Jay Bergman, who was the editor of Sports Eye before it became Harness Eye, has joined the Daily Racing Form as a harness racing columnist. In his first "Jaywalking" column, Bergman writes about Pena, and other things in his first column, but this one segment about the changes in harness racing struck me as being totally accurate. If I have any disagreement with the article, I would say it could probably apply to all of horse racing; not just harness racing.
Well, the HTA (Harness Tracks of America) daily newsletter is dominated with storylines about casino gaming. Sure, they sprinkle in a few racing tales every now and then, but mostly it’s about current, pending, or future legislation regarding casinos.
Somehow, somewhere, you have to believe things have changed when harness racing is suddenly the sidelight. Does the HTA newsletter stance correctly mirror racetrack owners’ own views of racing?
If I owned a racetrack and could substitute an endless income stream for a dripping rusty faucet, I would do it in a heartbeat.
The institution of a 50-50 marriage between horsemen and racetrack owners is dead. The couple no longer shares the same bed or bedroom. Now you can feel the resentment between the parties.
The horsemen, who actively campaign(ed) for slots, believe it's still a 50-50 partnership. The track owners, who also campaigned and spent money to construct casinos, believe they have already done enough for their spouse.
This is the new reality of horse racing. Something has to give and it is the horsemen. They may still get 50-50 for now but they will be expected contractually to take part of their share and invest it in the game; be it seeding pools, lowering takeout, or paying for advertising.
The old argument that management provides the facility and it is the horsemen who provide the horses and put on the show is dead and horsemen need to understand it. Those who feel slot legislation can't change and their slot subsidy is their 'divine' right are in for a big surprise; state legislators are soon enough going to realize they are paying welfare payments to a dead recipient and stop cutting checks.
Like it or not, if horsemen don't play ball with management one of three things are going to happen. As in Iowa, tracks will attempt to buy their way out of the need to race; you will find racetracks hiring their own horsemen race the minimum number of races they can get away with; the state will free the tracks of the 'rac' in racino and they will become casinos with the racetracks becoming part of the building or parking.