Saturday, October 4, 2008


Thanks to Cangamble for giving the heads up on this article regarding racing and its lack of a central authority.

A half-century ago, horseracing in America was a collection of politically-appointed fiefdoms (state racing commissions) overseeing tracks that derived 100 percent of their (legal) wagering handle through their own pari-mutuel machines and had virtually no competition for the wagering dollar. In 2008, American horseracing is still a collection of fiefdoms.

We all know that is true. 24% rakes here, 19% there, how about a lil 31% on some bets in Pennsylvania. Or Clenbuterol. 15 days here, 30 there. There is absolutely no direction or standards.

And as we all know, the fingers in the pie when it comes to wagering are even worse. This sport is governed by an act that was put into place when Saturday Night Fever was number one at the box office, and a peanut farmer from Georgia was President. When "That 70's Show" was not a show, but a way of life.

The last major legislation affecting horseracing — at the state or federal level — was the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, which was signed into law before the word Internet had entered the dictionary.

From a historical perspective, the growing crisis was inevitable. The only semblance of a national governing body in horseracing, The Jockey Club, was founded in 1894 and eventually wrote the rules of racing observed throughout the United States, but its loss of a case in the New York Court of Appeals in 1951 essentially eliminated its regulating authority.

The result?

In 2004, overall handle dropped by one-half of a percent, and in 2005 the overall decline accelerated to 3.6 percent as a result of a 6.5 percent decrease in on-track handle and the biggest drop ever in simulcast handle — 3.6 percent. Simulcast handle rebounded modestly in 2006 even as on-track handle continued to sink, but in 2007 the simulcast figures dropped off again. Total pari-mutuel handle on horseracing in 2007 was $14.725 billion — down three percent from the high in 2003 – and the mid-year quarterly update from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase (The Jockey Club's data-collection subsidiary) on wagering in 2008 has reported a 4.15 percent decline from 2007.

I wish in 1978 the Interstate horse racing act also enacted a Commissioner's Act, where they, well, actually named one and gave him some clout. It might have saved us the misery in wagering losses the last few years. HANA would not even be needed, perhaps.

Maybe someone like Jim Rockford would have done the job.

Sorry, it's late and there was a lot of racing today to play. It's the only kick-ass guy from the 1970's I could think of.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The “Rockford Files” is actually not a bad analogy for the racing industry which sometimes seems as if a bunch of Angel Martin characters are at the helm, and those seeking action are never quite what they seem at first. Justice is only obtained through con artistry and the clueless always remain so. Perhaps the only way to deal with dysfunction is through distraction.