Damned If You Do

by Ed Meyer

posted on May 31, 2010 in General Discussion | No Comments >>

The climate of racing has changed. We have heard so much about VLT expansion, that we are going to go to sleep if we hear about it once more. But for the folks at tracks that have worked so hard to get them in place, they might just be in for a big surprise.

If there is no expanded gaming, racing will die… Monmouth is doing well, and it looks like they may be setting the tempo for the future. Now, that neat little experiment aside, most tracks need expanded gambling. VLT’s (slot machines) are needed badly to keep tracks afloat, and for purses to keep horsemen in state, this is where it gets a little blurry.

For the folks who have cheered, collected signatures, and worked feverishly, they may find themselves out of a job. The people in the main office who do publicity, marketing, accounting, H.R, and other services may be out the door. You know, the door they have walked through for years. Now they may be shown that door…… And not in a good way….

I have spoken today with a gent who writes for an in-state paper. He was telling me of another state that recieved the expanded gaming. Everything that was needed, and desired for years. He told me, “be careful of the devil you don’t know, as he may be worse than the devil you know.” I guess the chuckle that came from my mouth was in veiled worry. He told me of the West Virginia track that came in after gaming was expanded. It was taken over for all intent by a large casino company. All of the people that worked so hard for the VLT’s to come into the game to save it have all been fired…… The casino company has felt it could take care of racing operations with their main area staff….Gone were the long standing staff. They did nothing wrong, but were shown the door…. The game was going to flourish, but the main supporters are gone…. They were considered too much of a liability.

Now, I have heard that the situation in Ohio has heard some good news. It looks like the sport will get a break as VLT’s may become a reality. Big casino companies have bought three tracks in the state, and they have gotten behind the issue of growth for the sport. It is looking good, but in the midst of doing the “line dance” down the hall, the thoughts started in my noggin about what could be next? I didn’t want to be the breaker of possible bad news, as most tracks take on a partner, or sell the entire operation… Things get scaled down, and anything to make the profit go up. I have worked in Kentucky when a large buyout happened. It actually benefited me…I don’t know what to make of the newest effort….

I had a talk with my main compadre who handles publicity. He has been there for over 28 years, and was all ears…He tried to remain confident, but when I told him that they have their own publicity departments, it could get sticky… Just as he was taking off his party hat, the reality was setting in for the first time… This is a small percentage of the workforce that could get the big ax that awaited the masses. I guess if you love the game, you want it to survive.

I understand the moves, and I am prepared to stand and be counted. I wanted racing to live on, and I still do.  If I fall victim to the big machine, then so be it… It will save countless numbers of folks who have no other way to make a living. The races have been handed down generation after generation. I am glad for them. I guess I will jump in line, and hopefully be a part of the changes. But, if not… I began my position in racing without a check, and I guess I can begin again… But, I am optimistic. I have made it through one big changeover, and hopefully it will happen again… These are the cuts that go unknown by the papers. Nobody can miss you, until they reach for the fruits of your labor and they are no longer there. As long as the game survives, that is my care. I am truly a fan at heart, and always will be. I have made it my life, and hopefully it will always be a part of my plans. But if not, I am OK as long as I know the horses are running and the masses are working. Funny thing.. For the longest time, I have prayed and done work behind the scenes. Now, things could change. I guess the old adage of be careful of what you ask for holds true…..