HRU Feedback (2018-04-01)

April 1, 2018

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Ontario’s long-term deal not all it seems

The op eds and industry quotes say it all and racing again has been taken in by government, and naive agenda-driven industry leaders.

Story 1

Story 2

Ontario committed to $2 billion for the racing industry to sustain the industry.

No foresight of thought was given when the slots partnership was arranged over 20 years ago, allowing the government to have the option to back out, not because it was a bad deal and/or a losing proposition, but, on the contrary, to back out, even it was a good deal, which it was!

So now, instead of a partnership, we have a subsidy. The optics are staggering. Every business in the province has a right to a subsidy now — the precedent has been set!

As for this deal, note this:

1. In 2012, the last year of one of the most successful government partnerships, the racing industry received $345 million from the slots program.

2. Now the government is committed to “..up to $105 million…” per year for the next 19 years.

3. The (nearly) $2 billion commitment will supposedly make the industry ‘sustainable’.
Now the facts:

Re: #2:

If the industry earns $10 million in any year, the government’s commitment for that year is $95 million. ( “..up to $105m..”.)

If the industry earns $20 million in any one year, the government’s commitment for that year is $85m. (“..up to $105m..”.)

Re: #3:

With a $105 million cap on funding to the industry per year calculated from the total of industry and government dollars, the industry is somewhat sustained but, IT CAN NEVER GROW!

In order to show growth, the industry would have to earn $105 million and $1 to show growth — and at that point in time, the government share would be $0 for that year.

And finally, all things being equal, in 2038 would you like getting the same income as you got in 2018?

The elections are around the corner. Time to be an educated voter.

Yours for integrity, transparency, and accountability,

— Marty Adler / Amherstburg, ON

Yonkers integrity?

As we look at Yonkers’ handle problems and try to understand how they stay in business keeping approximately 22 per cent of a handle of $50,000 of a given race while paying out a $40K-$50K purse, we struggle to understand where are the adults that are making these types of business decisions?

The majority of the bettors that provide the track’s income are not children nor unknowledgeable. The track seems to believe their customers are blind, do not understand rules and don’t review fines, findings and suspensions issued by the track’s supposed judges. Well let’s take a look at the issue of integrity surrounding a questionable typical race that cause the bettors to go across the river and spend their money elsewhere.

The race example is Race 2 from Saturday 3/24/2018. In this race (#2) the favorite Mr. Cool Severe N, the #4 horse is 7-5. The horse’s driver takes back the horse at the onset and never takes the horse off the rail — no leave, no positioning and no effort to close. So was the horse raced at any spot? Clearly not. Was the horse sick or lame? Did the track veterinarian pronounce the horse fit to race? Maybe, maybe not. It would seem like there is little concern for racing integrity by any of those in charge. Did the track take any follow-up actions? Doesn’t appear so. Although, they may after reading this.

Well Yonkers what’s the deal? Do you still think we’re not paying attention? Is everything just peachy as long as the slot dollars keep flowing?

A betting customer.

— David Perry / Dearborn, MI

No amount of money will make the sport popular

Let me say that I have been in our business for over 40 years and have seen the good time slowly ascend into bad. I don’t think any amount of money will resurrect the sport. I liken it to the black and white 19-inch TV. No amount of money is going to make it popular again! I am just glad that I did get to enjoy the good times and believe that maybe its time to put it out to pasture with Foiled Again. Thank you for your time and commitment.

— Kevin Colston / Bethel, NY

The importance of fathers

Most everyone agrees that harness racing needs to market itself. But everyone seems to have their own idea about how to go about it — judging from the myriad of letters that appeared in last week’s “Feedback” (3/25) section (feedback here), that centered on several diverse ideas on how to market the sport.

In my view, identifying the problem is not all that complicated. In fact, it can be summed-up in a few sentences:

1. The virtual monopoly that horse racing enjoyed — and a perfect seduction tool, for those who craved “action” — ended nearly two generations ago, and…

2. Our sport lost its single greatest, most effective marketing tool ever — fathers — who brought their impressionable youngsters to the racetrack, to experience all the thrills of pari-mutuel wagering. However, what has subsequently occurred over these many decades, is that the children of those fathers, stopped bringing their kids to the track. So, as the old fans began dying off and new blood was not replacing them, attrition became the elephant in the room — the one who has never left! As a result, this ongoing dilemma becomes even more profound, with each passing year.

Well….that’s pretty much it. And, since having another monopoly seems to be a stretch, perhaps concentrating on how to replace those “fathers,” from those glory days from the past, is where the focus ought to be.

— Steve Ross / Medford, NJ

Gural responds to Faraldo

I am not sure if Mr. Faraldo (feedback here) was implying that I am not interested in seeing the sport of harness racing survive, but nothing could be further from the truth. The whole point I was trying to make is that young people under 40 have no future unless we try a new approach and take 5 per cent of the slots money and use it for a major marketing campaign for a minimum of two years and if it does not work then we would drop it.

Joe has repeatedly said that he would be willing to spend purse money on marketing if the track owners were willing to match it and I was simply trying to make the point that the track owners have a vested interest in seeing harness racing disappear and as a result it is highly unlikely that they are going to join in any major marketing effort. At the moment, I own two breeding farms, have 40 mares and currently 52 horses in training and I spend millions of dollars of my own money marketing the sport at the Meadowlands, Vernon and Tioga. Anyone who has the opportunity to visit Tioga this summer will see that as part of the new casino I have built an outdoor salt water pool on the apron with a water slide, an indoor arcade, an outdoor concession area for ice cream, hot dogs and hamburgers, just about anything I could think of that would appeal to young people with children to hopefully come and watch the races. I have personally invested over $125 million in the Meadowlands, Vernon and Tioga and many more millions in the purchase of yearlings, broodmares, etc. In my opinion, and I certainly hope I am wrong, since Joe refuses to agree to use any purse money for marketing unless it is shared with the track owners, my prediction that those people under 40 will be in trouble is likely to come true.
As far as Mr. Chambers’ comment that the sport doesn’t need the Meadowlands, we may find out sooner than he thinks if the state refuses to give us money for purses next year.

— Jeff Gural / owner Meadowlands Racetrack, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs

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