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Jack Darling's Blog

 

We Must Act Now

Published: November 10, 2009 1:01 pm ET

Last Comment: November 17, 2009 4:09 pm ET | 64 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The harness racing business in Ontario right now reminds me of the stock market right at the end of a raging bull market. Stock prices are high and everyone is making money and people are feeling good and then all of a sudden without warning it crashes. I fear that this could happen to us in the blink of an eye. The advantage we have is that we can be proactive, act now, and possibly save harness racing.

I urge everyone to read Darryl Kaplan's article in the latest Trot Magazine with regard to harness racing's failure to address the shrinking fan base and alarming decline in wagering over the past 15 years - read it again and then think about his closing statement: "So now, it's just a waiting game. Waiting for courageous leadership to stand up and invest in the future. Or waiting for the next press release to take everything away."

Why do we find ourselves at this crisis point?

When harness racing began it was a very popular sport that people started betting on. When Dan Patch raced in the early 1900's he would attract crowds of 100,000 harness racing fans.

For the next few decades horse racing was pretty well the only game in town. If people wanted to gamble they had to bet on horse racing. It became more of an avenue for gambling and less of a sport.

Today it has become a sport that very few people outside of our industry are interested in and gamblers have many other options for their gambling dollars including lotteries, casinos, slots, all-sports betting, and online poker, etc.

All this is a recipe for disaster for harness racing. Putting on a bunch of races and expecting people to come out and bet on them is a thing of the past and just doesn't work anymore.

We need to find a way to attract people to the sport of harness racing and to promote the entertainment value of handicapping the horse races and to make it advantageous for the big gamblers to bet on horse races.

I have read some great ideas on this site and others. One is with regard to reducing the percentage of the take substantially from each bet to return more of the winnings back to the gamblers. I think this would be worth a try. Most of our purse money comes from the slots so I don't think it would cost us that much out of the purse account. If this was widely advertised to the gamblers and the betting public and they did respond by betting substantially more on the races we might even be dollars ahead as we attract new customers.

Alan Kirshenbaum has put forward another good idea that would create a multi-track pick eight.

This pick eight would create a large jackpot that would help us compete with the lotteries. It would create interest with the gamblers, handicappers and the public and maybe with the large jackpots would create some interest in the sport of horse racing as people would follow their horses at the various tracks.

We, the participants in horse racing are going to have to make some tough choices very soon if harness racing is going to survive into the future, let alone flourish. Racing in Quebec is dead, Alberta is questionable and could very well be finished if something positive doesn't happen soon. South of the border, Ohio racing looks like it is pretty well finished at this point, Michigan is almost assured of their demise, things don't look good in Illinois, and even the Big M is on rocky ground and without slots relies on handouts from the casino industry which could stop at any time.

Virtually all of harness racing today relies on cooperation from our governments. The scary part is that once racing is done in a province or state it is done forever. There is no economic impetus for them to come back.

After watching the Breeder's Cup this past weekend with the great racing, huge crowds, and superb TV coverage, it shows that we still have a chance to survive, and possibly thrive. We need to be events-driven. We have shown that the we can still attract crowds for races like The Jug, The Hambletonian, Breeders Crowns, OSS Superfinals, The North America Cup, Battle of Waterloo, etc.

Dr. Ted Clarke, Kelly Spencer, and Grand River Raceway are a good model for us to follow. The Battle of Waterloo has become a popular event and creates the same type of atmosphere as the Little Brown Jug. We need more of these types of events. Grand River Raceway is continuously advertising and coming up with new promotions to attract new customers. If all tracks put in the same effort we would be in much better shape.

My next comment is not going to be popular with a lot of my fellow horsemen. Just putting on a bunch of races where a handful of people come out and bet almost nothing is not sustainable. We simply have too much racing. Believe me, I am as concerned as anyone about losing race dates but what we are doing is going to destroy us. Sudbury, Woodstock and Hiawatha are in worse shape than this but I will use Rideau Carleton as an example. On a Friday night they will have 15 races with an approximate handle of $60,000. This amounts to $4000.00 per race. This small pool makes it almost impossible for gamblers to bet any amount of money without affecting the odds dramatically, and the contribution from the handle to the purses is pretty close to nothing.

If the politicians look at this we could be in big trouble. We have to show the government that horse racing is improving, not regressing. Why I use Rideau as an example is because it should and I think could be a very good market for harness racing. Ottawa is a robust, prosperous city with the advantage of being a border track that should be able to attract customers and fans from Quebec where there is no horse racing now. Rideau should be able to attract better crowds and generate substantially larger wagering pools.

The question now is who is going to lead the charge. Ultimately I think the racetracks themselves have to get it started, led primarily by WEG. Possibly a very small group led by one enthusiastic person could be formed. Right now there is a lot of money available within the industry. We could fully fund this initiative with a small percentage from the purse accounts and barely notice it. A joint effort between tracks and horsemen would be even better. Possibly, Standardbred Canada could be a leader in putting this together. The Adrenaline experiment shows the young, enthusiastic talent that they have. I notice that they have approximately 35 employees at this time and I know their finances have been cut because of the loss of Quebec and Alberta. Possibly this extra funding that I am talking about could go to this new committee that could work within Standardbred Canada. The mandate for this committee would be to save and promote harness racing.

These are just a few thoughts that I have and I hope others will join in with ideas of their own. We cannot afford to wait and read the press release that takes everything away.

November 17, 2009 - 4:09 pmMike, if you compare

Maury Ezra SAID...

Mike, if you compare triactor payouts at Santa Anita or Hollywood Park (20.68% takeout) versus what they pay out at HPI, you'll find that HPI customers get approximately 93.9% the actual payout. I don't know where they get this calculation from, unless they are ramping up to over 26% on triactors and supers and Pick 3's, etc.

HPI actually pays off better on triactors from Penn or Philly who have takeouts that are a mindblowing 31 and 30% respectively.

But in the end, horseplayers want real track payouts, not payouts adjusted to WEG's commission.

Like Dean says, who can blame horseplayers, they are being chased away. Nobody likes to be on the menu, especially when things smell so fishy to begin with.

November 17, 2009 - 11:40 amTo Barry Fitzgerald: I am

Mike Glatt SAID...

To Barry Fitzgerald: I am not 100% sure about this but with common pool wagering if WEG took their additional takeout based on the gross WEG dollars bet then the total dollars available to all winners in the pool would be reduced by this additional takeout. In other words a winning bettor in the US would have less money available to them because WEG took their cut. By taking the cut after calculating all the winning bets, WEG would penalize only the bets that were made through WEG which to me makes sense.

The only thing I am not sure about and this would be interesting to find out is, does WEG reduce the amount available to be paid to the winning bettors by the extra percentage (let's say 5% to make it easy) of the gross pool or net pool.

Let's say the total amount bet through WEG is $10,000 and the total amount of winning WEG tickets after the original takeout is $3,000. Does WEG reduce the amount paid to these people by 5% of $3,000 or 5 % of $10,000.

Any comments would be appreciated.

I am sorry thought that I can't answer your Dresden question.

November 17, 2009 - 10:54 amJack, I agree this is

Dean Towers SAID...

Jack,

I agree this is excellent dialogue. Nice to see so many customers voicing their concerns.

A couple of areas that should be open for discussion, imo, and I ask you and others to look into them.

One, you mention a national pick 8, or something along those lines. At the Standardbred wagering conference in 2008 one of the recommendations was to take uncashed ticket money and pool it into a no takeout, or low takeout bet to return money to the bettors which is rightfully theirs anyway. A few months later we found out that this did not happen and uncashed ticket money stayed in the industry. I have heard reasons, none of which make any sense to me.

Let me ask you: Let's say Sam Walton in 1962 (when he started his first store) had a policy whereby if a customer dropped a $5 bill on the ground and it was found by an employee, the employee could keep it. A customer would come in later and say "I dropped a $5 bill in the kids section, did you find it?". The employee would say "yes I did, but it is mine now. Finders keepers losers weepers." What confidence would Wal Mart shoppers have in this place of business? Would it have grown to be the largest retail franchise in world history?

Two, back in 1995 or 1996 the Ontario government (knowing that slots on racing grounds would lower handle) took off its 7% tax on takeout. This seven percent drop could have easily been used to cut takeout 7% to give the bettors a break. Instead, as is the case, the industry took this for themselves. Now when bettors ask for a takeout reduction they are told "we can't." Why would bettors feel confident this business is looking out for them when they tell them they can not do something, when in fact ten years ago they could, at virtually no real cost to them?

I was listening to a talk show last night as someone said "if you do not have a seat at the table you are likely on the menu."

Bettors have been eaten for dinner for years; ignored by the industry as the above two examples show. They have taken their money elsewhere. Let me ask: Do you blame them?

Dean Towers

November 17, 2009 - 10:47 amReducing the takeout is a

carlo renon SAID...

Reducing the takeout is a good starting point but what most people are missing is the fact you need to attact new patrons and get people going to the track! What that means is things cant be done the same non chalant way they have been done and continue to be done!

There needs to be NEW BLOOD with fresh ideas.Customer service has to be better than the slots and casinos!Bold new promotions not the 5 and 10 dollar junk it does not work!Someone asked how to put 10000 fans at the track on a monday night? I have many ideas that Would achieve this!Here is a thought how many people would show up if they had the chance to leave with a million?

November 17, 2009 - 9:47 amModel Success. The Problem:

Gerry Hruby SAID...

Model Success.

The Problem: The audience for the sport of harness racing and associated gambling revenues has declined across North America as more and more entertainment and gambling alternatives have emerged and prospered to capture hearts, time and disposable income.

I would create strategies to reverse this decline by modeling the success of these other entertainment and gambling alternatives. How have they encouraged a lifetime of participation?

A complete understanding and study of "the competition" is the key to developing winning strategies for the sport of Harness Racing. Once the reasons for the success of the competition are understood the industry could then adopt those strategies most applicable to Harness Racing.

So who is the competition? A quick list of some of these other entertainment and gambling competitors follows. Most on this list are a sport; all on this list are associated with huge entertainment and/or gambling revenues.

Baseball
Basketball
Football
Golf (Mini-Putt, Driving Ranges)
Hockey
Lotteries
Nascar (Go-Cart Tracks)
Online Poker
Soccer

To create a success model for each of these competitors I would start with participation at a young age for all the sports as one reason for their success. For example, a 12 year-old plays organized hockey, goes to a provincial tournament, gains a better understanding and appreciation for the sport and then when he’s in his twenties he ends up going to a professional version of the sport, watches hockey on TV and many end up betting on his favorite teams through a sports lottery, like Sports Select, fantasy leagues, by participating in a playoff pool or by making a bet with a friend.

