How Much More?

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 31, 2020 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, | Comments Off on How Much More?

Struggle. Maybe not the best of words, but still true. Working in the racing industry has been more fun than the law allows. But with every business, the landscape changes and we are caught re-inventing ourselves to survive. – I can remember when 9 live races and no simulcasting was unbelievable. Then it slowly began to change.

I can remember going with my Dad and his future wife, and doing the double-header race card. – There were 9 live races starting at 1:00 pm, and then an hour or so break, and back for the 7:00 pm card. – By the time the late feature race was complete, you were bushed. The crowds started with a packed house and ended with a ghost town feel. Just the thought of having a magical night like this was hard to believe. But, we needed more.

Horsemen wanted a bigger cut as well as the tracks. – This was the long-awaited birth of simulcast wagering. Having every track possible to wager was like race track heaven. – You could bounce from New York to California, and come back to play the pick-four in Texas. This was more than we ever expected, and figured we had fought back competition into the next century. – But, with all the action, we still needed more.

I remember when we had a staff meeting to announce there would be free parking and free admission. – This was the loss of around 50 employees. But, sometimes we have casualties along the road to change. This was a long-standing money maker at every track, and since 1959 was a boom to the end of day report. – It was a move to court fans and bring out new guests. It worked for a while, but still, we needed more. There was a “panacea” of sorts and it came under the name of VLT’s Video Lottery Terminals. The word lottery ensured we had a legal loophole to install machines under the guidance and watchful eye of the lottery. Pretty simple it seemed, but it took over 20 years, and still no progress. – The “Historical Racing Machines” came into play. Still, another loophole by showing a historical horse race with a slot-like feel. – When I first saw the new machines, I was turned off. The historical race was a small screen the size of a matchbox showing two jumps before the wire. Some horse race. – But, the profitability was incredible for the state. Kentucky Downs was able to make so much; it shared monies with Churchill, Keeneland, Ellis, and eventually Turfway when they demolished the track and have plans for a top-notch gaming facility.

Tracks in Kentucky are running their own facilities. No outside giants bossing them around like racing is a bad joke. – In many other states, the casinos came running in and sought the gaming license of the tracks. They were going to build a powerhouse operation, and together they would become a mega-gaming facility. That was round one. – In later rounds, these mega giants want to lessen racing and eventually send it the way of “Dog Racing” in Florida. Mark my word, there is little to no interest paid to racing. – Once it figures out a way to “decouple” Thoroughbred racing from the casino. They will pull the lever quickly. The only reason they came was promising to keep racing afloat and build for the future. But those plans have changed.

It seems that the gambling world has changed a bit, and we’ve been in need of help for quite some time. – Racing can survive, but the revenue stream will never be that of the mindless slots. Betting on horses takes a little understanding of the game and wagers involved. Slots are rapid-fire candy that lights up your pleasure center in the brain like a strobe light. – How can you compete with having 20 minutes between races when you can play 100 hands or as long as you have money? You can’t.

Here’s a little idea born from a conversation with an industry professional. – Have the first and second walk to the paddock together. The first race in the paddock, and the 2nd right behind in a harness type holding area. When race #2 goes to the paddock, the 3rd race is walking up the stretch. – You can have 2 races every 15 minutes. It’s not rapid-fire slot play, but the action it’s much quicker. – A quick official from the track; there are two gate crews, two valet crews, and a track crew that constantly harrows the track between races.

We need a “QR” code as new players can scan a program and tip sheet on their phones. Make it easy by having a solid tip-sheet to educate on the move. – Gamblers like rapid-fire easy wagering and we should deliver what they want. – Making wagers by phone or a device is a must, and if the players won’t go over to the races, bring the action to them. Allow them to access the live racing signal to watch the races. Make it easier and they’ll eventually get in the game. – Or, we can sit here and hope for the next savior. Something tells me they are getting worse instead of better and it’s only a matter of time before they figure out a way to eliminate racing.