Betting on Beauty

by Ed Meyer

posted on December 8, 2016 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

The racing world always keeps an eye on the symposium in Arizona. Some of the best minds in the wagering world converge and break down issues that are facing the sport we love. There are a myriad of issues, and not all catch my attention as some. But when it comes to wagering, I’m all-in for attention and open ears.

Gleaning an article from the by Matt Hegarty; the elephant in the room has been called out. – Now before you get your spurs tangled, there have been no distinct changes. This is a time to meet and address issues, and Peter Rotondo / Breeders’ Cup Vice President of Media and Marketing summed it all in one line. ” You have to have it all.” – I know it’s impossible to sum up the entire discussion in six words, but he hit a bulls-eye when it comes to the future of racing.

Gamblers love to gamble and fans love to watch. Now how do we reach them both ? – Once again, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are a few ideas that were tossed around and others that weren’t mentioned. – After reading the article and sitting back and thinking. Here are some ideas from the guy in the back who raised his hand when Amy Zimmerman asked the million dollar question; “How many got into the game for the horses and how many got into the game for gambling?”

As hands went into the air, I raised mine from 2,000 miles away. – About 1/4 weighed in for the horses and the rest for gambling. – First, we need to work on the word gambling. If many had their way it would be a four letter word. Casinos went as far as using the term gaming. That sanitizes the action, and makes you think of sitting in your kid’s room playing a game. – There is nothing wrong with the word gambling. I know, you may disagree. But if it weren’t for the gambling aspect, the horses would be running for blue ribbons. I wonder if D. Wayne Lukas or Jack Van Berg would have lasted in the game winning blue ribbons. How many owners would have staked the sport, and how many riders, trainers, grooms, and track personnel would have been able to pay the bills with a portion of the blue ribbon. – None. – There needs to be a reassurance that it is just fine to watch and wager. The sport could use an overhaul on this, and I’m sure there are a million top-dollar marketing firms who could mold the word into something positive and fun. It’s your money and the discretionary dollar is always up for grabs. Plain and simple, racing could use a little make-over. It needs a fresh approach as we attempt to reach the new customers, and serve the long standing players whose loyalty has kept the doors open for decades. It is possible, and if you doubt my words, how many remember the long ago chant of “Go Baby Go?”

Takeouts are a percentage taken by the track to be divided with horsemen. There is money that goes into the purse account, and the rest goes to the track to pay the bills. – Please stop acting like either party does not have a valid point. Both are important and both need the money to survive. If one has more than the other, there will be sliding decline in the value of your racing product. The biggest joke is when gamblers are sure the track “took your money” or “wants you to lose.”  Neither could be farther from the truth. They actually want everyone to win every race. Remember, they are not a casino that takes your cash and pushes it into a small box. They take a percentage of each dollar to put on the show, and the rest goes back to the players – How about an across the board takeout rate ? If the player walks into New York or California and the takeout rate is the same. This allows the betting public to understand and have confidence in the game. If you take out more money, the player will not be able to wager as long as tracks have a bigger slice. Keep the money in the player’s hands and you’ll see a spike in wagering. If you don’t believe me take a gander at tracks offering takeout reductions. They may not solve the issues facing the sport in one year, but they’re on the right track keeping the dollars in the players hands.

Like it or not, this is not your grandpa’s game. – The days of Baseball, Boxing, and Horse Racing reigning at the top are long over. My apologies to the MLB folks. They have stepped back and re-branded their game in a big way. Maybe we could take a lesson from the NFL, NASCAR, and FIFA. – They have had many problems, and if racing takes a closer look we may be able to plan for the future. – The venues that want to hold horse racing have to make their facilities a full-service facility. A little something for everyone and at the end of the day. – We all know about the dollar beer and band nights and how successful they have become for the tracks. That is the direction to set your compass. – Tracks need to work with the horsemen allowing them to invest and take part in this money making venture as well. – Now swallow that pill, and you’ll realize it’s not good for the game if only one entity makes money. – Make them a partner and allow them to re-invest a portion of monies back into the track. – The idea of making the track an entertainment destination is the goal and at the end of the day we may see a little more in the coffers. – The fans are treated to racing, entertainment, and a fun place to gather. Racing may have better purses, fuller fields, better horses, and more handle from the good races to play. – There is no easy answer, and it will take some out of the box thinking that didn’t take place when it was a “build it and they will come” venue. – Keep an open mind. What we’re doing is not working, and that standing eight count is starting to sound like “you’re out.”

Tracks have to face the music if they want to be a part of the future. Casino entities are buying into old tracks and giving them a fresh new look. All good, but they have to invest in the reason there was a venue in the first place. Some are putting on a top-notch show, and many could learn a few things as they have revived racing in a few states. – You can always bet on-line and hide in your man cave. That’s fine as well, but you miss out on the real reason you started going in the first place. I never watched baseball on TV with my Dad, but I never missed a chance to get in the car and head out to the live races. – There is something to be said for being there in person. That is where gambling showed me the beauty and the convergence of both has made me a lifelong fan. The gambling and majesty of the equine athletes can be a perfect match. There is nothing more beautiful than walking to the paddock to see your horse of choice, and it only gets sweeter when you plunk down a few bucks and root like crazy as they thunder for home. For this gambler / fan / employee of racing, there has never been a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon. If you doubt that for one second; just tell me how many dry eyes you’ll see on the first Saturday in May as they play My Old Kentucky Home. I haven’t watched anyone sing along with a slot machine or feel the incredible sensation of horses turning for home with a scratch-off ticket.