So I would list participation at a young age, call it amateur participation as one keys to their success. Now how do you turn this into a strategy for the sport of Harness Racing?

For starters I would get youth, amateurs riding behind a race horse at a young age, form amateur leagues and create championship extravaganzas at race tracks and training facilities. In effect older standardbreds would find a new home, new employment would be created to run these leagues and to teach the amateurs how to drive, available capacity at race tracks and training centres would be employed. Harness Racing Entertainment Centres would become the place to bring the family!

Broad amateur participation would boost the understanding of the sport of Harness Racing. The natural progression would be a greater appreciation and following for the professional side of the sport of Harness Racing.

Model Success. To be continued…...

November 16, 2009 - 4:41 pmThanks to everyone who has

Jack Darling SAID...

Thanks to everyone who has commented and given their ideas and suggestions. Alot of people have remarked to me how impressive the comments have been. This is a great forum for this discussion and the thoughtful and intelligent dialogue has been outstanding. I know that the industry leaders read this and your opinions and suggestions have influence. The whole industry appears to be motivated right now and discussions are beginning this week. I will have these comments and suggestions with me at all meetings that i attend. Special thanks to the gamblers. It is obvious that you have been getting the short end of the stick and you have so much to offer. I will take advantage of this forum that Standardbred Canada has generously provided to keep you all informed on what is happening. Thanks again, Jack

November 16, 2009 - 2:03 pmAlong with lowering the

Kevin Jones SAID...

Along with lowering the take-outs I totally agree with Jason Settlemoir on this statement:

"We also need to address racing dates. Why should Pocono Downs and Chester Downs go at the same time of the year and why should Chester race right along with the Meadowlands and Yonkers, Are we not defeating our purpose? The Meadowlands pools are the only ones large enough to accommodate a “big bettor” in the United States, as far as harness racing is concerned. This issue needs to be addressed. We race way too much and to add insult to injury everyone races at virtually the same time. We are diluting our wagering pools to small amounts, offering the high players nowhere to bet the big money. The glut of racing results in horse shortages that cause small fields and produce an inferior product for the gambler, which in turn they don’t want to bet."

Look at the weekend racing in Ontario, Flamboro, Georgian, Western Fair & Woodbine are all racing at the same time!! They are competing against each other & they are in the same racing jurisdiction! Plus the purses in Georgian is helping them compete for horses that would race at Woodbine but go there to get some easier money. The product is getting watered down & the betting pools are splitting up the money.

In the US the Meadowlands is getting killed. They have a hard time putting competitive cards together because neighbouring states, NY & Penn. have slot enhanced purses & go head to head with them. Chester is a beatiful racetrack, but the ractrack side of it is basically empty most night! If the sport loses the Meadowlands (the "Mecca") it will be a nail in the coffin of the industry!

November 16, 2009 - 1:57 pmJohn Carter is right we have

John Carter is right we have to remedy the wagering problem facing many tracks.The para mutuel betting system depends on there being a sufficient pool to bet into,many tracks now have such a small handle that they are betting tracks in name only.Are we going to allow our beloved Harness horses to face the fate of the majestic Shire horse in England a breed facing extinction As a boy I worked these tough strong horses on my fathers dairy farm and they numbered in the thousands.There should be a meeting between the track operators CPMA,and horsemen.Track operators should realise that without racing the slots will go also without racing at Woodbine it would make sense to relocate the slots a couple of miles west at the Toronto airport.The answer is not more super bets to clean out the punter.We have to adjust the stakes to make the small pools workable.A 5 cent superfecte 10 cent triactor and 20exactors,We have to start at the bottom and get the 2 dollar bettor back,reducing the take out would be a big help as well.

November 15, 2009 - 5:51 pmTwo groups in the industry

Two groups in the industry are making lots of money; very few others are not. Drivers and trainers are the two. Perhaps some track owners are because of slot percentage: most really don't want horses. The way the slot parlours were constructed makes sure that the access and encouragement to actually go trackside to watch and/or bet on a race is impossible without a map. Track owners spend less by far on marketing and advertising than any other part of the sports and entertainment industry. What do the two aforementioned groups do to promote the sport? NOTHING. How many trainers a) identify their farm or training centre with a nice big sign advertising the fact. How many trainers have done wht Jack McNiven many years ago did when he had both sides of one of his horse vans painted with the finish of the jug when Run the Table won it. (that was b) How many tracks treat horse owners withe respect they deserve:not just the big owners who can aford to be in the dining room when their horses race but for the less than flush owners who can't afford that luxury. How about an owners lounge? There are beting issues but even as a former owner I am not much of a bettor thus I can't really deal with that issue; BUT, to the noviate how to bet is not a user friendly exercise. Track layouts are not user friendly either. For too long racing at all levels has relied on the old pro horseplayer, an ever shrinking group. I could go on at length but many others have covered my other suggestions.

November 15, 2009 - 12:55 pmI've read some comments on

I've read some comments on the additional takeout by WEG on Meadowlands product. For years, bettors were promised "common" pool wagering, only to see "all payoffs reflect WEG commission rates". Something that I have wondered about,... when WEG takes an additional 10% on Meadowlands Win-4 or Superfecta, it appears that they tax the winning ticket at 10%, and not the amount wagered. I thought the takeout is made when you make the wager. The way WEG does it, is it not possible if, say, $3000 was bet through WEG on the Win-4, and one of their customers had the only ticket in a $50,000 pool, the bettor would get $45,000, and WEG would get $5000 takeout on $3000 worth of bets? I may be wrong about this, but that is the way it appears to me. Could someone from WEG please explain this?

On the same note, my hometown is Dresden, so one would think that Dresden would be my #1 simulcast destination, but it's not. Two years ago, I found out that other than Win, Daily Double, and Exactor wagering on the Meadowlands, Windsor/Dresden/Woodstock takes from 1.3% to 9.3% additional takeout on all other pools, 1.3% to 9.3% MORE than WEG! We would sit in Dresden, see the payoffs at the Meadowlands, watch the reduced WEG payoffs scroll across the bottom of the HPI channel, then walk to the window and cash for 1.3% to 9.3% less than WEG! How disgusting is that? I called the ORC and CPMA and was told there was nothing they could do about it. This is a good argument that we may need a racing czar. Hopefully, he/she would have enough common sense not to allow such a thing.

November 14, 2009 - 2:16 pmYou are spot on Barry -

You are spot on Barry - Track operators just don't get it and don't care to get it and we (horsemen) can't do a damn thing about it acting as a splintered, bitter, spiteful, resentful, begrudging, whining (kindergarten-like if you will) bunch of self serving individuals.

We are professionals with a definite set of unique skills and invaluable experience. Let's start exhibiting these qualities together for the betterment of everyone involved in harness racing. We need a leader (appointed democratically of course);

team - coach
factory - foreman
school - principal
business firm - COO
military- commander in chief
country - president
harness racing - ???

Gavin Christie

November 14, 2009 - 7:11 amIn my own opinion

John Carter SAID...

In my own opinion Standardbred Canada should make this discussion a sticky so it stays in the forefront of everyone's mind when they view this website. This is how serious of an issue the declining wager in harness racing is. If the powers to be leaves it another few years to act no matter what they do it will probably be to little to late, it is time to wake up and address the problems because as people leave the game and discover other forms of gambling with a fairer house take you may never get them back. Does anyone remember Quebec.

November 13, 2009 - 4:16 pmas a follow up , mike glatt

as a follow up , mike glatt is correct the amount bet argument will be resolved by the introduction of some lottery wager or jackpot system similar to the v75 in sweden. Bringing back the $2000.00 a night better wil not be solved until the takeout is comparable to other forms of gambling, poker, internet poker , sports bettinG. If you believe attendance and handle are connected than you come up with an idea how to get 20000 people out to woodbine on a thursday night in the middle of February.If this industry continues to promote that the most important indicator of the health of the industry is the handle on live racing, we will be destined to convince the provincial government that this industry and the slots program is failing. In a province like Ontario where the manufacturing industries are being destroyed by a strong canadian dollar and unemployment in rural areas is rising at an alarming rate and the government is dying to tell their constituents about what they are doing to help these areas, we need to call our local Mp's and press and remind them about the tremendous employer in rural Ontario called "Harness racing" and how it is being sustained by a very successful Government program called "slots for trots". This present economic downturn might be the last chance for this industry to focus the government on the right issues before they decide on the future of the slots program . If I could suggest some far more important issues than handle that need to be addressed or highlighted in this discussion. 1. The lack of protection of the purse accounts at border tracks. 2The decline of registered owners in Ontario in the last 5 years.3 The need for a central organization or "racing czar" to guide this industry forward while deciphering from all of the stakeholders the difference between "whats good for the industry" and " whats good for me".
the

November 13, 2009 - 2:39 pmWell done, Jack. The urgency

Nick Salvi SAID...

Well done, Jack. The urgency of our plight can not be overstated. In the spirit of this thread I offer a link that displays the remarkable increase in churn a moderate reduction in pricing may yield. I urge interested parties to explore the HANA blog and keep it as a favorite. This is your customer speaking...pay attention!

http://blog.horseplayersassociation.org/2008/07/opinion-low-takeouts-are...

November 13, 2009 - 2:11 pmTo Barry. Thank you for

Mike Glatt SAID...

To Barry.

Thank you for your great illustration and comments regarding takeout. The reduction in takeout would obviously make a big difference in terms of attracting more bettors back to the track (and offtrack). I am not sure this solves the real problem however. The industry is dependent on customers for their business but the capital that belongs to those customers is over time and based on your comment regarding re-deploying the capital, going to eventually dry up which means you must continually find new customers.

Very few people make money wagering and I mean very few because of 1) high takeouts 2)poor handicapping 3) lousy managers of risk 4) character flaws which prohibit them from staying away from the action. It is the last two items which are the killers. I watched an interview once with Steve Winn the Vegas hotel and casino operator and they asked him how many of his high rollers were winners over time and the answer was "zero".

So what does the industry do to attract new customers keeping in mind that there is fierce competition for the gamblers dollar. Something that might work would be the introduction of a National Pick 6 ,7 or 8 with wagers coming in for $1. The only way this would work howeever would be to offer this wager through the existing lottery retail network.

