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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sleeping with the Wolf

One thing about state legislators.  They see an idea being floated elsewhere and they say "Why not here?", and that is the case in West Virginia where a proposal to appropriate the greyhound breeding fund for general use has the additional clause to allow all racetrack operators (greyhounds and thoroughbreds) to maintain their alternative gaming options while jettisoning horse racing if they desire.

As gaming companies seek to shed their money-losing businesses, you can be sure they will ask for decoupling.  How long do you think it will be until Harrah's in Pennsylvania, a company which has already made clear its disdain for supporting racing will be looking to shed themselves of their obligation to race (fortunately, Mohegan Sun up to now appears to be supportive of racing)?  Then what other states will get the idea to relieve these generous donors of lobbying and re-election funds from the burden racing?

New Jersey horsemen better be careful of what is being proposed in the constitutional amendment to expand casino gaming to Northern New Jersey for unless a share of the the revenue is memorialized in a constitutional amendment, how long do you think it will be until New Jersey finds itself looking at decoupling?

Unfortunately, track operators seeking the funds to open casinos at their facilities either sold out or now share a bed with casino operators so few tracks operating racinos have owners dedicated to horse racing.  Hence, we have a situation of a chicken sleeping in bed with the wolf.  It is only a matter of time until the wolf decides it had enough of the chicken.

Harness racing better start planning for life without the wolf, when racing will once again go on its own.  It should be looking at the possibility of racing of farms or small tracks where little wagering will occur and the majority of wagering will be done off-track.  It should consider setting up its own ADW to not only handle wagering but to put up the funds to race at these facilities.  It will be a whole new world out there and with some forward-looking people it can work.

Or we can lay in bed with the wolf and wait for the inevitable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Linking racing to slot money has been a good ride in Pennsylvania. As a fan and bettor, I've seen the top horses for 10 years because of the casino. Mohegan Sun Pocono hosted two Breeders Crowns. Still remember the days when the top purse was $5,000 once a week. $5,000 claimers run for almost that much now.

If things change, so be it. While horse quality is top notch, it was actually easier to make money in the old days. High takeout and small pools today really hurt. Part of racing's problems is a natural occurrence because there are more ways to gamble. Still, track operators don't seem to have answers and don't even show interest in using things some other tracks have done to successfully increase live attendance and grow handle.

Throw blame on the horsemen(and women)too. It doesn't apply to everyone, but it seems they're content to go (or cheat their way) to the big money for as long as it lasts and not worry about the future.

If state lawmakers regularly visited tracks, they'd ask themselves why millions go to an industry that has so few customers. The question is now being asked in some states.