by Trey Nosrac
Cheating in harness racing has been going on since the days of Ben Hur. For those of us on the outside, how to level the playing field is hard to say, but in any large group of people, there are always at least a few who will not play fair. Catching miscreants and prosecuting shady characters must be as much fun as skiing in a fetid swamp.
We need motivated and financed sheriffs or the vast majority of good eggs in our sport are toast. To do my little part in this never-ending battle, I place racetracks on my “no fly” zone. Bogus trainers and fishy trends compel me to send my wagering donations to tracks like the Meadowlands where I feel more comfortable going broke.
Channeling my cash is not much of a solution. While waiting for my next passenger, I solve every problem known to man. I have a few minutes to opine on whacking moles that don’t play fair in our sport. Let me use what is called an allegory, or maybe it is a metaphor or maybe a diphthong… whatever… when you say one thing to make a point about something else.
I am considering breaking the law for financial reasons.
The money I earn from my Lyft job does not leave me much to gamble on harness horse races or to finance my dreams of owning harness race horses. After the local government takes a slice of each fare, the company takes a slice and the state takes a slice, my remaining slice is as thin as a bowl of stone soup.
I have a scheme to rectify this problem, but it is dicey.
I drive in a community that I am not naming for purposes of possible incrimination. Let’s just say that there are lots of retirees, a dozen huge mobile home developments, a massive shopping mall, 15 taverns and about five policemen. We do not have a racetrack and that is a bummer.
I have enough regular passengers that I could poach my riders and go private. Give them my cell phone, and maybe even give them a lower rate because the government and the company would be out of my loop and out of my hair.
Now, I would like to strain and call this idea entrepreneurial, but we all know that going off the grid in this manner is cheating the taxman and circumventing a few rules. So what is stopping my visit to the dark side, why not just dash for the cash?
The whole balance of my decision is found in the wise words of my old buddy Sophocles who said in 450 BC: “Laws can never be enforced unless fear supports them.”
My fear factor, and perhaps the fear factor of many horse trainers, is minimal. Who am I afraid of? My customers will be happy to get a better deal. My local authorities appear to be graduates of the Barney Fife Academy and will not put down their doughnuts to track down a rogue car service provider. The Lyft Company has hordes of drivers starting and leaving every week, so even if they get wind of my driving off the reservation, it is doubtful they will litigate to take control of my assets (a leased car and a vinyl heavy metal record collection). My reputation has long been lost.
So what makes me fearful about my move off the traditional straight and narrow to the dark side of the road? And what would make beards and chemists leery about plying their dark arts on the backstretch.
Should one of my riders drop a dime on my little nefarious driving scheme, those Federal government folks do not kid around. The Feds have tools, time, technology, staff and motivation to prosecute. When they drag someone to court, they almost always drag out a carcass. They gleefully send people to jail, and a few going to jail have a chilling effect on folks who dance a tad close to the line.
Now what does this have to do with my beloved harness racing? At this point, the Federal government does not pay much attention to horse racing. However, they soon might.
When commerce crosses state lines (and gambling is commerce) the enforcement and rules fall to the jurisdiction of the Federal government. In the dark ages, before the Internet, gambling was a state and local situation. In the digital world, state lines are fading. The Federal government is examining the concept of taking jurisdiction over Internet gambling. And they have very strong motivation, money.
Feds assuming control will find the games changing and the enforcement agencies changing chairs. People are leery about the Federal government sticking their noses into our businesses. If you are in dicey territory, federal regulations are an ominous shadow. A hungry prosecutor on the prowl for a rogue Lyft driver or a rogue horse chemist will not give a slap on the wrist; they will rip lungs out and drive around town holding them up for the public to see.
How could these new Federal sheriffs affect harness racing? Let me get back to my allegory or metaphor or diphthong. The fear of federal agencies will keep the Trey Transportation Operation on the straight and narrow road.
The fear of federal agencies might well be a huge asset for keeping the backstretch on the level.