You would not attract a lot a people who actually care about the sport but you would attract the average mom and pop who like the idea of playing a $1 quick pick in the hopes of collecting a $100,000 plus reward for their wager.The lotteries of course would want their cut but at least you would have access to recurring and new capital. The only real dilemma after that would be to ensure the integrity of the outcome of the races doesn't come into question. Based on some of the things I have seen over the years I am not so sure this is an easy task.

November 13, 2009 - 1:09 pmHello Everyone, I hope you

Hello Everyone,
I hope you will take some time to read this. Over the last month it has really started to sink into me that harness racing is dying and will never be the same within the next few years.

Those of you that know me personally know that I am an eternal optimist. My glass is always half full rather than half empty. I have devoted my life to harness racing since the age of thirteen when I called my first harness race. Today I find myself doing what I love best, promoting our sport at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs and I can't think of doing anything other than working in this industry. Our sport of harness racing has so many great aspects from the great horses to the wonderful people involved in our business, it is hard for me to sit idly and watch our great sport crumble and do nothing.

I hope you read the October 15th “Michigan governor vetoes funding for racing” article on Harnessracing.com. Fortunately the Michigan Governor stepped in at the eleventh hour and saved the day, for the time being. “Harness racing in Quebec at a seeming end” appeared on the USTA website on October 20th and the recent article “Slots Revenue to Purses Reduced in Pennsylvania” on page thirteen of The Horseman and Fair World from the October 14th edition. I have to believe that other states will be reducing money to the horsemen in the very near future, like Pennsylvania has done.

Many of the recent yearling sales have seen declines. An exception is Ohio, which in my estimation, was up only because the number of horses being offered was down from previous years. The Morrisville Sale was down, the Lexington Select Sale was down (Wednesday down 13%, Thursday down 14%, Friday down 16.8%, Saturday down 11.2% and Sunday was down 24.6%). One bright spot was the Harrisburg Sale that saw an increase this year after falling last year.

One of the greatest racetracks to ever exist (in my opinion), The Meadowlands, is on the balls of their feet and is losing money each year. I can’t see the taxpayers of New Jersey footing the bill much longer, I could be wrong though. Have you seen the handle results from the Breeders Crown at Woodbine? In 2008 the Meadowlands $ 5,020,659 on 13 races, and in 2009 Woodbine on 12 races $ 2,686,982, over $ 2.3 million dollars down, and in 2006 when Woodbine hosted the Breeders Crown the handle was $ 3,813,910, down over $ 1.1 million dollars when comparing the event at the same place.

I think our customers have begun to speak loud and clear and they are telling us to change. Do we really believe that this sport would exist as it does now without expanded gaming in these jurisdictions? Is there a future in harness racing? Does anyone even care anymore? I have started to hear some chatter recently about moving forward and doing “something”, but actions speak louder than words. The time is now. I read somewhere once that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.

These are the issues I believe we need to work on; first and foremost we need to fix the problems within our industry. First, we need to quit arguing amongst ourselves. Who is correct and who is incorrect will not amount to a hill of beans if we don’t have an industry to work in or on. We need to work on and with our number one people, the “customer”.

There is a newly formed group you may have heard of known as “Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA). We need to sit down with them as I believe our customer must come first. This group, in my opinion, has a realistic view on how to solve some of our problems in the industry. They identify one of the biggest problems as being the “takeout rate” at each track and "rebating". We must embrace the concept of the “takeout rate” being too much and we must also embrace “rebating”. Both of these topics come up numerous times on the HANA website www.horseplayersassociation.org . Please take a look at their website with a keen eye focused on what they are saying about the “takeout rates” and “rebating”.

We also need to address racing dates. Why should Pocono Downs and Chester Downs go at the same time of the year and why should Chester race right along with the Meadowlands and Yonkers, Are we not defeating our purpose? The Meadowlands pools are the only ones large enough to accommodate a “big bettor” in the United States, as far as harness racing is concerned. This issue needs to be addressed. We race way too much and to add insult to injury everyone races at virtually the same time. We are diluting our wagering pools to small amounts, offering the high players nowhere to bet the big money. The glut of racing results in horse shortages that cause small fields and produce an inferior product for the gambler, which in turn they don’t want to bet.

Next, I believe we need a marketing plan, but only after we fix our “inside the industry problems” like takeout rates, rebating, race dates, our integrity situations, cleanliness of racetracks, small wagering pools and programs being too complicated for beginners. Speaking of programs for beginners, I found it hard to believe (not really) that Tioga and Vernon were the only two regular users of the “beginners program” that the Marketing Committee at the USTA came up with.

Dr. Joan Zilinksi has again been commissioned by the United States Trotting Association (USTA) to report on the problems in harness racing. Her first report was released on August 19th, 1991, now it is almost 2010 and I bet when this next report comes out it will say many of the same things it said back then. It may very well report that the state of harness racing is much worse than in 1991.

From her report in 1991 I took this part about marketing “in fact, the best way to kill a poor product is through a lot of good advertising”. I simply think what she is saying we must fix our internal problems before marketing to the masses and I could not agree more. After we fix our “woes” we will need to address having a marketing campaign and I believe it needs to be not only grassroots but also nationally done through mass media, social networks and so forth.

We also need to keep our stars (horses) on the track. It’s no secret I am a big fan of the drivers in our sport and the work they do, but let’s face it, people love the horses and that’s why they come to the track. We often retire our great horses far too early, just as fans get to watching them and giving the fan no chance to get involved and watch them race year after year to create a following. Look at horses like Somebeachsomewhere, Deweycheatumnhowe, Muscle Hill, Explosive Matter, Well Said, and Vintage Master. Would it not be awesome to see Well Said, Vintage Master, Somebeachsomewhere, Mister Big, Art Official, Shadow Play, Won the West, and Shark Gesture battling it out against each other, at least for one year? If I had those horses at Tioga Downs or Vernon Downs we would pack the place with anxious customers who love the racing game.

Do you know what the sad part about this is? Casino operators don’t care one thing about horse racing and that seems ridiculous to me. At Tioga Downs we promoted the last night of racing in 2009 on Saturday, September 12th and we packed the place, and you know something, it was the biggest night we ever had on our gaming floor as well. The one thing casino operators don’t get or don’t understand is that 50% of the racing customers will play on their gaming floor.

There are so many things I would like to address to everyone but these are only a few of my observations and thoughts on the future of harness racing. I am certainly not trying to upset anyone and be negative as I said my glass is always half full and it will continue to be but sometimes I think it is just about to get knocked over. What I am trying to do is get the industry to wake up and encourage change. Seems like we have been in a deep coma for quite sometime and we need to encourage everyone and encourage change in our sport that we all know and care about. If you have any comments or suggestions or if you have ideas you would like me to explore I would be more than willing to at least try them if nothing more than at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. I am fortunate enough to work for a guy like Jeff Gural who has essentially taken the gloves off me and allows me to market and promote the racing side of our business. We welcome new ideas and thoughts at anytime.

I certainly do have to say that the recent Blog written by Jack Darling “We Must Act Now”; Jack Darling certainly does get it. I am ready to step forward and encourage change. Who else is ready? Hope to see everyone in the winners circle!

Best regards,
Jason
jsettlemoir@tiogadowns.com

November 13, 2009 - 9:21 amSep.1/09 new rule is in and

Doug Vukovic SAID...

Sep.1/09 new rule is in and the bet is down 30%. Mr. Darling apparently has the solution? GIVE ME A BREAK PLEASE!!!! Big "M" is not running yet. We will see the real betting % when it opens.

Darko Vukovic

November 12, 2009 - 8:35 pmCongratulations barry

Congratulations barry fitzgerald. Finally an intelligent comment regarding the effect of takeout and a great illustration of where the bettor has gone. I have listened to horseman and track operators talk about how to bring customers back to the track as if it the correct answer to why the handle has dropped.I need an answer to the following question from anyone who is in this industry.

If we packed in 100000 people into mohawk next year on Na cup night but the handle was down 15 percent would the night be a success. If you answered yes than come up with as many ideas to get people to the races as you can because how many people attend the races is your definition of getting it right. If your answer is no than go read Barry Fitzgerald's first posting and repeat after me "I will not discuss the decline of harness racing and use the word handle or amount bet without a caveat that takeout is the first if not only topic worth discussing."

November 12, 2009 - 7:32 pmJohn Carter is right. The

John Carter is right. The C.P.M.A. must be brought into the discussion and a reduced stake should be allowed. The fans want this,as I said earlier we should have 5 cent superfectas, 10 cent triactors and 20 cent exactors this will bring the 2 dollar bettor back and make small pools playable. I saw the total handle at Sudbury was 2000 dollars. You are not providing betting with that size handle

November 12, 2009 - 6:10 pmJohn, you are right that

Maury Ezra SAID...

John, you are right that horsemen who race mainly at Woodbine would not want to risk a lower takeout. But lets not forget that the goal of a lower takeout is overall growth which means that over the long run, there would be more money generated from handle due to the takeout drop. For example, if 10 million is bet during a certain period of time at Woodbine, by dropping takeout in half, there would have to be over 20 million bet during that same period.

This won't be achieved overnight, but over a period of 6 months, those numbers would easily be achievable. Studies have shown that if you drop takeout from 20% to 13%, you can expect a double in handle.

Why? Players last longer, and most lose more than they would have at the higher rates because they devote more dollars to playing horse racing specifically.

Plus players who last longer will more likely introduce newbies to the game they are devoting more time to. This gives racing a new revenue source.

As for not being able to bet 10 cent or 20 cent US supers etc. US bettors betting the States have the same hurdle against them when betting on Canadian supers. They have to bet $1 minimums on racing at Woodbine or Windsor or wherever.

As for Woodbine ramping up the takeout on Meadowlands low takeout bets, I agree it shows complete disregard and contempt for their customer, and it is no wonder that they have driven away most of their big players and have made it so that most small players look at wagering in Ontario on horse racing as a complete losing proposition right from the get go. Good luck to them getting newbies with their overall attitude. There is no reason to tell a friend to bet.

November 12, 2009 - 4:46 pmThanks for the opportunity,

Thanks for the opportunity, Jack. I mentioned to drop the takeout 10%, and I meant across the board so that all types of bettors get a break, but I used this number to match the offshore rate. I think for racing to stand a chance against other forms of gambling, the takeout should be 10% on all types of wagers. I want to show you an example of how 25% is an impossible rate.

