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Thursday, February 23, 2012

...and Yada Yada Yada

This is (hopefully) my last article for a while regarding the Ontario and Pennsylvania 'crisis' because I must admit I am getting sick of this subject and rather deal with some racing.

I get Google news alerts for harness racing and the one thing I am seeing constantly is messages of solidarity from different horsemen groups to Ontario horsemen in their struggle against the Provincial Government which is threatening to take away the support horse racing is getting by having OLG slots at the tracks as well as the messages on how much the local racetracks provide to the Ontario economy and the number of jobs dependent on horse racing.  All I can say is Yada Yada Yada.  We've heard it all before and continue to hear it now. 

A word of advice to these tracks and horsemen groups.  All jobs are not created equally. You are not going to win on the jobs argument.  This is not a knock on people who may be blacksmiths, grooms, or farmers growing hay.  Not a knock on trainers, drivers, or breeders.  When it comes to government, they are making distinctions on jobs with regards to importance to society and the benefit it provides.

Who is more important to society?   A teacher or a harness driver?  A police officer or a trainer?  A college professor who will help educate the next generation of medical researchers or doctors, or the person who grows hay for horses?  This is not to say any government relishes putting people out of work, but in these days of over extended budgets and excessive debt, a value judgement needs to be made where government is going to spend its precious resources.

I understand the potential unemployment argument, but racing is not the only industry that makes this argument.  This argument about maintaining jobs is being made by nurses, construction workers, police officers, union workers, and countless others; all looking for a piece of the government's budget.  Racing looks at its needs in a silo, government doesn't.  The government must look at the big picture.and what they are seeing is an industry that is seriously ill and unwilling to do anything to help themselves.  This is what Hugh Mitchell is trying to say and what Jeff Gural has been saying for several years now and it seems the industry on the whole ignores them with everyone looking at their own individual interests without looking at the big picture on how to strengthen the industry nationally.

To paraphrase what an American President once said, "Ask not what your state/province can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your state/province."  This is the argument you need to make.

Yada, Yada, Yada didn't work in New Jersey as Governor Christie was hell-bent on getting out of the business of horse racing regardless of how many jobs were lost.  Were it not for Jeff Gural, the Meadowlands would be finished.  Same thing for Monmouth Park. Yada, Yada, Yada may or may not work in Ontario, but do you want to depend your livlihood on it?  Relying on the same old arguments are a formula for disaster because after a while the government becomes immune to hearing it.

Why is there no solidarity unless an immediate crisis is occuring.  Why can't this same group of people offering support to Ontario horsemen show this type of solidarity in solving racing's ills?  Maybe if they spent more time do that, we wouldn't be in these crisis situations now.

Yada, Yada, Yada.  Maybe it is time for racing to help themselves for once instead of waiting for the government to help them.


Anonymous said...

Pacing Guy,

Jeff Gural and other "track owners" who run Racinos are not dependent on harness racing for a return on their investment. Mr. Gural is "gambling" on gambling coming to the Meadowlands with his and other money.
Please know that Mr. Gural and his fortune were "not" made without strong ties to political officials.
The argument that horsemen need to guide the ship and racetrack owners who received and profited from political "favor" can step back makes little sense. Regardless of purses offered, racetracks as a whole (including those of Mr. Gural) have spent marginally on promoting harness racing.
Take a look at NY where horsemen and track/racino owners are at odds over the next casino windfall project. Track owners are looking for a windfall with little to no concern over the good of racing.
While Mr. Gural has at least been vocal and in the front of the argument, he's not gambling "his fortune" on the future of harness racing. Somewhere along the way you have to realize those with political favor will always have an edge in profiting. Those without it (horsemen) will not.

Pacingguy said...

Yes, Jeff Gural is hoping casino gambling comes to the Meadowlands; there is no doubt about that and anyone trying to deny that is foolish. That being said, I do believe Gural does support harness racing and wants it to succeed. Remember, he owns racehorses and also breeds some as well.

From those I know, I do believe he has done more to get people hooked on racing at Tioga than other track operators. That being said, he couldn't do it without slots.

As for the attempt to get additional gaming, namely table games. Horsemen in PA got nothing from the table games but the installation of those games did increase slot play. There is no reason to think this will not be the case in NY.

I do think horsemen need to step up to the plate, the casinos will be there if the horses are gone. Who has the most to loose. Now, let me clarify what I mean by stepping up to the plate. It doesn't only mean monetary factors, but things to make the game more attractive to new gamblers. A willingess to race in different distance races; monte racing; agree to tougher penalties to make the sports image better are also need. I do think giving up 5% of the slot revenue to marketing of harness racing only (not slots)and perhaps agreeing to use some of the purse account to seed wagering pools, offering guarantees and possibly accepting slightly less from a handle (reducing takeout) which is insignificant to the purse account is necessary.