Racing Needs to Rethink Slots Revenue Strategy

It comes as no surprise that legislators around the country are looking at racing's share of gaming revenue to balance budgets.

The latest developments are in Pennsylvania, where breeders and horsemen have issued a call to action to protect the Race Horse Development Fund they say could be raided to support other programs in the state.

West Virginia has been through it, and so has Delaware. The list probably will continue to grow.

Horse-related organizations in various states are realizing the importance of educating lawmakers and the public on the benefits of such programs--jobs, boosting agriculture, and preserving open space. One thing tracks and horsemen haven't been able to do in gaming states, however, is use revenue others don't have to market the pari-mutuel aspects of horse racing.

For too long, slots revenue has been allowed to mask the fact handle is heading south. If that was a problem before slots, it's worse now. There's more public scrutiny. 

It might be easier to protect gaming subsidies if it can be documented efforts are being made to spur growth in the core product, which is pari-mutuel wagering. Instead, we see very little put into racing marketing and public relations, and lots of, "We tried that, but it doesn't work."

If you say it doesn't work, that simply provides more ammunition for money-hungry legislators to say, "Why the heck are we doing this?"

No one told horse racing groups they had to spend all their slots money on purses and breeding programs. But that's what has occurred, and now we have a competition over who has the highest purses rather than a thoughtful approach that looks at the big picture. Capital improvements and racing-related marketing have suffered.

Would you trade $2,000 of an inflated purse for $25,000 a day more in pari-mutuel handle? It wouldn't take a whole lot of cash to hire a few people to focus on that aspect of the business. And a track with slots really shouldn't cry poor given the privilege it has been awarded.

It's pretty sad. Many racino tracks, particularly those on the East Coast, are providing incomplete past-performance information in simulcast programs because it's "cheaper." You'd think tracks with gaming revenue would have the best PP program information for the most reasonable price. After all, they own the data.

Maybe the horsemen can cough up one-hundredth of 1% of slots revenue to provide quality simulcast programs that encourage wagering.

It's funny. As horrendous as the situation in Ohio could become--currently there is no provision for revenue from video lottery terminals to go purses and breed development--there could be a silver lining. The percentage may be so low horsemen and breeders wouldn't have to worry about anyone taking it away.

Slots can work for racing, but racing needs to seriously look at how it uses the money.






Leave a Comment:


As a mom, please remember horse crazy kids read your blogs.

15 Jul 2009 9:17 AM

Note taken. Thanks.

15 Jul 2009 10:25 AM
just the facts...

I have been a horse racing fan for 40 years. I am from Delaware. I am tired of Delaware Park running against Maryland and Phila. Park. I am tired of Phila. Park running against Monmouth. I am tired of Monmouth running against Belmont. I am tired of seeing $5,000 claimers running for $25,000 purses.I am tired of seeing the 1 million dollar Delaware Handicap with horse you never heard of or never remember! any of the last three....I am speaking for the average fan...the future fan..and the lovers of once a great sport...YOU HAVE LOST US!! GET IT??? We're tired of SUPER trainers who circumvent the system. We're tired of trainers who laugh at the public like the slick little trainer of BIG BROWN.We're tired when a jockey from CA. gets suspended 10 times for drugs and still rides today in a state that should know better. The industry has killed it for me...I guess I'll go watch a minor league baseball game...SAD ISN'T IT???

15 Jul 2009 10:39 AM
Johnny Slots

What have you written that would harm a child? You make some good points. Just think about the marketing and advertising a track could do with $2,000 from every $25,000 race.  It would impact the sport over time and insure the winning owner a future in the game.

Keep the blog going.  Looking forward to another appearance by you on "The Regular Guy" Handicapping Show at River Downs.

15 Jul 2009 10:42 AM

The industry has SO many issues, all stemming from politics:

1. No national collaboration or empowerment

2. Political interference

3. State empowerment, regulation and jurisdiction

4. Interstate compact is screwed: Host tracks get less for their own signal than the place taking the wagers.  Thus the reason tracks are broke or can't make money.

5. ADWs - profit margin/competition

6. OTBs - competition to tracks/signals

Simply put, there is no marketing because the sport is falling to produce revenue to do so.  Why? Because every entity is a burden on each other, and the State level politics are far too involved to correct the matter or let it succeed.