On July 14, 2007, Georgian Downs held a match race between Moving Pictures and To Helen Back, with Win betting only. The final odds were Moving Pictures - 0.45 on the dollar, and To Helen Back - 0.50 on the dollar. Therefore, the takeout must be slightly over 25%. For my example and simplicities sake, I'll make both horses at 0.50 on the dollar. Imagine if Georgian was running 3 consecutive match races, with both horses at odds of 0.50, with a crowd of 5000 bettors, each with $20.00 to bet on the first race, where people that had no clue at all about harness racing would still have a 50/50 chance of picking the winner. After Race 1, 2500 bettors would be broke, 2500 would cash for $30.00, and the track would takeout $25,000. Race 2, each bettor bets their $30.00, 1250 more bettors would be broke, 1250 would cash for $45.00, and the track would takeout $18,750. Race 3, each bettor bets their $45.00, 625 more bettors would be broke, 625 would cash for $67.50, and the track would takeout $14,062.50. So, after only 3 two-horse match races, with a 50/50 chance of picking the winner, out of 5000 bettors, 4375 bettors would be broke, 625 bettors would have %67.50 for a profit of $47.50, and the track takeout would be $57,812! This is as simple as I can explain it. Bettors are simply running out of money, or betting less often.

There is one positive to this example. Note that with $100,000 to bet (5000 bettors x $20.00), after only 3 races at 25% takeout, the track gets almost $58,000. This shows what happens when money is churned back into the handle. It seems track operators think that bettors that cash are going to invest their winnings, or buy RRSP's, or never spend it at the track again. Nothing could be further from the truth. For 95%-plus of bettors, it is just more money to bet next race, or the next night, or next week. Over time, the track will get their money, bettors just want a little bang for their buck.

November 12, 2009 - 11:37 pmI am just shocked on how

John Wood SAID...

I am just shocked on how naive a lot of the gamblers and Jack Darling are on the politics of reducing the takeout. WEG has one of the highest average net takeouts of all tracks in North America. The net takeout has never been reduced in any significant manner in 50 years. There is good reason why the takeout has never been reduced as fifty percent of the takeout goes to the horseman’s purse account and the rest of the purse account is of course funded from slot revenues. HELL WILL FREEZE OVER before horseman will take a cut in purses to allow for any meaningful reduction in track takeouts.

Trust me horseman are addicted to those fat juicy purses.

If you are curious to see where WEG stands on lower takeouts all you have to do is follow how they treat bets going to the Meadowlands racetrack pools from Woodbine. The Meadowlands to their credit reduced the Win 4 and Superfecta to an industry low 15 per cent takeout. Betting fans love it as the WIN 4 pools reach $100,000 in pool size on any given Saturday. Here comes the good part, WEG turns around and adds 10 per cent surtax on both bets to any winning tickets that are cashed through the WEG. For example if a WIN 4 or superfecta pays $2000 at Meadowlands you are going to get $1800 for the same ticket purchased at WEG. Moreover, WEG will steal 10 per cent from you for being loyal and playing with them. Their rational for doing this is they are giving you the privilege of betting into US pools but they have to charge you takeout rates set at Woodbine. They do this for all thoroughbred tracks too that have a lower takeout than the Woodbine listed takeout. As you can the Woodbine Management is just shameless as they view their betting customer’s as suckers.

Anyone who thinks they are going to get either Horseman groups and WEG Management to reduce the take in any significant manner is just naïve and dreaming. Horseman will never agree to purse cut and the WEG management is just shameless on how it cannibalizes it own customers with surtaxes.

As Jeffrey Gural correctly, points out that racing has to hit rock bottom for significant changes to take place and new management teams can come in to replace the old entrenched interests. Until that happens track takeout will never change and remain the same as they have for the last fifty years.

The question that every bettor has to ask himself are these people worthy of you're betting dollars?

November 12, 2009 - 2:46 pmI have to comment on Jack

I have to comment on Jack Darling’s accurate description of the state of harness racing. I have tried very hard over the last two years to interest people in making changes and have come to the conclusion that we will wait a longtime for courageous leadership or any kind of leadership to try to save harness racing.

I think Bill O’Donnell, Dennis Robinson at the Meadowlands, Jason and I have tried and I think Mike Tanner cares very much about the future of harness racing. In general, the people who own the racetracks do not seem to care at all as their main goal is driving revenue to the slots and tracks without slots are only focused on getting slots.

It is only a matter of time, as we have seen recently, before the Government begins to take away the subsidy and allow free market conditions to eliminate harness racing due to a lack of interest by the public. We have seen this with Jai Alai and we are seeing it now with dog racing and harness racing will unfortunately be next. I wish I was not so negative but pretending that there is a solution on the horizon, unless there is a radical change in the way we do business, is in my opinion not beneficial. Hopefully I am wrong.

November 12, 2009 - 2:12 pmJack the take out needs to

John Carter SAID...

Jack the take out needs to be reduced right across the board. I used to wager into the win, exacta, superfecta, daily double, and pick 4 pools. With the win, exacta and superfecta pools getting the majority of my action. If i was playing and the win and exacta pool was reduced to 10% for example and the superfecta and pick 4 left where it is i would never buy a pick 4 or superfecta i would limit myself to the pools that had a fair take out.

I am going to give you another example of something that is very frustrating to people who wager large amounts of money. They started common pool wagering with the big m but the bettors in canada have been left at a disadvantage. If you live in the states you can buy 10 cent and 20 cent superfectas and pick 4's on the meadowlands product but if you buy your ticket in canada you have to buy a $1.00 ticket so the people in the states can cover many more combinations then we can for the same amount of money, so we are put at a disadvantage in these pools. I have called up the higher ups at horseplayer interactive and the higher ups at weg and have pointed this out to them and they say it is the cpma or what ever the excuse of the day is but you get the impression that they really don't care or don't understand why this is important. Lets say if it is the cpma don't you think that these parties should be coming together to get this stuff worked out as quickly as possible so they don't piss off or lose more customers.

This may have changed recently i don't know as this is the first time in a long time that i am not playing the races as i am just to fed up with the game because of excessive take out and i get the impression that the powers to be are just turning a blind eye to everything, i for one believe they just don't care all they want is that next pay check.

November 12, 2009 - 7:38 amJack, takeout needs to be

Maury Ezra SAID...

Jack, takeout needs to be reduced across the board on all bets. WPS is the least of most gamblers concerns because they can go to Betfair and pay a 4% commission. The idea is to put more money back into the customer's pockets so they can last longer. Triactors with 27% takeouts are bank roll killers.

If players last longer they will spend more time handicapping, watching, and playing, and they are bound to expose others to the game as well in many cases. They will also devote more of their entertainment dollar throughout the year to betting.
This works with slots as well. One family member is obsessed with slots, there is a good chance they will bring others out for the night the odd time. This is why slot operators know they can't take out more than 8-10%. They don't want to kill their base.

Also, the more a player plays the more of a chance they, or others they expose to the game, will become owners as well.

November 11, 2009 - 6:17 pmI have a question for Barry

Jack Darling SAID...

I have a question for Barry Fitzgerald, John Carter and the other gamblers on this site. Are you more interested in the takeout on the exotic wagers or the win,place,show. For example, what would you think if the exotic takeout stayed the same or slightly less and the win place,show takeout dropped to 10% or even 5%.

November 11, 2009 - 6:11 pmFrom the comments I've read

From the comments I've read here, it is clear that there are a lot of answers to problems that are facing the racing industry. Issues such as conditions, whipping, and the bettors interest are all valid for people who have been coming to the tracks for years, tried and true gambles or horsemen. With the decline of interest in harness racing over the last 20 years, it is evident that harness racing is not only not attracting new fans, it's losing life long supporters. For the diehard fans who are choosing to walk away from the sport, they clearly understand their choice and have made a concious descion to stop coming to the track. For those people, you must address the issues mentioned before. However, I believe that these are not the people who are going to save harness racing. Mr. Darling spoke of the days of Dan Patch, and the hundreds of thousands of people who knew his name and watched him race. I find it hard to believe that all of those people were all track regulars, the reality is they probably didn't know much about Dan Patch, but they came out because they had heard his story. And do we know why? MARKETING. In the days of Dan Patch there were cards and blankets and trains and everything with Dan Patch's image on it. He was as big of a celebrity as you could find. Harness racing needs to start promoting itself as a SPORT rather than this dieing out cult image it has now. Harness racing's saviour will not be old fans who choose to come back because, it lies in NEW fans, people who don't know anything about harness racing, but are interested in coming to learn and watch the races. If we take a second and look at how harness racing is promoted in Austrailia and New Zealand, we might learn a few things. When their horses are brought on to the track, the crowd cheers like when the Oilers skate out from under their oil drum at a home game. They charge admission to the tracks, the drivers are treated like celebrities. This sort of promotion is what's going to spark new interest in harness racing. That, and making it more accessible to the public. Every person in Canada, whether or not they can tie up a pair of skates or not knows what a hockey stick, puck, and helmet looks like. Heck they can probably tell you who won the Stanley Cup in the last five years without having watched a single game. Harness racing may never reach that level, and realistically it probably won't get close. But why not educate people a bit, make them feel more comfortable in their knowledge about harness racing. Programs with equipment diagrams, and driver profiles. What if Trot Magazine combined with the Mohawk program and printed a "Harness Racing Legends" story every few weeks right in the program. Something to show the public that harness racing has a great story. Right now the idustry needs to focus their budget on advertisement, and marketing. Not a slight revsion of the whipping rule, or parimutuel adjustments. Those are things that need to be addressed when the industry is thriving and has the time to do so, but it's dire straits for harness racing right now, and no matter how you slice it, we need more fans. A LOT more.

November 11, 2009 - 5:01 pmI'm enjoying how the

I'm enjoying how the reaction to Jack's blog has taken off. Horse people and gamblers with a common interest in the survival of the sport / business. Someone smarter than me once said that on our biggest days we are a sport, on others we are a gambling business. If you watched the Breeders Cup on Saturday and Mountaineer on Sunday night you saw both aspects.
For me, the bottom line is supply and demand.

At the moment, supply far outweighs demand and it is only through the slot machine revenues that racing remains viable at several Ontario tracks. To be viable and self-sustaining supply and demand have to be balanced. In a perfect world, a plan that provides a means for growing the demand would be the ideal. Realistically, serious cuts on the supply side will probably be unavoidable.

