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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Unfinished Business

With the start of a new year, there is always unfinished business impacting horse racing.  Today, we look at a few items left over from 2012 which need to be addressed in 2013.

In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder is still sitting on HB 5546 which would permit Instant Racing.  The Governor has until January 11, 2013 at 11:06 to sign the bill; failure to sign the bill results in a defacto veto as the legislative session has ended.

There is still no idea as to how racing in the province of Ontario will look like starting April 1.  There have been some reported meetings between racetracks, horsemen and the provincial government but for the most part staying in the province is an act of faith by horsemen.  I am sure there will be racing, but make no mistake, things will change.  How good or bad it will be remains to be seen.

Florida needs to get its act together with respect to racing.  First, they must define what is considered horse racing, the idea that the parties conected to the Gretna project is conducting quarter horse racing by having wagering on barrel races is absurd yet they were able to get away with it because the term horse racing is so nebulus.  The public is not fooled, as they have had race dates where the handle has been as low as $24. 

The state also must crack down on the way they allow quarter horse licenses to be awarded and kept in a back pocket and set a minmium number of race days needed to consider a license active.  For example in December, the Ocala Breeders Sales (OBS) raced one thoroughbred race and a quarter horse race to keep their licenses active; not one race day, but one race card.  Another group, South Marion Real Estate, leased the OBS facility and ran two quarter horse races to preserve their license.  Gulfstream Park has a quarter horse license as well; they raced one race in April to keep that license active.  Then there is Hamilton Downs; good luck at finding that quarter horse track as in reality, it is a jai alai fronton.  Of course, these quarter horse licenses are cherished by investors because a license allows construction of poker rooms and may down the road be the key to opening casinos or adding machines to an existing facility.  But when the state considered tightening up the rules to get rid of inactive licenses and define horse racing, no bills made it out of the legislature in 2012.  These issues need to be revisted in 2013.

Amazingly, while there are quarter horse licenses all throughouot the state, state law allows only one standardbred license to be issued.  The legislature should allow another standardbred license to be available, not to compete against Pompano Park, but to facilitate the opening of another track to complement Pompano, offer racing when Pompano is closed.

In Illinois, the state legislature in their veto session must decide whether or not to approve legislation to approve slots expansion to race tracks and re-open Quad City Downs.  Supposedly, Governor Quinn vetoed the last bill not because of slots at racetracks, but the casino portion of the bill.

PTP has an excellent post where he talks about marketing, in particular how today's press release from the Meadowlands doesn't talk about the horses at all, just about the gambling aspect.  In his piece, he argues racing needs to focus its marketing on one segment, not go all over the place; in this case the gambling angle.  In some ways, PTP is absolutely right, but no one formula works.  In the case of deep pool tracks like Balmoral, Meadowlands, and Yonkers the gambling angle works, but when you are dealing with tracks where the pool is shallow such as a Sports Creek Raceway, you're probably better off sticking with the horse stories because you are dealing with a different type of target market.    

You have seen me promoting the film I Am, A Harness Racing Horse.  While that film will be centered on the standardbred horse, there is a film called Raceday which is focused on the life of participants in harness racing that was produced from user-generated content.  Being this film is centered on Canadian participants, one may think this film was produced as a result of the Ontairo government's decision to end the slots at racetracks program but this film was planned long before then, focused on the activities of August 6, 2011.

The film has now been posted online and is available for viewing by everyone.  If you love harness racing you will want to see this film.  It does take a little over twenty-three minutes to watch but it is well worth it. 

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