No one in horse-racing knows what they're doing!

The Horseplayers Association of North America blog post, “Further Evidence We Need Gambling People in Power,” criticized this comment from CHRB chairman David Israel:

“People often say we are competing with the casinos. I think that’s shortsighted and wrong. We’re not competing with casinos. We’re in the entertainment business. We’re competing with the Dodgers and the Giants and the Angels and the Lakers and we’re putting on a show.”

Both views are more false than true. At the moment tracks aren’t competing with anything. Money from betting is a losing proposition. On line poker has shown it can be successful with a 0.5% take-out vs horse racing with a demonstrated ability to lose money given a greater 15.0% take-out. Money from attendance hasn’t really been tried. Pretty much race-tracks do what they can to discourage the attendance of two potential groups of patrons: people who like to bet and people who like horses. It is pleasanter and easier to bet at home. People who love horses have great suspicions about the quality of treatment at tracks – also they hate to see them break down.

Are there solutions? Tons, and David Israel is right, that for racing to survive they need to encourage people to come to the race track – and the tracks need to make most of their money by selling seats.

I would start with the following:

  • Charge much higher admission to the track
  • Split the admission with the state in lieu of take out
  • Do not charge take-out on bets made at the track
  • The track should have nothing to do with the betting. Let the state handle the betting – the state should hire and manage whatever tellers and money changes hands as part of the betting

Small players wouldn’t notice anything. Large players would have all their bets added to the pool. No Pick-six player in their right mind would think of betting anywhere else but the track.

There are many other ways to make a day at the races enticing. The industry unfortunately thinks entertainment is watching a fat drunk guy in shorts and a t-shirt, smoking a cigar and yelling obscenities at a tv monitor.

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