November 11, 2009 - 4:44 pmIn a recent article about

In a recent article about Jeff Gural, it was stated that at the current takeout rate, horse racing's customer base is not sustainable. The key word is sustainable. Not only can it not grow, it can't keep the customers that it has. This has been the case for the last 10-15 years, and it has proven to be true. Yet tracks will not lower the takeout rate.

I once calculated that if I bet in 1986 and broke even for the year, I would now lose over $20,000, simply because of increased takeout. And I can't afford to throw away $400 a week. It is simple math, but racetrack operators just don't get it. So I attend less often, and I bet less often, a die-hard fan like me that has been attending races for 40 years. And that is why handle is down. Factor in the customers that have been driven away, and it just multiplies. Now is the time to drop the takeout, at least make an effort to attract new customers and make your current customers a bit happier, before the government comes to their senses and pulls the plug like they did in Quebec.

For the last 5-6 years, I keep reading about track operators whining and snotting about their big bettors opening offshore accounts because of the 10% savings, so drop the takeout 10% and beat them at their own game. It can't hurt, something drastic has to be done, maybe if it had been done in 2002, betting wouldn't be down 40% since then. I am sure the big bettors would rather have their money locally, and who knows, if more people walk out each night a few bucks ahead, or losing less, they may return more often, bring a few friends, tell a few friends about it, word of mouth is the best advertising their is.

One more thing. A local bar/restaurant advertises "25-cent chicken wings, all day, every day". And they are very good. And the bar makes money only on the sale of food and beverages. Why can't racetracks do this just to attract people instead of charging top dollar for mediocre food and $5.00 to $6.00 for drinks? A friend and his wife recently went to the clubhouse in London and they had the $30.00 cold buffet, 1 glass of wine, 2 beers, and the bill was $85.00. He said never again, not at half the price. Once again, track operators just don't get it.

Do you want to know the saddest thing about horse racing? There are many, many good comments made here, by die-hard fans that very much want to see harness racing thrive, and in the end, they won't make a damn bit of difference. You see, track operators just don't get it.

November 11, 2009 - 4:18 pmThis is just my two cents. I

This is just my two cents.
I am a $2 bettor who goes every few weeks to a race track but will watch it at home daily without fail.

Some blogs have mentioned promotion especially the type that Grand River is doing which is always fun to watch. Others have mentioned the horses themselves while others mentions payouts.

I have a friend who shares in owndership of Kesons Avaia -- I have followed this little filly and because of her I have seen more tracks in person in her 2 years of racing then I have ever in my 5 year following of harness racing. The big question is why do I do this? The answer is easy, it's a friends horse and I feel like I know her personally. I get to share in their celebration of a win and I share in their pain of a loss. For me it's about the horses -- I love the greys -- Admirals Express helped get me hooked on harness racing and I continue to follow him and will until he stops racing.

As for betting -- never had much luck with the exotic bets -- can never seem to pick the right combination so it makes me fearful to bet them as I have a set amount that I spend while at the track. Early in Oct I did however try the 20 cent super -- that was fun for me as it was not taking a huge chunk of my betting money but I got to try something new. It was a $5 bet for a dream. It's nice to leave the track ahead of what I came with but the minimum is to break even or just be down a little.

The tracks themselves -- Mohawk, Flamboro, Western Fair, Grand River is nice because you can feel and hear the horses as they drive past you this builds excitement in fan. Woodbine might be the main big track but it sucks -- as a fan you cannot get close enough to enjoy the race and it's all about the money not an entertaining evening out. Woodbine does not welcome or is very friendly to the average fan -- it goes after the big bettor and that's it

Keep
It
Simple
Stupid

Just remember "KISS", if those you are running the industry remember this -- the industry should thrive.

Marie Stoyles-Moura

November 11, 2009 - 2:02 pmI believe the answer is

bill douglas SAID...

I believe the answer is undoubtedly new OWNERS. Current Owners and Trainers must do everything they can to recruit new owners into the business. The excitement of owning a Racehorse is unparallelled but, to this point, has been restricted to a limited few. The purse money as it is currently, makes owning a Racehorse today, a sound and very possibly lucrative investment. Once a new owner experiences the thrill of watching his/her Horse win a race, or even come second or third, they will be hooked. This will of course create a huge domino effect in that this new owners entire circle of friends and family will be out to the races to watch the "new" Horse race.

I believe we should forget about the gambling aspect. New owners and their entourage will take care of this. The answer is to actively and aggressively pursue new owners. How to go about acquiring these new owners (e.g. adjusting our daily rates; offering aggressive packages of a flat fee monthly rate along with part ownership etc.) is what I think we should be concentrating on.

November 11, 2009 - 12:15 pmThe harness game is dying

John Carter SAID...

The harness game is dying out and the powers that be seem to be turning a blind eye to it and hoping that the government and casino companies will continue to bail them out. Well this may continue for awhile but as the wager continues to plummet and the tracks are losing massive amounts of money on live racing they will sooner or later get cut off from there welfare checks.

If something isn't done soon to reverse the handle at racetracks it will reach a point in the next 5 to 10 years where it has become to late to reverse. I have bet the harness racing for years, weg and the big m and i bet big dollars, into the hundreds of thousands per year but i am doubtful if i will ever bet another race.

Here is a few of the reasons why, the product at weg and the big m is a shadow of what it was 10 years ago now yonkers has most of the good horses and yonkers is a half mile track which does not interest me. Secondly dwindling pools to bet into, now if you bet big money on a race you are starting to affect your price. You now see win pools at weg consistently beneath $20k and dropping and the bottom is also falling out at the big m compared to what they were 5 to 10 years ago.

Last but not least is because of the track take out. Years ago the races could get away with excessive take out because there only competition was bingo well those days are over. Now stop and think about it you have to be 20 to 25% better then the rest of the people around you just to break even but if you want to bet big dollars and have any shot of making something worthwhile you have to be 30 to 35% better then those around you. A tall task in this day and age where you get so much information about trainor changes and so on in the programs and on line. Years ago you had to keep all your past programs and if you were willing to track trainors and other things you could get an edge on your competition, well the information age has taken a lot of that away.

For someone like me to consider coming back i would have to see the track take out drop to a maximum of 10% so it is at least a fair game compared to other forms of gambling. To me i am not sure what else they can do to reverse this other then this but if they don't do something soon in 20 years assuming the big m and weg is still in business the condition sheet for most races will probably read for non winners of a ham sandwich last 6 starts.

November 11, 2009 - 12:08 pmDave: I dont think handing

Sarah Green SAID...

Dave: I dont think handing out trainers licensing like we do drivers licensing is a smart, nor safe idea. Training a horse is a skill. There are people that have been training there entire life that will say they have a lot to learn. I think I speak for many in saying that I dont want to be out there jogging with Joe Blow down the street who decided they were capable of handling a horse because they owned him. And I dont think its safe having an inexperienced horse on the track during a race. Accident waiting to happen.

Lets leave the training to the experts and let them do the job we pay them for.

November 11, 2009 - 11:46 amThe industry is in big

Mike Glatt SAID...

The industry is in big trouble as is evidenced by the declining handle numbers and the reliance on slot revenues to survive. Takeouts on most wagers are ridiculously high which makes it very difficult for handicappers to make money. The real problem of course is that the competition for the gamblers dollar is very high (slots and lotteries). Most people have no interest in trying to handicap a horse race, they would much rather blindly put their faith in the spin of a slot or a random quick pick lottery ticket.

The interesting part of all this is the long term player of these other forms of gambling have virtually no chance to succeed as the odds are severely stacked against them. A horse handicapper (not the casual player) is actually involved in an intellectual challenge pitting his or her skills against other partcipants. While the odds of winning are once again very low because A) there are very few good handicappers and B) there are even fewer good managers of risk, at least you have an opportunity to pick the circumstances where you want to play to improve your chances of succeeding. Human behaviour unfortunately kicks in and fear and greed become the norm and action becomes the only game.

If you visit your local off track site or the track itself you will see all the same faces and of course based on what I have described previously eventually that pool of resources will dry up. In terms of the racing product, I am not sure if the real serious bettor cares about the quality of the race but rather what they care about is the quality of the betting proposition including the liquidity that is available.

I have seen many times where the handles at Northfield or Balmoral are at equal to or greater than WEG handles even though, especially in the case of Northfield, the quality of racing is far inferior to WEG. Ask a horse player if they would rather wager on a 10 horse field of $5,000 claimers at Mountaineer or a 7 horse field of non winners of 1X at WEG and the answer will come back more often than not at Mountaineer.

There are no easy answers but a National pick 8 would make sense but only if the distribution system to handle this type of wager comes through retail lottery terminals set up to sell 6/49 tickets etc.

All in all not a pretty picture.

November 11, 2009 - 11:35 amShawn, you represent the

Maury Ezra SAID...

Shawn, you represent the bigger gambler. You know, as well as I that big gamblers are hard to come by. I totally agree that the best commodity horse racing has is their current gambler, but I have to argue that the $2 bettor is the most important commodity because they represent the biggest majority by far. It is these people who need to last longer, cash more when they cash, so that they might have enough money left at the end of the day to come back tomorrow, not in a couple of weeks or month.

It is these people who, the more they play, the more they are likely to come back with family members, neighbours, friends, coworkers. They already like the sport, but for the most part, they know it is a losing proposition and/or they just can't afford to be every day players.

Every big bettor started off as a $2 bettor as well. The reason they increased their betting was that they found a way to come close to beating the game, or they found a way to break even.

But today, pretty much the only winners are the ones who get substantial rebates. Substantial rebates is the equivalent of lower takeouts. Either way, that is where the growth is, and it is the only place where growth is as it is the only way racing competes with other forms of gambling.

November 11, 2009 - 11:13 amEveryone thought at the time

carlo renon SAID...

Everyone thought at the time slots were the answer. I said they would destroy racing! Anything the OLG controls has a higher take out than racing so lowering it is not the solution but would not hurt.

Racing needs to pull these people away from slots and casinos;how long will they continue giving charity to the racing industry? Poker players relish the idea of competition and to be better than the person next to him,if we give him a competitive fair honest race he will play!

We also have to attract new people but how? Grand River Raceway is kinda on the right track but things have to be on a much larger and creative scale,they are missing alot of chances to attract young people especially when they have 3 universities nearby!how many new people could would be in the stands on a mMnday night at Mohawk lets say if the Tragically Hip were playing there for free!!

