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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Partnering with the Devil

Another day, another story where the Ohio Racing Commission (ORC) is refusing to give a license to a racetrack over a dispute with a new racino operator.  This time, it involves the Mahoning Valley Race Course, a thoroughbred race track to be operated by Penn National Gaming, and the dispute is over the number of stalls (you know the thing harness tracks once had) on the backstretch.  Basically, the ORC has indicated the facility will not get their racing license (hence, their gaming license) unless they increase the number of stalls available for their race meet.

If not for the ORC, racing would be screwed in Ohio as it seems the racing commission is the only one really concerned with how the racetracks will operate with regards to backstretches and in the grandstand.  One has to wonder if the horsemen groups were consulted over the plans presented to the board or if the architectural work was all done without out any knowledge.  

On the harness side, Miami Valley Gaming (formerly Lebanon Raceway) has a conditional license, finally issued after the ORC has extracted from the track operator the requirement to hire mutuel clerks to work at the track and are working on sight lines so horseplayers can actually watch the races.  They have fought track operators in making sure a certain number of seats are available outside as well as inside with a proper view of the racetracks.  Without the ORC watching the casino operators and holding their feet to the fire, what kind of tracks would horsemen be racing at?  Tracks with no fans.

In Ohio, race fans have had the ORC protecting their interests somewhat but in other states fans have not been that lucky with fans sitting in the racino version of bombed out Berlin while the slot players are being blown away with modern decor.  In Pennsylvania, only after an accident which has left a driver in a coma, the racing commission comes in and takes away race dates from Harrah's until they address track concerns, this despite complaints about the racing surface apparently going on for years and never being addressed.  Not that the horsemen are guilt free being despite the fact horsemen knew of the track conditions for years, they continued to race lured by the siren call of slot-infused purses despite the risks to their own lives.  The same track refuses to open their clubhouse/dinning room for their equivalent to Kentuckty Derby Day (Super Sunday) because their known lack of interest in racing.  Does anyone really think the PGCB is going to pull Harrah's slot license and cost the state revenue?

What do most of these tracks have in common?  The desire to do the minimum required racing-wise to secure slot licenses.  Despite seeing how the sport is being short changed by these companies, horsemen in other states seeking slots are dying to get slots that they are willing to partner with the very same people  who have been screwing racing elsewhere to get slots.  For the short change goal of getting slot-fueled purses, racing continues to make deals with the Devil, knowing sooner than later the Devil will be extracting their price, to the detriment of horse racing.

Has racing of all breeds gotten to the point where they are willing to forfeit their future for short-term gains?  Certainly the horsemen organizations must know the Devil will collect his 'due' in this unholy partnership; knowing the clock is ticking and sooner or later their partners will turn on them, handing them up for sacrifice.

It sure seems that way and it is sad.

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