VLT Revenue that the track receives, should have some % earmarked for marketing of the sport.  Therefore it's putting back into the future strategy for the industry vs. subsidizing the management of it.

However that will be a temporary fix to bring revenue. It does nothing to address the highlighted points above at what's really breaking the industry.

15 Jul 2009 11:21 AM
Tim G

Did I miss something here about the horse crazy kids this might offend? Did you alter your blog Tom?

Please advise what I'm not getting.

This is a HORSE RACING publication, and GAMBLING is what perpetuates and supports racing. So if you DIDN'T change your blog and it's the focus on gambling and politics that would bother the 'horse crazy kids' this may not be the publication for that faction or any other faction that doesn't 'get' that.

15 Jul 2009 11:54 AM
Jersey Tom

Clarification for readers and posters: The content of the blog wasn't changed at all. I just have a tendency to write blogs like I speak, and I don't always use appropriate language. ... One word was changed. No big deal.

15 Jul 2009 12:05 PM

This is my biggest fear, that eventually, these track owners just go with the low overhead slot machines, and forget the horses.  I know there are regulations to stop this.  But given budget tightening and decreasing handle, I wouldn't be surprised to see racing continue to be placed on the back burner.  Horseracing can attract new fans by treating the old fans with courtesy, respect, and reasonable concession prices.  The industry has never learned to work together and has never learned how to take care of those who sustain it.

15 Jul 2009 12:19 PM
Clem from Detroit

I watched our horse racing decline from the state lottery, then casino gaming in Windsor, and finally casino gaming in Detroit.

The mentality for handicapping racing in Detroit is outweighed by the quest for fast action.  It seems easier to pull a handle or rely on a card draw than to use abstract thought and handicap a race.  Not that racing was all that good in Detroit... it wasn't... the racing secretary at the old DRC could have written his conditions for "...8-year-olds and up..."

Racing will never flourish in Detroit and will eventually die in all but the major centers.

15 Jul 2009 12:25 PM

Racetracks and racing in general knows nothing about marketing.  Churchill did a great thing with night racing and they deserve credit for thinking outside the box.  But things at the track need to be done to make the racing experience a 2009 experience.  Flat screens and technology need to be brought to the track along with great food and music.  Promote to the young because the old guard is dying out and its time to appeal to a new customer.

Get racing back on TV as much as possible and promote match races again.  Promote the sport !!!

15 Jul 2009 12:26 PM
Tim G

I just question why these blogs allow posers, liars and fabricators. Particularly using a well-known person's name. How pathetic that someone thinks they have the right to do so!

The comment 'posted' by 'Bob Baffert' (wannabe)? "Slots will ultimately end horse racing.

Bob Baffert 15 Jul 2009 11:35 AM"

How Irresponsible is that??????

Here are excerpts from Bob's letter to the KY legislature in support of VLT's.

"I am a Thoroughbred horse trainer.........The world is ever-changing.  Horse racing is no exception.  What once worked for an industry must be tweaked or, in some cases, totally revamped.  Alternative gaming (i.e. slots) in neighboring states is killing racing in Kentucky.  That is fact.  Millions of dollars are being spent in areas, which, in many cases, are just a stone‚Äôs throw away from Kentucky soil.  Respectfully,

Bob Baffert"

You can read the letter in it's entirety, quite a total turnabout from what some poser posted on here.

VLT's CAN and DO work. It helps to have a Governor and legislature concerned with the welfare of the state and a friend of an industry which employs so many of its citizens. Greed, avarice and corruption exist everywhere, but nowhere is it more prevalent than politics.

LOCK in the specifics, earmark the funds. Captial improvements? Bonds, owners funds and state funding. It shouldn't be about making the track owners filthy stinking rich, just make money from it, like Stan Fulton does. VLT revenue? Purses, improvement of the breed, protective services for horses, adoption and retirement funds and assistance to race track workers.

Get racing back on TV? Like we haven't tried. The 'brain trust' of the NTRA/BC etc sold their souls to ESPN and now we can barely get a race on TV.

CD night racing? A fleeting fancy for some party happy kids. I bet 75% of them didn't even realize there were 'HORSES' at the race track.

