Monday, May 12, 2008


The following entry is something that I had written for submission but wasn't used. However, since I ended yesterdays entry hitting on the subject of greed and I had titled this piece Greed, I thought this might be an apropos place to use it. It hits on many of the themes I have written of already so excuse some repetition, but I decided to publish it on it's own. So here it is. I think after this entry I need a few days to just think about and enjoy just racing!

Greed is ruining the great sport of horseracing! Be it Magna, Churchill, NYRA or their partners, their main concern is collecting a piece of every cent wagered. They would rather deny the fan the product than risk creating a new fan and losing his nickel to a competitor. They act as if the signal is the biggest asset, not the racing. This creates shortsightedness that is damaging because it results in the fans being neglected and in a complete failure to nurture new fans. The only thing being wooed is the gambling dollar.
Let’s be clear, the tote fuels the sport. Equally as true is that without state and municipal coffers being fed the use of such valuable real estate would cease to be a reality. If the current trend of racinos doesn't scare you then you underestimate the power of greed. VLT’s require much less investment and risk than racing. As they prove themselves a dependable source of revenue and fans start to dwindle do you trust the government(s) to supplement the racing industry? The more likely scenario is that governments insatiable appetite for revenue will turn racinos into casinos surrounded by taxable development.
One may argue that a racino isn’t always as profitable as racing, citing Gulfstream Park’s decision to remove some slots this year. The removal of some slots is not proof that the return on them is not better than the ROI on racing. It is apparent that slots at Gulfstream have not produced any obvious enhancement to racing. The purses are not attractive. There are problems with the track and the racing facilities. The Breeders Cup committee did not view the venue suitable to present the fall showcase. What were they thinking when they designed the complex? All that remains is the slow decline of racing. The real estate is worth much more to Magna developed than as a race track.
As a race fan and a New Yorker, I am extremely concerned that NYRA’s new contract cedes title to Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga to the state. What happens when the bettors inevitably start to decline? Are we to trust the state to patiently help nurture new fans? I think fans feel that the institution of racing and such institutional landmarks as Saratoga Race Course are safe from the talons of greed. Friends in the industry have told me that they felt that way about Hialeah and Ak-Sar-Ben! This year we say good bye to Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park seems destined to the same fate. Where next?
The sport needs visionary leadership. It needs to take care of the fans and to nurture new ones. Without fans the sport will die. What can be done? First, let the racing be seen, free! Properly promote the sport outside of the trade publications. Try to create curiosity and interest in those with little or no exposure to racing. Stop worrying about the betting dollar because without fans there will be none! If targeting bettors is a must then make the desirability of the service the issue not the signal. Let the fans see the races! The weekend of the Louisiana Derby was a perfect example of the problems in action. When a fan as passionate as I am has to run maneuvers to see the best races how can racing attract new fans?
I implore the industry to stop acting like warring nations. Keep your eyes on the strength of the sport; the RACES! The institution of racing is not untouchable there is an institution much stronger: GREED!

*I have added the text of my comment to Jonah Lehrer to the end of the blog entry for May 4th. So for anyone who didn't follow the link you can now view it here at It's a Shame.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You left out one of the largest group of 'greedsters,' horsemen.

When Louisiana Downs opens without ADW this will make 7 tracks in 6 states with 5 different owners that THG has blocked:

OH - Thistledown (Magna)
OH - River Downs
KY - Churchill (CDI)
TX - Lone Star (Magna)
LA - Lousiana Downs
PA - Presque Isle Downs
FL - Calder (CDI)

When you look at the list of tracks supported by an ADW and see a list of states that cannot use the service to bet on a specific track though they can bet on others, you know the horsemen are to blame. For example, on TwinSpires you can wager (by phone only) on Pimlico, but not if you live in CA, ID, KY, LA, MD, MA, ND, OH, OR, VA, WA, or WY.

Nobody's hands are clean in this fight and it's time to recognize the horsemen's greed, as well.