Friday, October 31, 2008

My Old Stomping Grounds

My first long term exposure to racing was the Maryland circuit: Laurel-Pimlico and the state fair meet at Timonium. This was back in the mid-late 80's and Maryland was the queen of Mid-Atlantic racing. Sure, we would occasionally be invaded by the Belmont/Aqueduct shipper, but more likely than not, our horses would slip off to Charles Town, Delaware, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Penn National and be the invading hoard, winning the purse money of allowance and minor stakes races and vanning back to the barn ready to knock heads with the best in the region. I say 'our' because I punched tickets at Pimlico and Freestate and the community was a small and proud one. When one of 'our' horses raced out of state and took a purse we were justifiably proud.

These days, things are much different in Maryland. Bordering racing states West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware have racing purses fueled by slot revenue. Frank Vespe's latest post outlines the differences at various purse levels in Maryland versus these states better than I can here. On Tuesday, all that can change. Voters in Maryland go to the polls and can determine the fate of Maryland racing. A 'yes' vote on question 2 will allow Maryland racing to finally be on equal footing with the rest of Mid-Atlantic states. Can you imagine the Preakness somewhere other than Old Hilltop? That will likely be the outcome if Question 2 does not pass.

There are all kinds of arguments that are made for and against slot machines at racetracks. I understand that, but when you look at the above referenced states and throw in New York, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Maine (harness) and New Jersey (casino money to racing to keep the machines off track grounds) for good measure, tell me how denying Maryland the opportunity to compete is good based upon some moral high ground? What I'd like to see is a racetrack that gets slots be run as a racetrack with slot machines rather than a slot parlor with a racetrack attached. Yes, there are systemic issues that racing needs to fix, but that's a lot easier to do with money than it is to do with none. It is a lot easier to fix the issues with racing when a starting point isn't "How do we generate enough money?" but "Now we have this money, how do we promote the product?"

Those of us in the business have been steadily paying an increasing day rate over the past few years as oats, hay and transportation costs have skyrocketed. What's not skyrocketing - especially in Maryland? Purse money.

Give the storied history of Maryland racing a chance any Marylanders out there - Vote yes on 2!

*In the interest of full disclosure, the author is a sales director for a
slot machine manufacturer. That being said, as you know, he is also a
horse owner and fan.


Mary Forney's Blog said...

Best of luck on Tuesday! Your post was well written and convincing -- although I needed no convincing! We have a somewhat different situation here in California, where Indian casinos have the monopoly on slot machines (thanks to our Governor); but it certainly is only fair for Maryland to be on an equal footing with surrounding states that allow slots. You're right that we need to start with, "now that we have this revenue... how do we promote our sport." Horseracing definitely needs new ideas and direction for promotion, but we won't get anywhere by burying our heads in the sand and pretending like we don't have other forms of gambling to compete with. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for you on Tuesday!

Ted G said...

Thanks, Mary. I know that the Tribes were given exclusivity in Cal in exchange for the annual contributions to the state. It's too bad for the tracks that the state did not give them the opportunity through referendum to compete. Maybe the revenue they could have generated would have been more? Now we'll never know.

ps - thanks for following and I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Yay! Maryland racing will get the extra bucks it needs. Now if only we can get that same kind of infusion here in California.