Like a trainer friend of mine said, Casinos are some of the best marketers in the world, but THEY are struggling right now as well. Not as much as some industries but maybe a combination of things that make racing an adult 'fun' thing to do yet adventures and supervised activities for the kids would be beneficial. Something like a cruise experience. Something for everyone. Or go the complete opposite direction and take it back to the days when kids weren't allowed. That would hurt attendance and handle because people now days want to involve their kids and since they all spend so much time away from them at work, want to spend some time with them.

Match racing? The first breakdown in a televised match race would be the end of the industry in this sue happy, look for the worst, psycho cause faction that has taken the forefront in our society. The rest just don't care too much.

DN, by the way, how's your marketing going? From what I saw there isn't much expertise there.

Nudity and semi-profane product names don't go over too well for most industries, particularly ones which draw a number of families and children.

15 Jul 2009 1:11 PM
Rooftop Pete

I read an article that put what your saying in everyday business terms. Lets say, for example, a racetrack is a product manufacturer (hardly a stretch). Now lets say the company had three different product lines (for our purposes, racing, slots and....well you choose the third one). If the product does well, the business world calls it a cash cow and companies tend to focus resources on that product until it reaches the end of its life cycle. Racing used to be a cash cow (no longer). Slots have replaced racing, as racing has become the mature product in the line. So what do business with mature products do.....well....they either discontinue the product (not my favorite option) or use money from the cash cow to re-position, re-design, and re-brand the product, thus changing the profit model and start the product cycle all over again. THIS is what track operators must do with racing, not subsidize a product that cannot sustain itself harsh (truth)!!! Otherwise, tracks will come to realize that they could make a whole lot more money if they discontinued part of their product line, the part that loses them money. SO LETS TURN IT AROUND! Lamarra for PREZ!

15 Jul 2009 1:16 PM

I'm a mom, too, and my kids have heard far worse at school than the word you changed.  If people don't want their kids exposed to inappropriate language then don't send them to school because they'll repeatedly hear 10 times worse than that before lunch time.  And parents concerned with improper language shouldn't let their kids on the internet at all.  

But to the subject at hand - it's a good idea to earmark some of the slots money for marketing but the first thing racing needs to do is hire PR specialists with proven track records in successful marketing.  Have you seen this industry's inside attempts at marketing - it's usually bad and I mean really bad.  And then when their lame attempts predictably fail, they say "we tried that, doesn't work".  

15 Jul 2009 1:20 PM

Editor's note: A post submitted by "Bob Baffert" has been removed.

15 Jul 2009 1:22 PM

Rooftop Pete: Thanks, but my sole interest in politics lies in writing about it. Can't imagine living it ... though I guess in a way, we all end up doing that in some fashion, don't we?

15 Jul 2009 1:29 PM

Gee... Tim G. a little negative aren't we ?  Match racing doesn't cause break downs and everyone knows that.  Since match races have been discontinued racing has been on a steady decline.  5 million bucks winner take all Zenyatta vs. Rachel A. in prime time on NBC. And like it or not night racing brought out new people and the track did well and from the sounds of it many had a good time.  Regarding my marketing Tim it seems like you only know about one of my products that features a girl on my bottle in a bikini.  Maybe you are not familiar with Sports Illustrated but they show more then we do. But if you choose to question my expertise check out my hand clear at maybe then you will understand I have been marketing products successfully since 1982. Maybe next time you should choose to question someone who doesn't have nearly 30 years experience marketing and creating new products.

15 Jul 2009 1:39 PM
Tim G

Rooftop Pete and Tom. Have you guys ever been to Sunland Park?

Stan has marketing, slots, activities and racing and it's totally revived NM racing. Some of the tracks don't do as well, but I'm thinking that's more about track owner greed than anything else. Get THOSE track owners in check and it's pretty darn successful.

15 Jul 2009 1:43 PM
Tim G

DN, I know Match Races don't cause breakdowns. But the PUBLIC perceives that. WE ACTUALLY IN the industry fight those perceptions and many others every single day.

(like entering a rabbit in a race borders on cheating?).

Match races may have improved racing in the days of Seabiscuit. But the breakdown of Ruffian? Hurt racing IMMENSELY. The general public who watches TV, would be appalled if a match race had a breakdown and THEY, NOT those of us who actually are IN racing, would be the ones calling for abolishment of the sport.

Me? As a horse owner I'm ambivalent about having two horses run in a manufactured race that has NONE of the nuances, suspense, strategy or potential for upset winners that a 'real' race has.

