Canadian rule is:

25.08 A driver shall not drive for any other person in a race in which one of the horses he/she trains or owns has been declared into race, except where such horses are coupled as an entry

The fact is if you can drive a horse you own, there is one less person involved, making it easier to hide a conspiracy.  As much as it would upset tradition and the way things are one now, it would be best if harness racing started to evolve towards the thoroughbred rules when it comes to who can't own a horse and who you can't compete against.

Instant Racing a KY Success.  While Instant Racing is not my cup of tea, apparently it is going like gangbusters at Kentucky Downs.  Why the success?  Apparently people like horse racing but hate the fact they have to wait 15-30 minutes between races.  Rather than racing every 15-30 minutes, perhaps we need to find a way to have live racing more frequently.  People want action, and for the majority of horse fans, seeing a screen with odds for the next race isn't meeting their needs,  

Chasing customers away.  With the economy being as poor as it is, most businesses offer incentives to get people in their virtual or real doors.  Apparently, not some in the gambling business.  Be it CDI, cutting incentives for all than those betting $25,000 a month; be it tracks considering raising takeout rates; to some tracks wanting to charge admission again, you would think it was a "happy days are here again" economy again.  It is not just horse racing, as some casinos are taking incentives away.  Some companies don't get it or they think all gamblers are degenerates who will keep on coming.  While they may not be gambling incentives, there are plenty of entertainment options out there.

Vernon Downs bucked the national trend in wagering with their on-track handle increasing 4% and the wagering on their product at simulcast sites increasing a staggering 35% .  Having some stakes races is what you need to introduce your product to those who would normally not look at your product. 

Why does Cal Expo get ignored?  I can't help but wonder why no one talks about Cal Expo?  In the latest release on, they talk about each Pick 4 having a 15% takeout and the late takeouts having $10,000 guaranteed Pick 4 pools on Thursday and Friday through the USTA Strategic Wagering Pool.  On Saturday nights, while the late Pick 4 has a 0% takeout for those who wager on track or through, those who wager elsewhere still get the 15% takeout.  In addition, there is a $10,000 guaranteed pool for that Pick 4.  Especially, with most of the wagering done on the East Coast, the late Pick 4 is the only game in town.

They can't wait for horse racing.  At least it seems that way to some 300 people in Meriwether County, GA, when the sheriff deputies showed up last Sunday to raid what we will call Meriwether Downs.  Seems like the last few weeks there was some horse racing with wagering going on at the facility and someone I assume who would have voted no on the GA parimutuel bill or had a really bad day at the track must have tipped of the sheriff department that there was a racetrack in their county taking wagers.  When the police showed up, the operation apparently looked like your regular running track with the exception of the lack of tote machines.  The Sheriff's department confiscated everything, including the beer and liquor from the concession stand, starting gate.  Without tote machines, I assume we can say Georgia was the first state with exchange wagering.

Speaking of thoroughbred racing, Chief Steward for the KHRC, John Veitch, has been dismissed 'without cause' as the final report on the Life At Ten indicdent is being finished up.  Clearly he is the sacrificial lamb for the whole Life At Ten indicident at the 2010 Breeders Cup,  Did Vietch make errors?  I am not sure.  Yes, in hindsight he blew it but there were no rules in place for handling comments made on television. But in the same way, if they had to refund $10 million in wagers on Life At Ten both the Breeders Cup and Churchill Downs would not have been happy.  It seems to me they are looking to make John Veitch the sacrificial lamb for a situation which could not have been foreseen at the time.  Yes, being fired 'without cause' means in theory he could get another job, but with the high profile of this case, everyone knows why he has been fired.  I suspect barring legal action, John Veitch's career has been wrongly ended.

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