Make Your Call

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 15, 2010 in General Discussion | No Comments >>

We have been reading and hearing all about the racing game making a change. Are we seeing the truth, or are we just being blind to the numbers? We all hope that the fog is lifting, but after further conclusion, I am starting to doubt the movement.

I was reading “Horse Race Insider” and I read some fascinating news about how Saratoga concluded their meet with exceeded expectations. The story was that they were down 3.4% in average daily handle… What were they expecting if that is acceptable? Were they looking at the bottom of the barrel, and hoping that anything would be a win?

I know that some tracks have been on the ropes so long, that down is the new up…. I work for a track that was almost 40% down from the previous year. I have to credit the owners who stay in the game as slots (VLT’s) are on the way. I don’t know if it is the panacea, but it sure won’t hurt things to have a positive flow. I am looking forward to the next step our track is taking. I just hope they can limp along and take us with them to the promised land.

Kentucky is slashing dates like a weed whip. They cancelled their signature events of the fall at Turfway Park, and Keeneland has even cut some purse monies. I always thought they were bulletproof, but the legislature will not allow them to defend the industry. This does not apply to all, but there is so much in-fighting and disagreements, that nothing can be done.

The publicists have had their hands full for quite a long time. How can you sit before the keyboard, and talk about something that is limping back to the corner? I have been a big believer that less is more. But, after speaking with many horsemen, they need the dates until we can actually offer them a solid purse increase. They have to pay the bills, and without the trainers, there will be no races. This is the biggest catch-22 I have seen in quite awhile. We need to cut dates to bolster purses and keep operation costs in check, and the horsemen need more races to keep their operations in stock. This is like a Chinese riddle with no answer.

More than ever, the industry needs you. With the competition for the entertainment dollar, things are getting tight. Where racing was the only kid in the house, it is like waking up and having a hundred new brothers and sisters. I think re-examination will be a part of the plan for any gaming operation in the future. We must re-think how we are doing things, and appreciate the players more than ever. Where we once opened the doors and they flew in, we have to beg and scratch for pennies where there once was dollars. I drove through the parking lot of a track the other day, and on a bright Sunday, it looked liked the place was closed. I can remember having to leave before the last race just to beat the traffic. Now, you can park in the front row two hours after the first post.

So, are we hearing the truth from the financial reports? Have we done the right things? Will gaming allow racing enough breathing room so it can re-invent itself. I sure hope so, and many others feel the same. The person who said this is not your grandpa’s game was right.