Heavy Thinker – Devo Rides (Part 8)

by Trey Nosrac

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

While driving my tech guru to the Cleveland Art Museum, his cell phone buzzed. I eavesdropped as he referred to the caller as both Beverly and sweetie and suggested they meet at Rodin’s Statue of “The Thinker.” The call gave me a chance to stick my nose into his business.

“Is this mysterious Beverley a rendezvous, a rekindling of an old fame, or a tryst? If I get a glimpse of this woman will I be sworn to silence?”

“Trey, you couldn’t be silenced with chloroform.”

“How do you know I won’t take a picture of Beverley on your arm and threaten to send it to her husband or the faux news unless one of your lawyers pays a Trumpian silence fee?”

He gave me an eye roll and said, “Beverley is my niece.” Then he surprised me, “Do you know a place we could stop for a beer on the way home?”

“I know every place and haven’t refused a free beer since the Iraq invasion. We can try the Bad News Bar. The joint looks like a clone of the Cheers TV set and they serve nachos in an upside down plastic baseball helmet. I’m pretty sure my restraining order has expired.”

“Restraining order?”

“Nah, just kidding. Well, there was an incident with darts, Tequila, challenges, the usual suspects.”

He said, “You know the Art Museum is free, you can wander around and kill a few hours.”

“Me, in an Art Museum? Please, I have a reputation to hold down.”

Three hours later, we were in the friendly confines of the Bad News. Neither of us enjoyed small talk, so like a hungry bloodhound I got back on the trail and asked, “So what else do you have for me on harness racing, horse racing and gambling to kick around?”

He said, “I keep going back to the SCOTUS ruling and PASPA.

I held up my index finger and bowed my head. I spoke slowly and smugly, “The Supreme Court of the United States, and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.”

He gave three quick claps, “Very impressive.”

“Not really, I wrote the PAPSA thing on the bottom of my Nike Cross-trainer. See”

I showed him the bottom of my shoe.

He shook his head, grinned and said, “Any day now, the PASPA ruling is going to set off a chain reaction. Horse racing will be in the middle of a barrage of advertising and repositioning.”

I said, “If, if, if the ruling opens the online sports gambling doors.”

“The Supreme Court will rule in favor of New Jersey. The doors will open to states allowing sports gambling, bet on it. Actually, I discovered that you can bet on the court decision on offshore sites; I looked at a site located in San Jose, Costa Rica. The odds have moved up to 85-15 that New Jersey will win the case. Not only can you wager on the decision, you can wager on the month they will rule. May is the favorite. The prediction is 6 for New Jersey and 3 against.”

“How in the hell would a betting outfit set those lines?”

“The same way I did. Read the complete transcript of the oral arguments that took place last December, all 85 pages. Read legal precedents, read previous rulings from these judges, and talked with veteran court watchers.”

“You read Supreme Court transcripts? That’s serious reading dude. Don’t you, like, own Netflix?”

“Following the Supreme Court is interesting, like watching a fistfight with words. Each case is sort of like a horse race; you read the past performances, watch the warmups and workouts and try to predict the winner.”

I shook my head, “This stuff we are talking about, well, the stuff you are telling me about, regular horse racing fans and players like me, 90 per cent don’t have a clue that a gambling tidal wave is around the corner. Before you stepped into my car, I thought PASPA was a brand of beer.”

“That’s true, shifts sneak up on people. Plus, regular fans, even racetracks, react. They don’t shape events. Horseracing is in a very tricky position. The legal status quo carves out horse racing and gives you an island where gambling is legal. When that status quo changes, if anybody can bet on any sport, we have a new ballgame for horseracing.”

“Suppose I play the PAPSA longshot, what if New Jersey loses?

“Things remain the same for horse racing, a slow slide. Sports wagering remains illegal in 49 states, despite the open secret that wagering goes on at a variety of offshore sportsbooks, and hundreds of billions of dollars are not taxed.”

“Plus, even sketchy guys like yours truly, are suspicious about wagering offshore. I get tempted, but gambling offshore sort of feels un-American, so I stick to the horses and harness racing because they are the only legal game in town.”

“Trey, in my opinion, the comment you just made about “un-American” is why SCOTUS shocked everyone by taking this case in the first place. The idea that PASPA treats states differently appears to bother a few of the Supremes. Why should Nevada sports betting be allowed and other states are prohibited?”

“Let’s get back to the question I keep asking and you keep ducking. If the gambling doors open, is this good or bad for horse racing?”

He sighed, “We have thousands of people in our organization who are working at different turning points in hundreds of business cycles. Some of our people work on what we view a short-term, a couple of years, others work on projects 10 years out. The sports gambling business answer you want depends on time.”

“That’s not an answer.”

He sighed, “Okay, my early prediction on how PAPSA will affect harness racing, horse racing, and even casinos is a positive for the short term.”


“The early wagering will be located at existing bricks and mortar sites. Gamblers will show up on the premises. Racetracks will have an opportunity, because racetracks, especially ones with casinos, have the infrastructure to take advantage of the first wave of sports gambling. Racetracks will see plenty of new traffic.”

“Got to disagree with you here, Captain Silicon. Horse racing has been down that road with casinos and more gamblers went out the door than in the door. Just because people show up does not get them hooked on horses or racing.”

“True, but think about this, sports gamblers are a completely different customer base than slot machine players. People who drop in to make a wager of $50 on a basketball game or on a golfer is a ‘possible get’ for horse racing. This type of person is more of thinker, more of a sports fan and probably younger.”

“So you see a window for racetracks?”

“I believe you will have a short window, but only short-term, because bricks and mortar do not last, the next step in the process will find gamblers betting off the premises and on their phones.

“If you had a meeting back in the Valley and you were trying to help our little sport, what would you tell your short term-team members if you sent them to racetracks in a PASPA free-world?”

“Work like you never worked before to filter sports gamblers to your doorstep. Drive them to the racing side, sweep them off their feet, give them products and races they like, if you had our resources, this little window would be for profit, rather to give energy and pluck out a few new. make the hay while you can and keep planting seeds for the future.”

“And long term?”
“That is a very different story, a strange story that very few involved in you sport have considered, a story where my folks may enter the scene. The Federal story, with a twist.”

“Is that story going to be happy or sad for racing? Does it have those loopy acronyms? Will I need another shoe to write things down?”

“Trey, it will be a cliffhanger for horse racing. Stay tuned.”