Racing has to look what other forms of gambling do and do it better! Most importantly racing has to drop the us and them attitudes and all groups and jurisdictions must band together to work towards a common GOAL!!!

November 11, 2009 - 10:59 amIt always seems like there

Shawn Murphy SAID...

It always seems like there are 2 categories of comments, one from the horse people and one from the gamblers. I represent the later.

My opinion is that we need to cater to the existing bettors first, they represent your 80% of every wagering dollar. I was an avid harness fan and spent the majority of my dollars betting the WEG harness product. I would travel to Barrie or Orangeville to watch and wager, the stands were packed and it was a entertaining day. At the height of my betting I was easily in the top 10% of all bettors.

I now bet mostly Thoroughbreds at US tracks. I feel the Harness races have been taken over by the in crowd of trainers and drivers and the smaller guys take up the scraps, you look at the prices each night and it is rare to get horses paying over $12, a tough way to make some bucks. The stands are empty, the dining rooms are bare, it is a sad state.

We all want to know what to do:
First thing is that you have to reward your existing players, send out a dining room certificate to your top 10% each month, send Breeders Crown invitations to a VIP area, have fun nights for your bigger bettors, treat them well and they will be back with bigger pockets. Look at the twinspires club that Churchill Downs manages, they send Kentucky Derby tickets, gift certificates to their top gamblers.

After you take care of the big boys look at getting more people to the track. Have concerts in the summer, give aways, beer tents, they will all make bets and many will return with others. One thing the industry is missing is looking after who they have first. They lost me years ago but I would be the first to come back if they gave me a reason.

November 11, 2009 - 10:25 amTo get people to come to the

stephen bell SAID...

To get people to come to the track you need to main stream the media. Some how put something on the Internet, televison, newspaper,facebook...glorify the backbone of the sport and keep the media away from the negatives.

It will cost a lot but like stock car racing you have to get promoters. I ,as a silly example, put UNITED STATES TROTTING ASS. on the number 88 car. Put HANOVER SHOE FARMS on the number 24 car. Think how many people watch the car races...Get some drivers who can dance on dancing with the stars huh! huh! It's all about reaching out to the main stream. Be the solution ....

November 11, 2009 - 8:59 amStandardbred racing has an

Standardbred racing has an identity crisis. Is it a sport? Is it an industry? Is there room for passion and the love of the horse to manifest? Or is ROI the only focus?

The SPORT needs to focus on the horse and rebuild the grassroots and community connection. Those are the faces absent from the grandstands. Big bettors don't have to attend the races to wager.

The current industry model does no allow for the SPORT's survival simply by disallowing community connection. This is evident in the lack of promotion of the horse (it is HORSE racing) and a structure that does not allow anyone to like their horse.

When lower level classes are only available as claiming races, a throwaway society is mandated. Anyone who likes horses and wants to keep them (thus creating a community connection at the grassroots level) has no race available to them. A hero horse need not be racing at the higher levels. In fact, a connection to a lower level horse may be easier to establish simply because the average person could envision themselves as the owner.

These average people are the ones who will fill our grandstands with friends and family. This is where are new faces can come from and possibly new bettors. These are the people who will wager on a friend or family member's horse regardless of the odds. Take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves comes to mind.

Why not simply mandate that the word "Optional" be added to all claiming events?
Why not classify by speed? Quarter Horse Racing seems to be having luck with that by using a speed index for their race conditions.
Why not refer to the sport as Standardbred Horse Racing and promote the horse?

November 11, 2009 - 1:15 am~~DR. ANSWERS IS HERE~~ I

dave fasulo SAID...

~~DR. ANSWERS IS HERE~~

I REPRESENT THE YOUTH MOVEMENT AS I AM INTRICATELY INVOLVED IN ALL WAGERING VENUES WHEN IT COMES TO SPORTS INVESTING.I AM A POKER PROFESSIONAL BY TRADE, AN ACCOMPLISHED SPORTS WAGERER AND WOODBINE HARNESS PLAYER 4X A WK, AND I GOT POOR NEWS FOR YOU ALL THERE IS NO ANSWER COMING !!!

a) ITS STARTS WITH THE PRODUCT. >>> PRODUCT IS GOOD... SO MARKETING IS THE PROBLEM ALWAYS HAS.
(IF YOU DONT MARKET PRODUCT, VIA 12$ BUFFETS, OR FREE BEER RACES 1-5(1PER PERSON)YOU WILL "NEVER" ATTRACT A NEW CROWD, 26.75$ FOR MOHAWKS BUFFET ON SAT NITE HAVE YOU SEEN THAT BUFFET ??? COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS !! CASINO'S IN VEGAS AND IN SENECA NIAGARA US. STILL OFFER FREE BEERS FOR THOSE PLAYING, COST OF A BEER IS LESS THAN A DOLLAR PER CUP ON TAP,ITS CALLED... "TIED SELLING"
CAN WOODBINE REALLY NOT AFFORD THIS ON THEIR GIGANTIC TAKEOUTS??WHERE PICK 4 WAS 11% AND MOVED TO OVER 20% 3 YEARS AGO?? takeout is too high, 23% for some wagers, where competitively poker rake is and always has been 10% capped and sports wagering is now universally maintained at 5% or less, why should pk 3's pick 4's be OVER 20%!!!
Like the saying goes " you get what you give"

b)VENUE(woodbine-harness) IS ATROCIOUS...races are what 200 metres+ from plain view??
MOHAWK IS GEORGEOUS BUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE....THEY will NEVER spend the coin to make another track on their huge land the WEG that is, so this monumental problem will never be rectified, they do not want to take a 10-20 yr plan cuz they are content with what they are making now, till the well runs dry. THATS big "corporate mindset"

c) this organization is ran by not horse racing enthusiants but "business enthusiants"! that further accentuates a problem 'seed' that is planted in the soil thus will only blossom "business leaves" ie:"TV's at mohawk 2 yrs back being placed ON THE CEILING!!" where nobody can see them !!! ie: "stadium seating at mohawk??" (where nobody can move in and out of aisles??) isnt that what wagerers do?? its not a movie theatre where u sit straight for 2 hrs is it?
ie: "whip rule" and disqualify the horse!, ie: "7/8 races" ie: "movin the polls down 250feet"...its one thing after another from these hapless representatives, finally a loyalty rewards program has been introduced, all of us our pleased with this measure, YES!! it only took what 20 years?

the grandstand at woodbine(east side window at stretch) after a thoroughbred afternoon is littered with tickets all over the ground,i mean the floor is literally 55% covered in certain sections... it looks like a dump, WEG should be ashamed of themselves, i brought a friend last week who saw this filth and was disappointed,i saw a 5 yr old , a 5 yr old !! at 707 pm picking these tickets up and throwing them up in the air........"like LEAVES !!!"is it too hard to pay an individual or two to sweep up these tickets in the hours before harness post?

UNTIL THE HORSEPLAYER IS REPRESENTED WITH LEADERS LIKE JACK DARLING, NOTHING WILL CHANGE, ur first step WEG Representatives. and i sincerely hope one of you is reading this, is too read this sites entire message board and discuss the proposals WEEKLY!! comment cards
attached to the program is the first step !!!ask the people what they would like to see or have listed options...then go from there
...we must get our word out there, mr. darling, somebody please print this entire blog with responses and go give it to R.M.ANDERSON(cust.service 2nd floor woodbine) or P.BERGER, we the people need a voice, I have no printer... see ya'll soon again

~Dr.ANSWERS

November 10, 2009 - 11:17 pmThanks to Jack for starting

John Doyle SAID...

Thanks to Jack for starting the ball rolling on developing ideas and strategies to save and enhance horse racing.

Here is the simpliest and easiest idea to start. Lets have everyone who visits the track bet 2$ to show on every race. I have brought countless newcomers to the track and we always bet a show parlay for fun and to get them started. In a show parlay, we each contribute 2$ and bet a horse to show. If we win, we then bet all the winnings on a horse to show in the next race and so on. If the ball gets rolling the fun and excitement for these newcomers multiplies. It is great to hear a group cheering for a horse to get third. If the horse doesn't make, then they have only lost 2 dollars and we start again. The problem is that if we do well, then we will dominate the show pool at many tracks. Thats where you come in. Bet 2$ to show per race and you will aid the newcomers and probably get most of your money back.

The newcomers eventually ask how the exactor, quinella, daily double, trifector and superfecta work and will try a few side bets on their own.

Also, how about reducing the takeout on the show bet to put more money back in the newcomers hands.

November 10, 2009 - 10:36 pmIf you want more people to

Dave Mutch SAID...

If you want more people to get involved in Harness Racing you have to make it easier to get into the business. If I have horses of my own I should not have to write a CTA exam, I should be able to train my own horses. If it is made easier for people to own a horse and train their own, they in turn will create their own following. Thus there will be more people attending the races. If training for other owners then an exam and license should be required.

November 10, 2009 - 10:22 pmWow! I am suitably impressed

Wow! I am suitably impressed by the volume of constructive discussion and passion being bandied around on this, one of the best web sites ever. THANK-YOU Standardbred Canada for this forum.

It is obvious that the love of this game is still prevalent and although we've made a bad decision and are caught first over, we need to muster the desire, courage and back class that once made ours the leading sport on this continent.Let's look adversity in the eye and dig in with everything we've got.I for one,do not want to die without a whimper.

Yes; as is the concensus, the takeout is way too high. Let's address this IMMEDIATELY. Not only does it look bad, but it kills the churn factor, one of the most important dynamics. Since this seems to be the most unified cry in the wilderness, let's rally around that.

Somebody make a T-shirt.
YIPPEE-KAYAY,from a die-hard standardbred fan in Sudbury.

November 10, 2009 - 10:13 pmPeter and Keith, betting

Maury Ezra SAID...

Peter and Keith, betting will not take care of itself. Times have changed. Quit looking back. You want more bettors, the takeout needs to drop. You want more fans, the takeout needs to drop, and bettors will bring in the odd new fan with them. It is the internet age, and the idea of getting masses back out to the track is dead. Too many other forms of entertainment. Horse racing must compete with other forms of gambling....NOW!

Here a big problem with the industry. The industry had followed Peter's and Keith's lead for too long and it is now dying. Let the bettors speak, not the horsemen or those who don't care if there is betting.

