Are the Good Times Really Over for Good?

by Ed Meyer

posted on July 23, 2008 in General Discussion, Horse Racing | No Comments >>

Wagering on Thoroughbred racing is down 11% since the Triple Crown. It has dropped a staggering $209,860,208 this year. Why?? Is it the economy?? Trouble with ADW sites?? Bad publicity overall?? Medication issues for horses?? The answer is simple. Yes…..

While the country is in a slide across the board, we are in trouble in a bad way. The answers won’t be simple, and they won’t come cheap. There can only be an answer when we will take a look at the problems. How can we expect change?? A wise man once told me: ” If you always do what you did, you’ll always get what you always got.” No truer words have been spoken.

It is easy to point fingers and have no solution, but here are a couple of ideas that may stimulate some change, or at least bring the powers that be to the table.

  • We need a national governing agency. Just like all pro sports. We need a big brother with one answer and not more questions. And whatever the answer, we all have to live with the result. Lets don’t vote or wait for gents at a table to decide in ten years. Lets do it now… Is there a rule claiming we can’t change?
  • Make it easy for drugs. A zero tolerance like in Europe. Give the trainers some bute and lasix to take care of the small problems with their stock, and clear the table with the rest. Everyone from the bottom claimer at Arapahoe to The Breeders’ Cup. Period.
  • States seem to relish the opportunity to have expanded gaming. This is a sanitized word for slot machines and poker rooms. Lets take all of that extra income and split it amongst all tracks. Sure sounds like I’m crazy doesn’t it?? But if we don’t hang together we will all hang separately. If you start seeing the domino effect of tracks falling by the wayside, it will be a VERY short term gain for another track that will inherit the business. Do we want the 10 “Super-Track” theory to come true? Do we want to lose millions in tax revenue, the loss of countless jobs, and destroy an industry due to our petty greed and feeding shareholders pockets? Rake it all in, adopt a formula for the size of the track, and give them their share of the proceeds. Everybody wins, and the game survives until we grow from the bottom up again.
  • We need a national marketing plan where we don’t need the NTRA, but getting back to the basics. Make things more convenient for the bettor. Aw, quit fooling yourself. Nobody puts on the show. They are the show. Without wagering dollars they would run for blue ribbons. Keep things simple. Free parking and admission everyday. We owe that to the customer. Why charge them to come and gamble?? Do the casinos?? Have a very reasonable rate for programs and Daily Racing Forms. I know, they will cry about being 11% down this quarter. Don’t like it? Try being put out of business… You like apples? How about them apples…. I’ll bet they will come around… Negotiate as an industry about television rights. No more one at a time. We come to the table just like football and baseball and cut a deal. Boy, would I like to be a fly on the wall for that meeting. Have a national branding radio and TV advertising plan. The Jets do not have their own, the Bills another, and the Dolphins another… One brand, and the people will know what to expect when they walk into a track in Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon.. We are wasting dollars competing when we could draw the fans back, and help it grow with a brand new philosophy.

I know. Wishful thinking… What if we could do half of this? Would our industry live? We are on life support now, and the code blue call for all doctors is being made. Greedy owners, horsemen who think they are the show, and outside entities who are dividing us at a time when we should hold hands. I read everyday about high priced execs who do nothing but talk. Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts. We need action now, or there will not be a later. Your right, this is not your grandpa’s game anymore. He would be too ashamed to play.