Carrots or Sticks – Devo Rides (Part 13)

by Trey Nosrac

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | 
Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

The project developer from Silicon Valley sent me a text. He needed a ride from his family farm to the suburbs of Cleveland where his sister Beth was playing host to a cookout. As we traveled north on I-71, he said, “You’re welcome to stay. My mother will be there and she thinks you may find me an Ohio bride.”

“Nah, I’m heading over to the track and catch a few harness races at Northfield Park, it’s only about five miles from your sister’s house. Text me when you need to be picked up. And if you need a bride, I have a few exes, a few prospects, and we would love to get my cousin Madeline, the Drama Queen, off the family payroll. All part of the service.”

He said, “Let me think about that for a decade or two.”

“Madeline will still be available.”

“Live harness racing tonight?”

“Yeah, it’s been a long time. I’m sitting on the homestretch apron in a lawn chair and using my phone to wager.”

He was silent for a mile, and then asked, “The racetrack makes me think about a strategic planning session where gambling was on the table. You ready for another of our rather esoteric chats about the future of racing and sports gambling?”

I held up my finger to signal a pause in the action, then I picked up my phone and asked, “Hey Google, what does the word esoteric mean?”

My phone replied sprightly, “The term esoteric refers to information intended for, or likely to be understood by, only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.”

I slapped my forehead, “My favorite sport is esoteric.”’

He smiled, “One of the approaches we use in “think tank” mode is role-playing, I want you to imagine you are in a courtroom under questioning.”

“Not much of a stretch.”

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, yadda, yadda?”

“I do.”

“Do you gamble on horse racing?”

“I do.”

“What form of horse racing?”

“Harness horse racing; the carts behind the horse.”

“Do you wager at the racetrack?”

“Not usually.”

“Where do you wager?”

“On the Internet.”

“What company on the Internet?”

“A use a couple of outfits — primarily Xpressbet.”

“How much do you estimate you gamble in a year?”

“Two to three thousand.”

“Have you ever had a year where you won money over the course of a year? Remember, you are under oath.”


“Why not?”

“The takeout is too high. It crushes handicappers.”

“So you are telling the jury that you play a game that you cannot win?”

“Not unless the takeout goes way, way down.”

“If your harness horse wagers had a takeout of 10 percent, do you think you could win?”

“I would have a chance. But personally, I could lose a foot race with a dead sloth.”

“Now, Mr. Nosrac, let me ask if you wager on college football games?”

“I will take the fifth. Gambling on football is illegal.”

“Let me rephrase my question. Do you know any people who gamble on college football?”

“I know people who would gamble on the first lightning bug to crawl out of a mason jar. Hey, people gamble.”


“Some of them.”

He said, “Let’s return to your legal wagering on horse racing. Soon you will have other options. Twenty states will offer sports gambling and you will have AWD’s like the one you use already for horserace gambling. What will determine where you wager your horse racing money?”

“I hate to say this, but I’m under oath. I’ll use the outfit that offers me the best bet. This might not be so good for racetracks, it will be a big squeeze to their bottom line.”

“And finally Mr. Nosrac, should an illegal gambling site in say, Gibraltar, offer to take your harness horse wager where the takeout is 5 per cent, would you, or would you not, take your business to them?”

“Well, I don’t want to say that in open court. I would not WANT to wager with a shaky outfit because I like the sport and don’t like to see the racetrack and horsemen ripped off.

He asked, “But, you would be tempted?”

“I’m tempted every day in every way. But to be honest, I don’t know. Let me say it like this — If I could bet LEGALLY and be CLOSE to the illegal rate, I would play fair and be happy to send some of my money to the horses and horsepeople. But if the difference in takeout is huge between betting legally or betting illegally, I got some serious thinking to do.”

“Mr. Nosrac, it is possible you would break the law.”

“It is more than possible. But I have an idea that would avoid an ugly decision for me and a lot of people.”

He said, “Proceed.”

“You got your carrot, and you got your stick. If you threaten me, especially when the odds are about a billion to one that I will ever get prosecuted, you will push me to the dark side.”


“If you give me a relatively close wager, a wager where I know some of the money goes to horsepeople, racetracks, enforcement against cheating, and even charitable things like health care, I will pay the extra money to play. I think most people are like me, most of us would gamble legally if the carrots were good. I mean, you’re always gonna have cheats scratching for money, sharpies and shady characters. Let them play in Gibraltar. But a safe place to play with rules will keep most of us and our money on the right track.”

“You may step down Mr. Nosrac.”

We pulled into his sister’s driveway and I asked, “What the hell was that all about?”

He said, “Maybe the future.”