Racing run at 8-10 tracks in Ontario five times a week can never be a show. How many times would you expect someone to go to a circus each year (seen it once, don't need to see it again for a while). It is all about betting. Oh, and charge admission now?, you might get 3 people in the stands.

Harness racing has a chance to take the lead on thoroughbreds by reducing takeout. The B and C harness tracks of Ontario can do it without much risk. It is the only chance the industry has to grow.

The biggest hurdle to lowering takeout is Woodbine though. They may threaten not to carry the product. But then again nothing is stopping B and C tracks from opening their own ADW. There are turnkey solutions out there.

It is time to stop with the high takeout nonsense.

November 10, 2009 - 9:04 pmWell Jack, you have done it

ron francis SAID...

Well Jack, you have done it again. That is, offer a thought provoking analysis of
where harness racing is, a warning of where it may be in the not too distant future, and, an invitation to offer ideas and positive reinforcing comment. Ontario horse people are fortunate to enjoy a rich stakes program and generous slots subsidy. Just can't imagine this party lasting forever, when fewer fans and bettors are paying attention.

Quebec is a an alarming model of what can happen. Still the Quebec government, in typical Q style (I live here) contributed to the demise of racing while propping up the industry. Politcal appointments, crazy spending to support a 90's quest for the creation of a distinctively Quebec brand accelerated the RIP.

We have three levels of racing. WEG is the only option for the big bettor. The "B" tracks will have to work harder at grabbing attention of main stream media. Local promotions, the marketing of top drivers, trainers, horses and being a better corporate
citizen could only aid identity within the market. As for "C" tracks, unfortunately, there are two options. Redudce to just a few days of racing with a specific theme or close.

Glad you mentioned Rideau Carleton. Rideau is operated as a corner store when it should be a super-market.

November 10, 2009 - 8:01 pmI would like to congratulate

Peter Smith SAID...

I would like to congratulate and thank Keith Nethery for his comment. He is so very, very right.

As an industry, we have been missing the point for the last two generations. We need to attract some God Damn FANS INTO THE GRANDSTAND to watch this great game in all it's glory!
How do we not GET THAT??

Sometimes, when I read some of the comments from people and hear people talk about how they would revive harness racing, I feel like these horses may as well be lottery balls in a drum...

Put on a show, attract the people, entertain them - take Grand River's lead and enhance it!

The gambling will take care of itself - it always does.

There is nothing in this world like hanging over the rail watching these horses whizz by your nose. We seem to have forgotten that.

November 10, 2009 - 7:07 pmGood Luck getting the young

Good Luck getting the young poker players away from the tables to bet on harness races

November 10, 2009 - 5:31 pmThe "whales" have left

The "whales" have left harness racing forever (with the exception of some offshore internet betting sites which can cost up to 100% less than on track sites). As for a pick 8 etc. all it would do is create crocodile wagering (less money spent on other wagering options). The comments suggesting a lower takeout are spot on, there has been virtually nothing done for the bettor in the last 50 years, why should they pay 20% to get into a harness racing wagering pool when they can sports bet ala vegas style for 5% or less!

November 10, 2009 - 4:47 pmIf you walked up to a

Steve Jewitt SAID...

If you walked up to a building with 2 doors . Door number one says spend your leisure money here and i will give you all the pop / coffee you want for free and play with a card and spend a little money and i will give you free food or free concert tickets or free anything if you play enough.

Or door number 2 says come in here and we will charge you 3 something for a soft drink, 6 bucks for a sandwich and if you bet 300 dollars we will give you 0. I wish a solution was this easy but human nature tells me what door most people will enter. To me we should be calling the better business bureau. We are both trying to get a piece of the same pie and they are cheating - this statement was meant as a joke. Looking forward to future responses.

Thanks Sonny Jewitt

November 10, 2009 - 4:34 pmI represent what is probably

I represent what is probably a very small minority of current harness racing fans. I could care less if betting is offered. Yes, I bet a few bucks for fun, but wouldn't miss it. I would also pay to go and see horses race. You can charge ten bucks admission and I'd still be there. You could ask me for a couple of bucks for parking and I'd give you that too. Now when I pay my 10 dollar admission, you get the whole thing, not just a take out.

There is too much available in the world of gaming for harness racing to make it on gamblers. People will pay 10 bucks to watch a movie, 80 bucks and up to go to a concert, and in my mind neither is anywhere near as entertaining as horse races. Growing up in the 60's my family went to the races in Hanover and the grandstand was full. You paid to get in, you paid to park. Anybody that bet more than 2 bucks on a race was daring. And it was fun!!!!!!!!!!

The thrill is being close to the race, standing along the fence listening to the horses. Others have talked about Grand River raceway, and while I don't get there nearly as much as I'd like, the reason what they do works, is because it is hands on. To create fans people need to be able to relate. Nascar has this figured out with people galore around the drivers before the race and a party atmosphere throughout.
When people come to the harness races for the first time, we hand them a program and teach them to bet. We don't tell them about the industry, about people who jog horses miles and miles and miles. We don't tell them how to condition a horse to go fast, how to change equipment to counter balance problems. We don't tell them about our stars. We tell them about triactors, but not about Somebeachsomewhere? We explain how to box the 20 cent super, but not about the incredible journey of Jody Jamieson in trying to break a record?

My solution, give the bettors the lounge and the back room with all the t-vs and take what they give you and otherwise ignore them. Focus on putting people in the grand stand to be fans of the sport. Let them be hands on, let them get close to a horse, talk to a driver or trainer. Give them a supervised tour of the paddock before the races. Charge them to get in because if you don't value your product enough to think it's worth people paying, then people won't value it either. Put the money you get from slots into making racing into a family, spectator sport like any other - hockey, baseball, football.

As long as horse racing links itself exclusively to betting,it will never be main stream. If racing can't draw "fans" then get used to the idea that it will always be at the mercy of people who look at it not as a sport, not as something they love, but as an opportunity to gamble. Until the athletes (horses, drivers, trainers) are first, horse racing, to the public, will be second fiddle

November 10, 2009 - 4:09 pmGreat article Jack - it's

Randy Young SAID...

Great article Jack - it's about time somebody pushed the panic button !

There's been several conferences and a lot of discussion about the state of the industry in the last couple of years but nothing changes. It seems like many of the participants just don't get it - that unless you increase the fan base and the number of bettors the horse racing industry simply won't survive.

I hit the casinos 4 or 5 times a year and just about always leave my money behind.
It's just not that exciting sitting in front of a slot or video poker machine - and yet many thousands of people are hooked on it. To me, analyzing a horse race and (occasionally) coming up with a winning bet is much more satisfying. If we can't convert some of those casino players to horse racing then we're just not doing a good job of promoting it.

The pick 8 (or something similiar) is a great idea. It would entice both the small and big bettors. Harness Racing is still very popular in some European locations and it's partly because they provide lottery type races with huge payouts.

About 90 % of horse race betting is done through simulcasts or account betting. We need to provide more types of bets and attract more bettors by providing off track locations that are more appealing to the betting public.

It's nice to see that your blog has created a lot of discussion !

November 10, 2009 - 2:51 pmBernie McGarry Jack sure

Bernie McGarry
Jack sure does get people thinking. Personally, I would start by cutting race dates by 50%. Not popular but no different than what the automakers had to do when there was a drop in demand for their products. Keep WEG as a full time circuit and let the smaller tracks function on a limited basis. Places that can attract wagering dollars should be given preference in the allocation of dates while those on life support should be terminated.

The best marketing strategy on earth will never bring demand back to what it once was given the other opportunities now available. Cheap races for cheap horses could once attract wagering dollars but not anymore. Focus on the top end of the market with event driven promotions and a marketing strategy that reaches a target demographic that has disposable income and compete for their entertainment dollar.

By focussing on the top end of the market you have a chance to recapture the attention of the bigger gamblers. Given the government deficits and projections going forward, I suspect its only a matter of time before some politician realizes that there are better places for slot revenues to go than to some cheap claimer racing in front of an empty grandstand in sub zero weather in the middle of February with only 1 or 2 people betting or watching.

November 10, 2009 - 2:27 pmIt is all about takeout.

Maury Ezra SAID...

It is all about takeout. Taking out 17-27% on each dollar bet does not give players a chance to last very long. If they don't last, they find other hobbies. Conversely, if they do last, they spend more time, and more resources towards playing horses. They are more likely to expose friends, family and coworkers to their hobby the more they play it.

That is why slots in Ontario has an average payout of around 92%. Why not make it 20%? Simple, they make less total money in the end at 15 or 20% than they do at 8%. Slot players would lose too quickly, and many will go less or find a new way to lose money on something other than slots.

But a lower takeout also brings something else to the table. The chance that winners will be created. This is the best advertising horse racing could ever have. It works wonders for Betfair and online poker. And sure, most people will still lose, but the carrot that the game can be beaten will attract a brand new audience.

The optimum takeout rate is most likely around 10-12% on all bets, and maybe even lower, but a 12% ceiling would help the game immensely.

November 10, 2009 - 1:49 pmAs an avid racing fan for 25

tom hebert SAID...

As an avid racing fan for 25 years, being 36 years of age and the guy betting on the horses. I'm from Windsor home of the the worst run facility in Canada and ironically also stopping ground for what seems to be every great driver, trainer around. The disturbing part is handle is actually okay and if the management had a remote clue Windsor could be the next best after WEG tracks. Okay with that rant done.

I do not go to the races as often as I could because I'm think purse money should go to top 3 in a race.

I find to many horsemen work the conditions too dam much. You see a live horse not pull out in front of a 25-1 get boxed in and come home late flying for 4th or 5th like a bat out of hell to get that cheque and OH my good still manage to get another week in the class. It makes for a non interesting product and it happens more often than most would admit I'm sure.

