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Monday, June 9, 2014

Where is the Exchange? Time to Face Reality

We leave it to the  thoroughbred world to sort through the words of California Chrome's owners to decide what, if any merit, the comments in the post-race missive have.  We now return to the standardbreds.

Where is exchange wagering?  Remember exchange wagering, the wagering product which was going to revolutionize the wagering world of the sport?  In exchange wagering, you get fixed odds for a horse you back while you can lay a horse you feel is unable to win.  Cal Expo was supposed to introduce exchange wagering in December and New Jersey is still playing with the regulations needed to allow exchange wagering to be offered in the Garden State.  However, as of now, no word as to when the exchange will be open to those in their respective states.

Perhaps in the old days, the pari-mutuel system was an efficient marketplace.  With the lack of depth at many tracks, the pari-mutuel system is grossly inefficient as the pools lack the liquidity to absorb large wagers without impacting the dividend paid to winning wagerers; betting on an 8-1 horse is no not a question of getting between 10-1 and 6-1, but more likely a range between 10-1 and 5-2.

Certainly there are some unknowns.  For example, how will the pools be impacted at these tracks?  While there are no guarantees, the expectation is the pools will be minimally impacted if at all.  Exchange wagering will attract younger players while the more mature horse player (the majority) will continue to play into the existing pools.  Plus, with exchange wagering limited to win wagering, players will need to support the pools for their exotic wagers.  With the anticipated influx of new gamblers, there should be more interest in exotics so while there is a certain amount of fear involved with exchange wagering, the rewards should outweigh the risks.

The track people love to hate.  I discuss this issue reluctantly as it brings attention to those people who deserve no attention, but I have to have my say.

Poor Meadowlands.  The lack of slot supported purses has certainly lowered the caliber of the overnight racing program.  Based purely on horse caliber and purses, the Meadowlands may be a 'B' overnight track with an 'A' stakes program.  However, if you consider wagering, the Meadowlands sticks out as an 'A+' track through and through and those tracks with supposedly higher quality horse flesh and purses are no more than 'C' tracks.  So yes, prestige-wise, the Meadowlands may have problems primarily with an abundance of C-1 and C-2 races but the sport's relevance in the United States is tied directly to the success of the East Rutherford track.  Which track(s) will step up to carry on the stakes program the Meadowlands has were it to no longer exist?  None, meaning the few yearling buyers we have will cease to attend the fall sales leaving a shortage of horses to race.  How many tracks depend on the Meadowland's signal to boost their wagering revenues?

Yet in the anonymity of the Internet, there are those critics who seem to be delusional when it comes to the Meadowlands.  Yes, the racing stock is not what it once was but the whole business has changed thanks to slots.  If not for slots, how many tracks would still be racing?  Yonkers would be a shopping mall; Harrah's and Hoosier Park would never have been built; Plainridge, Monticello Raceway, Bangor, Scarborough and others all gone; Chicago tracks, without the hope of slots would be shuttered.  The Meadowlands may have been one of the last tracks standing.  It seems these haters don't realize the tracks they love are racing thanks to life support whereas the Meadowlands, the track  they love to hate is the one track people love to play and may have the only chance to survive based solely on wagering handle..

It seems to me, their hatred is tied to a personal dislike of track operator Jeff Gural, a person who clearly is willing to change the way business is done.  He recognizes what is wrong with racing and is doing his best, often running contrary to those in the racing establishment, trying to change the sport for the better.  The hatred and delight people take in perceived problems at the Meadowlands is coming from those who seem to have no grasp of the reality racing is facing.  I suggest these people take a good look at the current status of racing and then offer their opinions.  Any honest review of the current situation of harness racing in the United States will show how key the Meadowlands is to the future of the sport.

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