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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Does Anyone Have Faith in Racing?

Another article discussing another state's horse racing industry pleading for slots.  This time it is Minnesota considering slots at Canterbury Park and Running Aces.  I have a question for everyone in horse racing (that is all racing breeds).

Does anyone have faith in horse racing anymore?  To be more precise, does anyone have faith in horse racing besides Jeff Gural?  Make no mistake, nothing would please Jeff Gural than getting slots at the Meadowlands, but it is his goal to make racing fun and self-supporting.  It seems the only thing anyone in racing (with the exception of California which has its own problems with casinos as a result of its compact with Indian gaming) knows is slots, slots, and slots.

Yes, I do reluctantly support slots at racetracks only because those tracks without slots are competing at a severe disadvantage but nothing would please me more than having every single slot machine yanked out of every racetrack in the United States.  I rather have track officials and horsemen get together and discuss how racing could survive on its own and compete against the casino industry.  Things like:

  1. Divorced from state racing commissions and establish a national regulatory body.
  2. Speed up these blooming horse races.  There is no reason why races can't be run five races in an hour.
  3. Lower takeout.
  4. Introduce new bets
  5. Set up a national racing calendar which sets up the schedule for racetracks throughout the country so there is not 30 or more thoroughbred and harness tracks operating at the same time.  Have each track run seasons and have them run from 10am in the morning until midnight on the East coast.  There is no reason why more than ten tracks from all breeds are running nationally).
  6. Provide alternative entertainment at the racetracks which would be held before or after the racing card so racetracks would become destination centers.
  7. Appreciate customers.  They are no longer degenerate gamblers.  The customer should be looked at no different than the person who attends baseball or other games.
  8. Remember why we are here.  We are here for the customers, not ourselves.
  9. Standardize rules with meaningful (severe fines and suspensions)..
  10. Establish a more reliable tote system where people are confident there is no past posting.
  11. Establish a national ADW system which will compete against the ADWs that will offer rebates to the heavy hitters yet instead of making their owner a profit, run as a non-profit and return more to the racetracks for purses and operating funds.
  12. Improve capital spending.  If a track does not maintain or improve their facilities, reduce the number of racing days.
  13. Ensure the humane treatment of race horses including retirement and post-racing careers.
  14. Speaking of humane treatment.  Concessions that people actually would want to eat, not have to eat.
  15. Uniform drug testing including referring class 1 and class 2 drugs to prosecutors.
  16. Establish regional training centers under the control of the national agency which would be the same as if they were stabled on the backstretch.  Horses would be shipped by the national agency to the respective tracks to prevent on the road doping.
  17. Commissioner or some other regulating board to rule on certain issues.
  18. Obtain a monopoly exemption from the US Government only for purposes of regulation to allow regulators to suspend those who need to be suspended until a hearing can be held to expel an individual when clearly necessary.
But no, that is too much work to even try.  We rather go on the welfare rolls and once the tap is closed off we'll all go home.


Josh Potts said...

PG, this sort of addresses #1, but approaches it from a slightly different angle than the federal government creating a national harness racing regulatory agency. Hear me out on this.

What if privately-owned harness tracks (and/or harness tracks leased by private entities – like the New Meadowlands) banded together to form a network? This network would have rules regarding medication, trainer infractions, driver infractions, whipping, etc. This network would also have prescribed disciplinary procedures for infractions.

Now, this is where everyone jumps up and screams that state and provincial racing commissions handle these things. So, what if the network’s rules were AS or MORE stringent than any state or provincial commission’s rules, where network tracks are located, with regard to medication and other infractions? See, this way, network tracks are not breaking any state or provincial racing rules. In fact, in many cases, they are being held to a higher standard.

And the penalties would carry over to all tracks within the network. For example, if a driver is given a 30-day suspension from one of the tracks in the network, s/he would not be able to race at any track in the network for those 30 days. Now, the downside to this is that the driver in question could race at a non-network track (I doubt every harness track would join a network like this). But, if all the big-name tracks were in this network, getting hit with a suspension like this would hit them in the wallet, and make them think twice about making the same mistake.

To be sure, there would be some costs to starting up a network of this type. Settling on one rule book may be difficult, but I doubt impossible. Principals from each track could meet periodically to go over items the network must deal with. Obviously, there is not enough room here to go over everything that would need to be done, but you get the idea.

I'm sure the naysayers would have a million-and-one problems with this idea, but such is life. Sorry for the long post. Keep up the great work on your blog.

Pacingguy said...

Josh, in theory I like your idea.

Right now racing is regulated by the state. There would need to be some type of compact to allow a national or 'league' type authority regulating the sport. Without that, no league could exist.

Other than granting an anti-trust exemption, I would not advocate the feds getting involved. But getting that monopoly privilege would allow them to tell the tracks when they can race.

Josh Potts said...

Yes, I realize that racing is regulated by the state or province where it is contested.

Take medication for example. (Now, I admit this is a simplified example because I don't want to leave another marathon post.)

Let's say tracks in two American states and one Canadian province join this network. State A allows 35 ppm of Drug X in a horse's blood, State B allows 50 ppm of Drug X in a horse's blood, and Province C allows 40 ppm of Drug X in a horse's blood. The network I described would set the rules so that no more than 35 ppm of Drug X could be in a horse's blood that is racing at any network track - regardless of its location. Why no more than 35 ppm? Because State A has the most stringent rules pertaining to Drug X. If a horse that is racing at a participating network track gets tested and has 36 or more ppm of Drug X in its system, it tests positive.

This would NOT violate the rules in State B or Province C. The racing commissions in State B and Province C would not care if horses racing there are "less drugged" than what they usually allow.

Now, for these rules to be enforceable, all trainers, drivers and horse owners would need to sign a contract with the network. If they didn't sign the contract, the track would simply not allow them or their horses to race there.

And by the way, I realize a compact would take away the need for a network like this. If a national compact made any headway, I'd be all for it of course.