People attending the night races? Swell, but it didn't help the handle at all and had an adverse effect on horses and workers. CDI has lots of events planned and that kind of stuff is great. I'm just saying that a night club at the race track WITH human race track workers who get up at 3-4 a.m. isn't a long term solution and is a deal that when the new wears off........ Were you THERE?

More has to be done to make the racing the adventure, not the drinking and singles scene.

Sports illustrated may show more than you do, but it's not just what they show, it's HOW it's shown and the verbage attached.

Never heard of ANY of your products and if your marketing method is to comment on various blogs and insert your website for a little free advertising? Hmmm....

15 Jul 2009 2:10 PM

Not Rooftop Pete or Tom, but Sunland was the first "racino" track I've attended.  And it remains at or near the top of the list or racinos that are horseplayer friendly.  But that doesn't say much.

I've generally been disappointed with the Pennsylvania racinos.  Nice purses for horsemen, but little space for horseplayers.  Outrageous takeout--good luck getting any large bettors to play your track when you have a 30 percent takeout for three-horse and four-horse exotics.  Big ole HOLLYWOOD CASINO signs on the way to Penn National and not a single mention of horses.  Concession prices that are as high--if not higher--than those at non-racino tracks.  I sympathize with horsemen, but horseplayers have neglected at many racinos.  And while slots and VLTs provide a (temporary?) windfall for horsemen, let's not forget how horseplayers were the economic engine that drove this industry for decades.

15 Jul 2009 4:02 PM


"People attending the night races? Swell, but it didn't help the handle at all"

What? On-track year to year handle was up +158.9%, +123.2%, and +172.8% for those three Fridays. All source was not up as much (+32.1%, +2.3%, and +0.4%), but still positive in a month that had total US handle plummeting year to year. As the track, and horsemen, see more from on-track than off-track I'd say the handle was a success for CD and the KHPBA.

Late night/early morning? Ask the guys who do it at Turfway for 5 months of the year (including winter), or Indiana Downs, or Mountaineer. Can't imagine they like it much, but it seems like horsemen at a number of tracks in the region have found a way to cope.

15 Jul 2009 4:20 PM
Dennis D.

Everyone is so excited about racing's future. What have I missed in the last 35 years? How about since 2002 (Pic 6 theft)? The last year, 2008?

Racing has one shot at a futue. Step one will be when there are only 5 or 6 tracks left in 2 or 3 states. Manageable number of owners and politicians. And they have a HUGE example of what happens when the last player stops betting. You close.

Those left standing must now choose. ALL of the breaks go to the betting fan. ALL of them. Or you close. Exchange betting with 3% to 5% MAX take on winnings only! No breakage with fixed odds or layered pool wagering that stops before the race starts. No final odds, no start.

Layered pools start/end every 5 minutes. Win pool #1 at 20/15. #2 at 15/10. #3 at 10/5. And #4 at 5/0. Let all those rebate bettors decide if they want to play with themselves for a change. Each pools' odds are seperate.

Of course, now we have huge fields of healthy well matched horses to handicap and the system used for wagering is modern and real time.

Racing has no future until 90% of racing today closes. Who are you kidding? Arab muslims and Orthodox Jews will be marrying each others' daughters long before racing fully agrees on anything but a slow sure death for most of them.

Soooooooo, I am playing a lot of poker and pulling for peace in the middle east. Odds of success are much better. LMAO!

Luck all....

15 Jul 2009 7:36 PM
Rooftop Pete

Tim, I have been to Sunland Park, Ive researched Sunland Park extensively (in terms of pre and post slots...this all happening prior to today) and you are exactly correct! Sunland is a great example of a track that turn their business operations and profit upside down.  Now, racing continues to grow there and the track side folks can jsutify their existence to those who are on the casino side. Charles Town is a similar example. Im not saying it cannot be done, quite the opposite actually. My point was that those with stake in racing NEED to do it, regardless of their cash flow slot machine wise.

15 Jul 2009 8:01 PM


IMO...what Racing needs to do to ensure it's survival beyond the 21st Century is to Completely Revamp it's Wagering structure.

Revamp it in a Simpler way so that it appeals to the same Brain-Dead types that can sit at a slot machine, slapping a button, for Hours at a time.

