Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Virtual Racing

It's hard to know if my being out of the country and away from the blog so long in November has curtailed production or if it's just the time of the year that is to blame for an apparent lack of fire when it comes to entries. However, with the opening day of the inner meet at Aqueduct upon us it is hard to get revved up about much in racing. It's always nice to see some of the old winter stalwarts emerge once again from the barns but after a month of six furlong and a mile and 70 races things do get a little (lot) stale. Of course the flip side is that I have always felt that as a handicapper you can do very well in the winter at the big A. The bias and familiarity with the horses always seemed to make collecting much easier, albeit not as lucrative on a race by race basis. We have some new faces stabling at Aqueduct (Bruce Brown, Michael Maker and Chad Brown) this year and the return of some old familiar ones (Iwinski and Lake) as well. This should add some interest to the racing at least for the short term.

I came upon an unnerving reality while at the off track shops in Ireland; virtual racing. I remember positing this possibility in an early blog entry in which I was discussing the slots. In today's market almost all of us would acknowledge that all racing jurisdictions need racino money to compete (with those that already have racinos). But, my concern with racinos has always been that the fast, easy, cheaply produced money they generate with very little real estate needed will in the long run pose a threat to racing. Government is a greedy entity. If it feels it can generate as many tax dollars with less then we may be in trouble. They are not committed to racing for racing's sake, but for tax dollars. In NY this is especially troubling as the state can now claim full ownership of the real estate that our three main tracks sit upon. How much is that land worth to the state developed as compared to it's value when used for racing? I certainly can envision a casino surrounded by new development and malls and condos where Aqueduct now sits. That is where the (fatal) vision of virtual racing came into the equation for me. If they could generate racing without having to commit so much real estate to the venture I think they would do it. If government thought people would actually wager upon virtual racing in my mind they would not hesitate to try and incorporate it into the scheme. Let's face it people actually go in and play slots with the thought thought that they can win or at least get some kind of roi! I wonder how the racinos make a dime? Do the players really know how gambling, especially slots work? It's amazing people go in them and throw their money away. Well if they will spend money on slots they would likely spend it on virtual racing! Scary! A chilling vision. Perhaps that's the difference between horse fans and pure gamblers. I hold good handicappers in very high regard, and while I am absolutely certain that handicappers would never wager on virtual races they don't need us if there is enough suckers to just go and throw there money away. And with the success of most racinos it seems there are enough of those out there that they may not need we horse lovers and players; let alone designating all that ( in their opinion I'm sure) under-utilized real estate.

When I offered virtual racing as a possibility I did so mostly tongue-in-cheek, just to offer a scenario that I was concerned with. But it was chilling to come across it in reality. The shop I was in no longer took wagers on virtual racing. I'm not sure why. I'm not sure why they were still showing it if they didn't accept bets but there it was nonetheless! By the way it looked close to real! Real enough that I had to watch for thirty or forty-five seconds before I was certain I was seeing what I thought I was. Chilling!

No comments: