How Much Is Enough?

I sure hope this question doesn’t appear on Jeopardy, as my answer would be easy. “There is never enough.”  – Many moons ago, I watched double-headers. There would be an afternoon card followed by an hour or so break, and ten more incredible races. – Life couldn’t get any better for this gambler, and I thought we would see more and more. The sport has seen better days, and increased competition has made it tough to gather a second wind. But after seeing many tracks go the way of the dinosaur. The writing is officially on the wall. Less is more.

If you’re up in the middle of the night, or an early riser. Take a look at the ADW races available. Australian racing rule the night, and European action starts up with morning coffee. Now, I admit playing some of both, and lean more to the early Euro-action. Here we are wagering on hurdles, flats, and synthetic runners. The best part is focusing on one track at a time. You get full attention with commentators, and track handicappers talking about the ground and footing. We don’t have to be there, as we’re getting more detailed info on-line. As some tracks go to post and running on top of each other is inevitable. There is a split screen with both tracks. As soon as one ends, it shifts to the next without missing a beat. One would think the handle would only keep growing, and there is no driving force to overshadow the other track. I love the idea, and it seems like it’s working.

One of my favorite sites to peruse the history of racing is Colin’s Ghost. From an article in March, 2009, it is states from 1909 – 2009 there were 115 tracks built or re-established. At the time of publication, approximately 75 were still conducting racing. Consider this: In 1909, gambling on racing was illegal in most states. Tracks in New York – the very place that modernized and popularized the sport – were less than a year away from shutting their doors. If racing was going to die, it would have happened then. For the many that have written the obituary of Thoroughbred racing; Mark Twain would like to have a Mint Julep with you in the clubhouse.

As we get back to the task at hand, how can we catch our breath for the next 50 years? As tracks are being “re-established” by the world of casino gambling. There needs to be a long range plan for the survival, and promotion of Thoroughbred racing. With any new entity that steps up and buys away history with a bottomless check book, there has to be direct language that holds the new business to keeping racing alive. – As you start drifting in belief, why would the casino corporation have wanted the land in the first place? They have existing gambling, a fan base, and the area has been primed for action. Glitzy operations stepped up, and minimized the horses as an after thought. I was watching a commercial the other night and saw a new “Racino” opening. You would have no idea there was any pari-mutuel wagering until you saw a 2 second blip of race horses. This is where the wheels are coming off. Why not have the new operation step up and keep racing live with a full-scale advertising schedule, and utilize the existing form of gambling ? – If we put the pressure on the new operation to focus on racing as well as other forms of gaming. There will be no leaning on the state for financial help, or crying to legislators for new forms of gaming. If they want to buy the track property, racing must remain.

The new companies that keep racing alive and growing will receive a tax incentive fitting the act. State coffers will overflow, and everyone stays happy. You won’t read about mass layoffs, or how stables will be having a going out of business sale. You’ll keep horsemen in state, and the purses will eventually reflect the growth. The talk of racing dates will be a mix of horsemen, the new owners, and state officials. To let one form of gambling die so that you’ll see a 9% increase in slot revenue is insane. How many “new” companies that bought up tracks are on the ropes? They started off like a house on fire, and now there are cutbacks and reductions. – The added of work of keeping racing alive will keep racino growth in check. Not many will be willing to lay out the big money, and then have to work their ass off to make it. As a gambler, fan, player, and guest. I have watched as casino / racino wars are taking a toll.

Long ago, there was a sharp horse player who taught me many lessons as a gambler. “Have patience, keep your head, and don’t jump in too heavy.” – “The Fox” was a sharpie. A long time bookmaker who put his kids through college taking just enough action to make his 10% vig worth the venture. “Eddie, there’s only so much money to go around. If you have too much gambling in the area, it will choke each other out in time.” He grew up in the shadow of Newport, Kentucky which was thought of as the Las Vegas of the mid-west. He watched greed and the lure of easy money break down the system. “People will only stand by so long before they get tired of problems.” At the time I laughed and dismissed him, but now I look back on his words as getting the advance edition of a newspaper.