Also...Create Simpler bets because NOT everyone likes a Challenge !!! idea could be to Completely open up the payoff board.   If someone wants to bet a horse to finish 6th or 8th or even dead last, then they should be able to.

That thinking comes mostly from Keno since you Can and Do win even if Zero numbers hit.   Basically giving you "More Chances" to win.

Another idea (Which might be harder to pull off) is to eliminate payoffs in Cents.   The average public HATES to see a $2.10 or $2.20 payoff.   That's just 1 of the things that Pushes them to the Casino's.   Because at least (When you do win at a slot) they payoff in Whole Dollars.   Unless of course your playing a Penny or Nickle slot.

Wouldn't you all love to see minimum payoffs of $3.00 ???  

It's not much of course, but to the average public it might be nice to know that Racing even HAS a minimum payoff and the days of payoffs in Cents are a thing of yesteryear.

Personally the reason that I "HATE" slots is because the Casino's Mislead you.  

You can make a $5.00 spin on a slot and it can pay you back $2.00 AND the Casino still considers you to be a Winner.   OH Joy !!!

That's just WRONG to me, but in the minds of the Brain-Dead types their still Winners !!!

Just a thought !!!

15 Jul 2009 8:41 PM
Ted from LA

Am I the only person who likes horse racing because I get to spend a long day with friends and family and actually talk with them and interact with interesting characters from the track?  Why not market this aspect of racing?  You can sit at a slot machine and not talk to anyone for 10 hours straight.  Now if you need that kind of escape, more power to you.  Horse racing is for the more relaxed "thinking" social gambler.  I also cherish the history of the sport.  The legends of American society who frequented the same events I do today.  Kato Kaelin, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Trista and Ryan, etc.

15 Jul 2009 9:20 PM
Pauxatauney Phil

No matter how lock in you think things are what the legislature giveth the legislature can taketh away.

15 Jul 2009 11:05 PM

Ted, your not the only one who likes racing for a whole day of fun with friends. Can't stand those brainless slots just wasted money to me. Very seldom do they pay you more than what you put in them. If you break even its a success.  I spend/lose far less at the track on a whole day at the track than lose my shirt sitting in front of a slot waiting on dumb luck.

16 Jul 2009 9:51 AM


16 Jul 2009 10:55 AM
Tim G

Reality Check, I'm not quite sure where you got those figures from.

First CD doesn't usually release their figures, made an exception but several had already done calculations based on the Equibase charts.  While the total handle WAS up 32% on track from 2008(according to CDI, who again, doesn't disclose the figures)simulcast wagering obviously HAD to be down because not many tracks run at night.

Those tracks you mentioned? Well Turfway must not be succeeding too well, they're projecting closure within 2 years without VLT's.

Someone did the legwork and THESE are the figures:Friday, June 12, $1,966,831 was wagered WPS,$2,309,563 wagered WPS June 19 increase of approximately 17% in the WPS pools week to week. In the late Pick 4 pool, $103,062  wagered 6/12- $137,689 6/19,  34% increase(the first Pick 4 pool was up 14%). Pick 3 pools totaled $273,409 6/12 vs $243,508, up 12%.  Pick 6 pool was up 80%, going from $4,811 from 6/12 to $8,653 6/19. Exacta pools 6%, or $1,584,627 6/19 compared to $1,500,217 6/12.

On June 12, total handle came to $5,872,007; on June 19, $6,526,603, an increase of 11%.

The first 3 races the handle was much lower so if you take it from the 7:30 post time when the handle increased remove the first three races in a week to week comparison and the increase in handle was 18% overall for the last 8 races.

Since CD moved UP the post time on the last two Friday nites, the handle may have decreased because of that, or just because beer was only $1 instead of $2 the handle may have increased (or not).

What I'm saying is the lines for the beer were 10 times longer (at least) than the lines for the windows. The crowds around the activities were huge.  

Like someone said, we got the crowds there, but the industry needed to step up and bring them back as racing fans. I'm just not sure that happened because I'm not sure that was even the reason for being there, the newness, the novelty, the in thing to do was probably the reason (from those I spoke to).

Yes there was an increase of 32% from 2008 from all sources (according to CDI). But, not a huge increase from just the week before (by INDEPENDENT calculation of the charts).