November 10, 2009 - 1:18 pmNobody in harness racing

Nobody in harness racing understands the problem.Well I do,Racing is all about betting.The para mutuel system is the best betting system is the best betting system ever devised,but it depends on a pool to bet into without a pool we are offering racing without betting.The exotic wager was introduced without a reduction in betting stake people had to bet 1 or 2 dollars,but the odds of winning went up by a hundred times.At Fraser Downs where I race the superfecta minimum is 20 cents,and 60 percent of the pool is 20 cent wagers.We must bring the 2 dollar bettor back to the races.The exotic wager cleaned him out and he stopped going,what has to be done is to revamp the betting stakes. We should have a 5 cent superfecta,a 10 cent triactor and pick 3or4,a 20 cent exactor daily double. 1 dollar win place or show.This change will enable the bettor to cover a lot of horses increase his chance of winning thereby increasing the churn that is bettors betting back there winnings.I know lots of people who just quit going when we introduced exotic wagers because they never won. Unfortunately we have racetrack management who know nothing about betting. they think cheap beer and chicken wings is the answer, at Fraser Downs they have stall rent, they have just introduced rents for the vets, blacksmiths and tack shop, which will of course be passed onto the owners. My racing days are drawing to a close but it is sad to see something that in preventable happen. There are other answers but thats enough for today

November 10, 2009 - 3:37 pmGreat discussion. Here's my

Great discussion. Here's my two cents (probably all that it's worth). We are currently involved in sport/business/gaming option that apparently few people want to attend/buy/bet on. Therefore there must be a fundamental re-thinking of every aspect top to bottom as has been expressed by comments on this forum.

Lower takeouts- yes, increased usage of technology - yes,keep the on track product competitive and exciting -yes. How this is accomplished when there are a wide section of controlling interests who are reluctant to give up control is hard.

Racetracks need to roll back takeout -- all takeouts for live and simulcast to give what few gamblers we have a better bang for their buck. Internet gaming, live streaming video has to be presented in an easier and better content produced effort it has to have appeal to web-heads and those who can't live without their PDAs.

Now a competitive product that means carding races that people might actually want to wager on and that means keep qualifying standards high make it tough to be eligible, 45 days to time of entry with a clean charted line doesn't cut it any longer. Someone mentioned changing the percentages I agree we could try only paying out top 3 finishers say 70 - 20 - 10 and zero hook-up fees (exceptions for cancellations). I felt for some time I would like to see horses have to re-qualify and it doesn't matter what level they're at if their margin of defeat was more than 15 lengths off of the winner, difficult I know but hey it's an idea.

Showcasing events was mentioned I agree, what if on a major race night say North America Cup Night, Breeders Crown Night that there were only one live track to be shown in the markeplace. Market the event, seed the pools ala Breeders Cup $1M Pick 6 or $200K min P3 pools have every track open and promoting the wagering on this event to the customers that show up on track and those who watch and wager at home. Great racing plus giant pools and big payoffs equals happy customers.

Above all the amount of money invested in for services rendered by the alphabet soup of bureaucracy must be reviewed. Are we getting good service for the ever increasing budgets & staff and increased fees and fines or is it just feeding the beast. Regulation is needed over regulation isn't. I always thought about the justification for some of the policies were when I read a press release about the latest person found guilty and receiving a six figure fine. Then reality sets in those amounts are seldom collected unless and until the person in question wants to get reinstated, why not pay when found guilty to offset costs of your operation or to help pay for the promotion of the sport.

Just another Tuesday afternoon ramble as I wait for post time on another mandated card of less than stellar harness racing but hey don't get me wrong I like others wouldn't trade my life in this sport for anything. That's why it has to change to succeed.

November 10, 2009 - 12:20 pmFirst off, the 'conditions'

First off, the 'conditions' for the races need to be addressed. The non winners of X amount of dollars in X number of starts is ludicrous and only promotes cheating. There must and has to be a better way. As a bettor as I look at the race conditions and the monies earned I have no idea whether the trainer/owner wants to compete or just go around two or four turns to get dollars off his sheet so that he/she can drop down a class. I also think that $24,000.00 purses for Grassroots racing is defeating the purpose of Grassroots races. There need to be conditions to protect the "little guy" because quite frankly he/she for the most part cant compete with the big stables. I think that removing combined entries was a big mistake. There was a stake race of sorts this past summer in Kawartha Downs with a five horse field. Four of the horses were trained by the same trainer. Come on folks, give your head a shake... I dont particularly like the idea of a trainer listed as trainer in two, three, or even four different tracks on the same night. The trainer certainly is part of my decision to wager on a cetain horse and then I find out that the trainer is six hundred miles away racing at another track. I havent found an answer for this yet but it certainly isbt fair to the bettor. My last rant is directed solely to the drivers. Because you are driving at more than one track on the same day is not a reason to become nonchalant and not give each race your best effort. Quite frankly there are a number of you that drive like idiots on occasion. If driving at multiple tracks is too tiring then dont do it. It is certainly not promoting the harness racing industry.
On a different note, I am constantly hearing whispers regarding drug and alcohol problems within the industry [drivers, trainers, grooms etc]. If this is the case [and I repeat they are only whispers] you owe it to the bettors to make this public knowledge and individuals should be listed on SC along with fines and suspensions. Everyone have a great day...

November 10, 2009 - 12:09 pmJack, the Pick 8 is not our

Allan Schott SAID...

Jack, the Pick 8 is not our answer. Sure you may get the big time gamblers to take another look at us, but what about the maintsream public? Realistically, how many combinations does it take to hit one of these bets? You watch TVG and you see their handicappers playing tickets that cost them $100 on a Pick 4 (yes, they show the smaller tickets as well). What does it cost to have a decent chance to hit a Pick-6 or greater? As you said, the public is not dumb so they are going to pass on these expensive bets. All you are doing is discouraging them.

We keep talking about big pay off bets. I think the public is willing to play a wager where they can spend a few dollars and get a decent pay off. Not necessary $10,000+, but a wager where they can collect $500 or more for only a few dollars. Why not a double quinella? Box three horses in each race and you are talking six combinations and a chance for a good pay off. This is what we need, a bet which will attract the interest of the general public instead of just the high rollers.

We keep worrying about the whales. Yes, we need them, but if we don't develop new bettors, who is going to replale the whales?

November 10, 2009 - 12:07 pmWhere I'm at in the

Where I'm at in the maritimes we are racing for the love of the sport. Belive me it's not for the money. When i read about what's happening in this sport in quebec and out west i cringe.

Ontario has got to wake up and get their cards in order. First and foremost they have to become a united group the in fighting has to stop' the way to be defeated is to divide and be left to fend for yourself. what most fans want is races to be competive. Dont shrug off the small better but find ways to intice the big players.example higher returns for the gambler who bets 500 per race and so on. Every small track should have a valuable prize. The more races you attend the better chance of winning.

November 10, 2009 - 11:22 amC.Renon Jack i do not agree

carlo renon SAID...

C.Renon Jack i do not agree with your views on whipping however you have some good points here. Racing needs to become an event not a bunch of races; the product has to be improved!Judges have to enforce all the rules including ones involving lack of effort post parade races(slow quarters that go uncontested) and finally ten trainers and drivers must all be trying to win! I would be willing to bet that if the winner received 90% of the purse and the others split the other 10 we would see much more competitive racing! But in all everyone in racing must change or there will be none.

November 10, 2009 - 11:10 amIf you want to attract new

Dave Vicary SAID...

If you want to attract new patrons to the to Canadian harness racing you need to go to them, they wont come to you. One way to do this is to significantly build out your online and simulcast products. This means providing a radically different set of tools and wagering options to the new and novice gamer. I have those tools.

November 10, 2009 - 10:40 amJack, I agree with virtually

murray brown SAID...

Jack,
I agree with virtually everything you say. I think we need to start at the bottom though. As I mentioned to Norm Borg in a recent interview, I feel that our major long range problem is getting people to the ractrack - not only to bet, but especially to come to love the horse and all the great things associated with horses, horse racing and the people associated with the sport. I wasn't born into racing. I knew virtually nothing about horses or horse racing until I started going to the track as an older teen ager. Then it grew on me to the point of becoming almost an obsession. I'm not sugesting that everybody that goes to the track will become involved with racing. But I am saying that unless we get people to come to the track and enjoy racing and the horses, then our industry will surely wither and die.

I wish I knew how this could happen. I leave that to people smarter than me.
Murray Brown

November 10, 2009 - 10:16 amEveryone seems to think that

Lynne Magee SAID...

Everyone seems to think that we have to attract the big spenders. Personally, I believe that those people are way too smart with their huge betting accounts to bother with racing given its current state. They understand the game and all of the games that are played within the game to be conned into playing along so they have gone elsewhere. My brother-in-law has moved on to the thoroughbreds and other sports after being an avid harness fan and bettor for many years. He gets a better bang for his buck elsewhere.

There is a huge percentile of retired or retiring bodies in the baby boomer era that we should be tapping into. They are looking for things to do, places to spend a bit of money but not be ripped off, get quality entertainment at an affordable price and have some fun. They might not spend huge but they could be a live audience in our dead bleachers and they do things as groups.

The other group that we need to look at is the offspring of the baby boomers. They are smart though--most of them have at least one degree from university. They won't be fooled or cheated of their entertainment dollars. They like lots of "show and go". Don't bore them with 20 minutes of blank track. My son once commented that watching a few horses warming up between races was "wasted space". Two minutes of racing and then what? Sit and wait for the next 2 minutes? Nope, no thank you. There are better ways to spend my valuable time--and money. I'm gone. Oh, and by the way, clean up your sport--I'm not an idiot!!

Kelly Spencer should be cloned and sent to each race track in Ontario. Someone needs to put her in charge of hiring promoters. They are out there. Just look at how golf--one of the most boring spectator sports of all time--is booming.

People love horses but the current format is deadly for spectators who expect to be entertained and a good chance at getting some return on their betting dollar.

November 10, 2009 - 8:49 amMr. Darling: Some of the

Mr. Darling: Some of the suggestions are good. But if we were to go back to the old whipping rules in my opinion it would be better and let me tell you my reasons. All that had to be done was for the ORC judges to do THEIR JOBS and enforce the rules. Also, when a rule is broken make sure it is enforced right away. We have drivers that have had 7 offences for the whipping violation and most of them are still under appeal. How to you expect the betters to take anything seriously when this happens. Also there is preferential treatment to certain drivers. Watch how many American or new drivers get fined but the regulars ate WEG get away with the same thing day in day out . IMO the industry in is big trouble and we have no one to blame but the higher ups. Another example is the claiming rule. Look back a few years ago when there WAS claiming on WEG and even tho it was rent a horse for the week there were more new players getting into the game. Now there is only cheap claimers and the odd high claimer at WEG because of the conditions that are written ex nw 3000 L5 or nw 8000 L6 or nw 20000 L10 and thats just on race. make 30, 40 50 thousand claimers to get rid of these conditions. Many will disagree with me but these are my opinions


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