The Long Strange Trip to the Middle

by Ed Meyer

posted on March 16, 2021 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | Comments Off on The Long Strange Trip to the Middle

Once upon a time, the big three games of chance were baseball, boxing, and horse racing. If you wanted to get a bet on you had to go to the track, Las Vegas, or have the number of a local bookie. – It may sound simple, but times were good and the action was constant.

Sports betting erupted and rolled like a downbound train. Betting was only getting bigger. Pari-mutuel wagers allowed the house to take a cut and keep the action funded. Betting with “your man” got your action down without having to leave the house. It seemed like betting was getting easier and the action was non-stop.

Enter the casinos. – If you wanted to play the one-arm bandits you had to travel to Vegas or Atlantic City. As the years rolled by, interest in the “big three” began to wane. – Racing was sold a bill of goods where casino companies could save racing. Sound too good to be true? It is…

Casinos would come in and buy up your old track and sell the plan of making a glitzy destination where the faded old track once stood. – The racing game became complacent and instead of investing back in the sport when the handle was good for decades, they just let them fall into disrepair while raking in the handle. – Casinos had an ace up their sleeve. They did buy up the tracks and plan to do little if anything to keep racing alive and flourishing. Funny thing, it was that old track with a gaming license that brought them there in the first place.

Gamblers thought they would have a rejuvenated racing product to play and could even venture over to the casino side to play some games. – From what I’ve seen. The racebooks are nothing more than a small room with a teller and a couple of self-bet machines. Three TVs showing various signals, and that is your state-of-the-art betting palace. – The rest was large areas of varied slot machines guised under many names. – Betting on the horses wasn’t as lucrative as watching grandpa drop his monthly check into the machines. Glitzy, fast, and mindless with a higher profit margin than racing.

We had come all this way thinking we were finishing the journey only to find out we were lingering in the middle. – Racing is being slowly and quietly pushed out, and it won’t be long until it’s gone. – I attended the grand opening of a new casino. It had all of the glamor advertised on the billboard and a new generation of guests had arrived. They enjoyed the rapid-fire action and didn’t know if they won until the wheels stopped spinning. – A marketing specialist came up to me and pushed the loyalty card and all of the wonderful rewards they had been trained to offer. It was after a few minutes of casual conversation that the truth came out of the mouth of the marketing guru. “We’ll get those horses out of here soon and we’ll start major expansion.” – Little did they know I worked in racing and cringed at the words being given to me on the down-low. – That is the plan, and if you doubt one word just take a look at the racing landscape.

For the folks that support the demise of racing, just wait until the same folks make their way into your favorite sports. Football is too brutal, baseball is dangerous, and basketball is tough on the athletes. Trust me, it’s coming, and the only televised sport will be kickball in a plastic bubble. Maybe. – Thoroughbred racing has been taking place since the 1700s and with all sports, there can be measures instituted to make the game safer for the horses, riders, and a host of others who are behind the scenes. Instead of ridding the gambling landscape of beauty and pageantry. What can we do to make it better, safer, and more interesting for new players? – Those are the questions that need to be addressed.

Just wait until your favorite team has a player who twists his ankle. They’ll start finding ways to sanitize the game until it’s all but gone. You have a voice, and it is your discretionary dollars that will fund the venture. Even if you’re not a fan, be aware there will be a new victim after demolishing another track, decoupling dog racing until it disappears, and expanding the machines until they are at every 7-11 on your drive home.

In the meantime, I’ll just sit here in the middle and wait for the next track to fall by the wayside. It has been happening for quite some time and it’s only the beginning.