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Monday, December 1, 2014

Outsourcing A Thankful List; Meadowlands Importance Highlighted; A Different Alternative Source of Revenue

This year was a weird year for me so I was unable to put together a "Things to be Thankful For" list.  Fortunately, Jay Bergman of DRF Harness did come up with a list and it is a good one; good enough that I will adopt it as my 'unofficial' list.  Please take a look at it and let me know what is missing or what you think shouldn't have been included.

Elsewhere, someone was complaining on how the Burke and Takter stables have made the Meadowlands 'unbettable' with their coupled and non-coupled entries.  Well, let it be said while these two stables are responsible for most of those occurrences, they are not alone in filling the entry box with multiple entries.  But have you stepped back to ask yourself why the Meadowlands is the target of the these super trainers?

For the same reason the Meadowlands is important to the industry and needs to be around a long time for the industry to have any legs.  Some people say if the Meadowlands folds, another track will fill the void, but with the exception of WEG tracks, what other tracks have such an extensive slate of early/late closers, and pseudo late closers geared towards green horses and Grand Circuit caliber horses?  These stables race at the Meadowlands because where on a regular basis can they get their horses raced?  I'm sure they just as soon split their horses up to race at multiple tracks to grab their share of available purse money but the opportunity is not there.  Hence, there they are at the Meadowlands.

Of course, there is a problem on the wagering end with these entries, be it perceived or real and something needs to be done about it.  The so-called "Burke Rule" is somewhat draconian and truth be told while it is needed at this point, it is not the long term answer to the problem.

The ideal answer would be for other tracks to dedicate more of their alternative gaming revenue towards stakes programs instead of their overnight programs but that requires horsemen to agree to that.  Failing that, another solution would be necessary, one that would completely change the current owner-trainer relationship.  One thing is for certain, the sport can't thrive if there are only a handful of trainers around.

In New Zealand, the Auckland Trotting Club (ATC) realizes they are in trouble.  Purses are low and the number of participants are declining.  So are they just sitting there waiting for the end to come?  Heck no, the ATC is swinging for the fences in a do or die effort by becoming land developers; creating a project to construct 231 apartment units, a retail and entertainment district which would include a courtyard with restaurants and bars facing Alexandria Park from where people can wager on the races in addition to building multiple story buildings.

This is a $205(NZ) million wager by the ATC with $185 million of the cost to be financed in loans.  The expectation is rents from commercial and residential tenants will be able to finance and repay the loans in addition to gaining more interest in their racing product.  If the ATC were to default on these notes, it would likely mean the end of racing at Alexandria Park.

Not a stupid idea when you think about it.  Gulfstream Park has done something similar, building a destination center as part of their racetrack complex.  Granted, not every racetrack has the luxury of becoming a real estate development company and certainly being bought out by one is not the answer (see Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows), but for those who have the ability to partner with a development company to re-use excess land to develop an alternate revenue stream for operations and purses it should be seriously considered for then the track and horsemen would be in control of their own destiny, not depending on the lifeline called slots.

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