To no one's surprise, Joe Faraldo, the President of the SOA of NY responded to Jeff Gural's letter to the industry. I once found the Gural-Farlado feud to be entertaining, you knew if one said it was sunny outside, the other one would say it was raining. Quite honestly, this has got to stop as the stakes are too high.
That being said, since Mr. Faraldo spent the time to repudiate Mr. Gural's comments, let me address some of the points of Mr. Faraldo's letter (the links above show each individuals response).
- Faraldo claims that since Gural paid for the survey, it was a 'push' survey. Well, I have seen the survey and one thing it was not is a push survey, certainly no more than an interpretive statement on a public question in a voting machine would be. If Mr. Faraldo thinks this was a 'push' survey why did he not include a copy of the survey he received as proof it was a push survey? Since this survey went only to horsemen in Delaware, New York , and Pennsylvania, and his press release is intended for the industry, don't you think other horsemen are entitled to see what Faraldo is talking about?
- Faraldo claims a one third response rate is skewed, claiming a majority didn't vote because it clearly was a 'push' poll. - Actually, the response rate for this survey is better than the typical response rate for surveys. Studies have shown small response rates can still be representative (read the section titled importance). If the others were smart enough to think it was a push poll (I doubt it), they easily could have figured out how to vote in the negative. More likely, most of the people didn't respond because they didn't care or they thought it was a waste of time, figuring nothing would change. If that was the rationale, shame on those who did not respond as indifference is one of the biggest problems we have in this sport. One could argue that free of the possibility of being unduly influenced by their leadership in a meeting setting, horsemen were free to vote the way they really thought. Update: You can go to the Horsemen and Fair World's Weekend Update. You will get the actual survey results and a copy of the actual survey which Faraldo claims is a push poll.
- Faraldo claims the other horsemen in Delaware and Pennsylvania take offense at Gural's insinuation that horsemen don't spend enough on marketing. Indeed the PHHA and the DSBOA help produce television shows (PA Harnessweek and Post Time, respectively). Faraldo fails to note that Tioga and Vernon Downs produces Inside Harness Racing which is shown both at the track and in their local markets. Yes. the SOA of NY does pay for NYRA's account wagering system to televise Yonkers' races on the ADW network, but technically, I wouldn't consider that marketing. If Yonkers Raceway management doesn't contribute money to put the races on television, then shame on them, but the blame should be put on Yonkers and not Gural. How come we are only hearing from the representative of the SOA of NY? What about hearing from the other groups, including those other horsemen groups in New York? Such comments would only strengthen Faraldo's case.
- Faraldo claims the tracks get an 8% (Yonkers) and a 10% (other NY tracks) marketing allowance to market harness racing, showing the State of New York thinks the tracks should be doing the marketing. The tracks had asked for this marketing allowance because otherwise the tracks wouldn't market harness racing. Gural would not dispute the fact tracks don't advertise the sport as much because it is not cost effective. Specifically, he said "To continue to wait for track owners to reallocate money from the prime business of casino gambling is foolish. In truth, we make more money as a result of their focusing on marketing a casino since that is where the vast majority of the purse money is generated." This is why the tracks asked for the allowance; to help induce them to market where there would be little return on it; the racing itself. Horsemen have everything to win by advertising. For the record, the proposal suggested to horsemen the tracks would match the horsemen’s contributions. In the perfect world, is it fair that tracks don't spend much on advertising? Heck no! However, if harness racing disappears in the state, the tracks will still be there as casinos. While it would be good if the tracks spent more money on marketing, are you going to stand on principle and not (and we are not talking just the SOA) advertise, letting the ship sink? The state doesn't give the horsemen an allowance for advertising because they have everything to gain by advertising. No where does this advertising allowance suggest it is the tracks responsibility to be the sole advertiser.
- Faraldo claims the SOA spends a lot of money on marketing. How much did the SOA allocate and for what last year? What I would like to know is how much did the other horsemen groups spend on marketing?
- Faraldo claims the USTA has wasted marketing money in the past and insinuates they will in the future. No argument here that the examples given by Faraldo failed though I suspect the problem was as much insufficient funding as poor execution. But rather than dismiss the idea of spending money on marketing by letting the tracks determine it, why not propose a joint committee to plan for advertising expenditure?
- "Horsemen shouldn't have to hand over millions of dollars to be tossed away on beanbag horses being thrown into the back of a moving car because a track management like Tioga thinks it's effective marketing of harness racing..." I truly doubt Tioga is spending millions of dollars on beanbag horses being throw into the back of a moving car. Likely, the cost is close to $20,000 a year to buy a car at a discount. Tioga is a different market than others; there people come to the races for entertainment value, granted it is a shame that they have not been able to get the per capita up, but the purpose of this contest to win a car is actually a fundraiser for local charities, showing Tioga is a good corporate neighbor. It is all part of the total entertainment package that Tioga is trying to promote which down the road may also pay off for racing by introducing new gamblers. No one is suggesting horsemen donate to this type of contest. Instead of taking cheap shots at Tioga Downs, why not suggest a joint horsemen-operating marketing committee which jointly would decide how to market?
- Faraldo claims the horsemen are pay $10 a start to pay for testing and the tracks pay nothing. Faraldo is talking about the $10 fee which is being used to help pay for milkshaking and EPO testing. Other testing was paid for by racing. According to an article published in 2009 in the New York Times, the NYSRWB was paying $4 million to Cornell while the $10 per start was anticipated to add $1 million to the testing program for harness and thoroughbreds. See Drug Testing of Harness Horses Lagging in New York.
So basically, we are where we were before this all started. I don't say that horsemen need to acquiesce with track operators but then clearly nothing is going to get done. The old business model of tracks pay all the expenses with regards to marketing and maintaining the track and horsemen just supply the horses no longer applies. Clearly what is happening in Ontario has not resonated with the horsemen. Perhaps the New York horsemen feel what's happening in Ontario can't happen to New York. That is what they thought in Ontario.