My point is, with all the ballyhoo, additional staff, lower profit margin from concessions (increased sales sure, but increased product outgo as well)we all know that 2008 was especially difficult and that wasn't a dramatic increase from just one week before.  Yes handle has been decreasing significantly in the last several years but I wonder what the comparisons would have been from a few years ago, when CD didn't draw NEAR that many on a Friday night. People had more disposable income and they disposed of it.

I just don't see Friday night cheap beer, bands and singles nite (or date night as they called it) being a 'long-term' solution.

Eventually the gimmicks get stale, the freebie giveaways get cheesey.

Seems to be happening with a lot of sports.

Pete, yes, Stan has it down to a science and racing would be wise to try and enlist his help or follow his lead.

I think too though that their govt officials have supported that a lot there. They have had a fund to support equine activities for several years and they seem to have avoided some of the other economic downturns, who knows why, I'm not that up on their economy.

Who knows what will happen when their current 'equine friendly' governor leaves office.

I love racing, I've been involved in it my whole life. It's not my 'day job' but it's a BIG part of my life.

The VLT's and the way they work best (NM, Charles Town, Oaklawn etc) is that people DO go for the whole experience. I watched as wives played slots while husbands bet races or vice versa. I watched as people went up to the casino for 1-2 hrs then went back to bet on the races and eat a bite of lunch.

The thing also about the VLT's is they are up and running and adding to the coffers even when there is just simulcasting.

As far as what Phil says? Like I said Phil government is, well government. There are no guarantees ANYWHERE in life but to me 3 or four Friday nights with a ton of people jamming up the place, drinking and partying and betting a few bucks 'maybe'

(curious to know how many actually contributed to that $50+ per capita spending since people like me spend 3 or 4 times that amount adding to those figures)isn't going to 'save' racing in the long run. The purses were still cut, the days were still reduced. WHO did it help? Course you have to live in KY to know how people perceive CDI.

16 Jul 2009 11:47 AM

The racing industry does need to do a better job of marketing AND showing it's concern about the plight of racehorses.  I have two exracers and love them dearly.  I'd have more if I could afford it.  I live near Penn National.  They don't do ANYTHING to promote racing.  It's all about gambling.  I don't have anything against people gambling, if that's how they want to spend their money, but the track needs to attract others.  The Harrisburg area is a BIG horse area.  Why not have horseshows featuring exracers?  That would attract another crowd to the track and garner interest in adopting exracers.  My experience has show that the horse community here isn't all that interested in horse racing but are interested in the horses after they completed their careers.  Having other horse related activities at the tracks would entice them to come to the track for racing.  But we have slots......

16 Jul 2009 1:22 PM


Racing is gambling. That is what some people have problems with.

Those people you draw to horse shows featuring ex racers? Aren't the kind of people who will most likely support horse racing.

You can have 10s of thousands of people attending, but if the handle doesn't jump appreciably it really doesn't matter much. The days that draw 80-140 thousand? That's what makes a difference with revenue from attendance. That doesn't, won't and never has happened on a routine basis.

Great you're concerned with the ex racers and their fate. But THAT isn't what keeps racing going and with decreased days and purses, you'll have a lot more of those since people can't afford to run them or keep them in training without decent purses.

Eventually the breeding will decline (it already has started) but that result will be a while in the making, long term affect.

I think part of the problem is people trying to make racing into something different than what it is and secondly the new generation of potential race track attendees being hooked on x-games, video games and constant action. I like racing but even I like the extreme sports.

Horse racing IS the beauty of the sport, the animal, the pagentry and tradition (not really anything that grabs the attention of the 25 year olds like a club, pounding music, or snowboarding down a pristine mountain). But, when all is said and done, horse racing IS about gambling. It's what is the lifeblood of the sport, change that and you'll have even worse than what we have now.

You'll have what I've seen at some friends horse shows, Moms and Dad's in the audience a smattering of 50 people, maybe. Or the rodeos that used to be packed and sold out, gimmicking it up to sell tickets (and face it, rodeo has action, however these guys now want to be a PART of the action). Yes 'some' of those events used to draw huge crowds, they no longer do. The WNFR is still sold out but the big Arabian show and others who used to sell out, don't.

There are some ideas for marketing and while your suggestion might get some people to come to the track? The first break down and the set that 'loves' the animal because they're so 'beautiful' would run away and never come back, plus badmouth the industry.

People in the game aren't going to breed, pay millions for, pay trainers etc like horse show people do, just to win a ribbon or a Silver Plate.

