I was reading Bill Finley’s article from ESPN.com, and I am starting to wonder what the hell is going on in racing…. I always will hope for the best, but the light at the end of the tunnel may be a sign that says “turn around here.”
First thing this morning, I was greeted with a story talking about Penn National Gaming wanting to cut back on racing. To sum it up, things are costing way too much money and it is a bad bet for the business. They are a powerful entity in the game, and if they are losing interest, it could be a matter of time before the other standalone tracks begin to crumble. Peter Carlino, president of Penn National Gaming, said that “they were going to cut the financial drain that is horse racing.”
Finley spoke of some ugliness as well. In a nutshell, he feels that the “Gravy Train of Slots” is over. Gone. 86’ed. Nixed, and beamed up to planet casino. That last part is me, but he drove the point home well. Just when I started gaining confidence that casinos may be the life jacket that racing needed. it stands they are tired of pumping money into a game that nobody cares about.
Indiana looked like a model that the country could follow. The purses were up, and getting bigger. Things were not only looking good, they were paying well for racing…. That is, until now. Governor Mitch Daniels has said that 43% of the pot that went into keeping racing alive, will now be allocated to the state general fund, that is, if it passes many channels. The “little state that could” will take 5 steps back, and be back in 1999 in the blink of an eye. The industry will dry up, and breeding will die off. Everyone will take a hit. I would like to see his chances of ever holding a public office that racing fans will have to vote for. Isn’t there a compromise? A sliding scale? Take 1/4 of the pie? Nope, they want it all, and they want it now…
Mr. Finley spoke of Council Bluffs. Dog Racing has held sway ever since Harrah’s jumped in and saved the day. Now, they have turned face and want to ask the state to “outlaw” dog racing…. It would no longer be, and never to return. He brought up another great question…. Harrah’s owns a part, or a whole of many tracks. How long before racing gets too heavy and they want to dump it? It only makes sense. Who out there has not thought about it? Just when we thought there might be a chance.
Oh well, I guess we are getting what we wished for. We wanted VLT’s, casinos, and help. Along comes a big money-wielding giant, and our troubles look like they are over. But, somebody pulled back the curtain and it doesn’t look so rosy. I can’t believe my eyes and ears, as the only reason many of these entities are even here was to save racing in any form. They were going to breathe life into the sport, and give it a future. But, as one of my favorite movies once quoted: “Be careful of your enemies, they come disguised as friends.”