What if you heard the following quote, "Harness racing in this city would have a secure future and no longer have to be reliant on the Racing Board funding or slot machines"? No doubt you would be interested. Imagine, developing a source of income which would help maintain the track and provide income for purses with no threat of the government cutting you off at your knees on a moment's notice.
So what may be the solution to racing's funding woes? Real estate. Real estate development to be precise. This is what exactly is being planned for the Auckland Trotting Club as they are planning a five or six level development with a mix of retail and residential use. By taking the revenue they would receive from their planned development, income would be generated to keep the track operating with purses being enhanced with a share of the profits. Now admittedly, it would probably work better if the meet operator was a non-profit organization dedicated to horse racing, but it may work in a for-profit setting..
Real estate development is not exactly a new concept for racetracks in North America. Gulfstream Park for one has developed The Village at Gulfstream Park which has become an integral part of the track's long term strategy (admittedly, they still have slots). Not only does the track get income from the development, it draws people to Gulfstream Park as it is part of the development.
How many racetracks currently have more property than they need? Parking lots seldom used, a leftover from the heydays of racing. Even parts of grandstands no longer used due to the drop of on-track attendance could be considered for redevelopment. While it would take some negotiations with horsemen, backstretches which are cost centers for tracks could be redeveloped into a profit center if everyone is willing. Some bold individuals may even consider 'self-decoupling' and move the racetrack to a new location as part of a redevelopment program, moving away from operators who are concerned solely with casino games..
Everyone wins. The track and horsemen win, and the local government wins with the development of new ratables to tax. I realize this model may not work for all tracks, but it is worth considering.
Wishful Thinking: Thoroughbred racing was introduced yesterday in Chengdu province in China thanks to the efforts of the UAE Racing Authority. Obviously, the Racing Authority got involved as a way to promote their thoroughbreds to the Chinese market. I don't know how well it would have been received by government authorities in Chengdu, but wouldn't it have been great if a partnership could have been set up to introduce harness racing to the Chinese mainland? Due to the distance, perhaps it wasn't up to North American interests to introduce the sport; perhaps it belonged to Australian and New Zealand authorities. The fact is no one did.