16 Jul 2009 2:28 PM
Reality Check

The figures I quoted came from the Lexington Herald-Leader. You got a problem with the numbers take it up with their turf writer.

You can dance around it all you want, but the facts remain. On-track handle, which benefits the horsemen most, was up significantly on those Friday nights. So what if people didn't bet as much as YOU think they should have. If people come out to a track to have a good time I think that's a positive whether they place a bet or not. If racetracks can't conceive of a way for non-gamblers to help support the competitive sport of horse racing, that's going to hurt us. Not everybody is a gambling addict.

Turfway closing? I'll believe it when I see it. Harrah's invested in Turfway to be their beachhead for casino operations in Kentucky. Why would they give it up now? The legislature came closer this year to passing expanded gaming than they ever have. A couple more years, at most, and they'll have it. Harrah's is just trying to create more of a crisis atmosphere to help things along.

16 Jul 2009 4:05 PM
Tim G

I'm not dancing around anything. I was there, were you? I spoke to any number of people and my son is around the same age as those who attended as are his friends.

It isn't something that will hold these people's interest is my opinion. On track handle only helps if the track passes it on to the horsemen. I didn't hear that the purses were increased, did you?

It isn't a matter of being a 'gambling addict' but your contradictory statement said "On-track handle, which benefits the horsemen most, was up significantly on those Friday nights." No, all sources handle wasn't up significantly, it was up 11% from the previous week. The figures the LH quoted were from the previous year NOT from a comparable Friday night this year.

11% is fine, wonderful. But it didn't help the horsemen. The admission fee? It helped CDI as usual.

As far as Ellis and Turfway? I'm going by what their owners said. I for one don't think it's a bluff. When was the last time you were at one of those tracks?

With Ohio passing the VLT's and Indiana already stealing our gamblers we are already behind the eight ball.

The bill didn't even make it out of Senate committee and that was disgusting.

I think what Bighorsefan said is correct. Like it or not Horse racing is predicated on GAMBLING. You don't have to be a 'gambling addict' to like horse racing but all the falderal that was going on did take away from the racing experience somewhat. What I and many others are saying is market the SPORT. If CDI spent as much time on customer service to the horse fans, as much marketing on the racing as they did on throwing a party then it would help RACING.

Maybe I'm a traditionalist who thinks horse racing at a race track is something that can be marketed as an enjoyable thing to do without all the clowns, baloons, bands, booze, dancing and whatever else was going on there.

Guess I should be of the mind that anything is better than nothing at all? Only if it benefits the horsemen, the purses increase the field size grows, Stakes and days aren't cut and trying to muscle the horsemen over issues like ADW stops occurring.

16 Jul 2009 11:43 PM
Reality Check


Take Ron Geary at his word? The same Ron Geary who closed Ellis last summer and said it was irrevocable? The same Ron Geary, who two days later reached an agreement with the KHBPA and announced that Ellis was open? No, I can't imagine why anyone would think that Ron Geary postures or bluffs about closing Ellis.

As for Turfway, I repeat, Ky will have VLTs within 2 years. I don't see Harrah's throwing away a 10 year investment when it's clear they'll get their way by holding out a little longer. Of course, they'll bluster and maybe they'll temporarily 'close' the track to make their case (like Ron Geary) and speed things along. But, permanent closure is not likely.

But back to the real issue, the benefit to horsemen from the night racing experiment at CD. There is no contradiction. I wouldn't call 11% insignificant, but I'll play along for the sake of argument. On-track handle and all-sources handle are not interchangable. On-track is a part of all-sources (hence the term ALL-sources). Take a figure that would generate 1 dollar for local horsemen from on-track wagers. That same amount of off-track wagers would only generate around fifty cents for local horsemen. This is because the net profit has to be split between more groups. Instead of just CDI and the Purse Account you have those two plus the ADW (and its requirements from other states, i.e. taxes and source-market fees) or the simulcast receiving track and its purse account, etc. Therefore, a dollar wagered on-track generally benefits the local horsemen twice as much as a dollar wagered off track. The fact that about 90% of money wagered nationally is now bet off-track generally hides the on-track advantage.

The H-L data is at

From that and what you quoted from your "INDEPENDENT" source all-sources handle was up 11% between 6/12 and 6/19. Using the average of the attendance figures from the three Fridays last year I guestimated an attendance figure and on-track wager pct; 7,101 attendance and 11.38% on-track wagers for an estimated on-track handle of $668,404.96 for 6/12/2009. If we then multiply the on-track by .06 (6 cents from on-track handle) and mulitply off-track (all-source minus on-track) handle by .03 (3 cents) to get the amount going to the purse account from the handle we get $196,212.36 for 6/12 and $243,369.69 for 6/19, an increase of $47k or 24%, all from the increase in on-track wagering. No rational person could claim that a 24% increase is insignificant.

And no, a track doesn't raise purses for Sunday just because it had a good Friday. But, if there is a surplus in the purse account toward the end of the meet/year, then purses may go up, like they did at Indiana Downs this month, or Elllis last year. In Churchill's case they roll any Spring Meet overage into the purse structure for the Fall Meet.  If there's a surplus in the Fall they talk to the horsemen and decide whether to roll it to the Spring or do a late purse increase in the Fall.

Nobody believes that you would routinely get 28-33k every Friday night, but no serious person can say CD's horsemen didn't benefit from the increased crowd at the night racing experiment.

18 Jul 2009 12:29 PM

Woodbine.....first 3 races on the card have a total of 16 horses running......the purses $260,000 in total.

There is a problem there.

20 Jul 2009 12:50 PM
Abbie Knowles

Don't understand anything about slots so no comment!!!!!

God Bless

Best wishes


21 Jul 2009 7:47 PM
C. Neely

 I just finished reading Steve Haskins's tribute to Lawyer Ron and the 115+ comments left by Ron's fans, every word filled with admiration and loss, even love.  As old as I am, and I am old, I still can't believe that horse owners, breeders and racetracks just don't get it. It's not about gambling for most of us; it's about the horses.

Remember Achilles of Troy? Although the winter weather was miserable that year, whenever their undefeated hero ran, New Yorkers turned out in droves.  When he was vanned off after the Gotham, the attendance dropped to normal.

Remember Pyro? The Fairgrounds was absolutely jammed on LA. Derby Day when he ran because everyone believed that Pyro was "their" Derby horse and wanted to see him run in person at least once. Just like at Aqueduct, you could hear the hometown hero's name on everyone's lips, discussing his chances that day, his possible future glory.

The thing is, almost everyone who turns out to see an equine hero will place a bet on that horse and maybe more than one. Focus on the horses and everyone wins.

Yes, the breeders and owners have managed to create a huge artificially inflated price bubble (think real estate here) that will have to deflate, but pushing casino gambling won't attract any new racing fans, just a few folk who are serious gamblers and would likely prefer to be in a real casino.  Check out the Mississippi Gulf Coast after their casino "boom." It wasn't anywhere near the economic salvation they thought it would be, and now regular tourists don't come anymore because the casinos and high rises ruined the beach.

  Let's don't ruin racing any more than we already have. Agreed, we don't need million dollar purses in small track stakes except to justify the fact that somebody paid 100K for a stud fee for one of the contenders or 10 mil for the fourth-place finisher.  That's not the problem of the fans, without whom many of the connections would end up as out-of-work farmers.

We need to consider the fans. Make racinig accessible to them; night racing is a great thing. Make the track a place where kids can come and learn to love the sport so there will be a fan base in the next decade. Promote the horses; think of the tremendous outpouring of emotion for Barbaro, for Eight Belles and today for Lawyer Ron.  The horses are the ONLY stars in this game, and anyone who forgets that is greasing the skids upon which racing is rapidly vanishing from sight.

22 Jul 2009 8:38 PM

"As a mom, please remember horse crazy kids read your blogs."

Thanks, Tipper Gore. Don't they wonder about all the news about corrupt trainers, euthanized/injured horses, injured jockeys...?

23 Jul 2009 11:59 AM
Jim D

 I agree with C. Neely about putting the horses first. If the Good Lord wanted to do something to bring horse racing back to life, He wouldn't put slot machines and roulette wheels at the tracks  He'd resurrect Barbaro. Imagine the effect that would have!

23 Jul 2009 10:02 PM

Take away the TV coverage of NASCAR and PRO FOOTBALL and where would their money come from ?.....Fans who gamble whether it be on horses or slots are still contributing to purse increases for the horsemen.......

24 Jul 2009 8:03 AM

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