In the last instalment of Eric's articles on being a horseplayer advocate and trying to get the industry involved in player issues, he gives us a summary of why he began this journey. He touches on several issues that we all know to be accurate. Horse racing has to deal with myriad issues, and there are myriad alphabet organizations who 'want their slice'. The demand for betting by you the betting customer runs most of the industry's revenues, but there are very few listening to you. If they do, some might find themselves in the unemployment line.
We thank Eric for his time. Parts I and II are below this.
People have often asked me why I started this project. The short answer is two-fold. First it was to provide motivation to my children to stand up for what you believe in, even if the odds are against you. The second is my belief in the importance of consumer advocacy combined with a disdain for bullies.
I view the Horseracing hierarchy as a bunch of bullies. They were taking advantage of their customers. The regulators who were mandated to protect the Horseplayer did not understand the game of horse wagering or gambling. They were being manipulated by industry stakeholders. They bought into their spin. They lived in a bubble and were never presented with the other side of the argument.
At the outset I was told by those close to me that I was wasting my time. I would never be able to change perceptions. The wall was impenetrable. But as I began to put together logical arguments I found that there were many who supported the need for Horseplayer representation at the regulatory level. Unfortunately a lot of those people were employed by the industry. They had families to support. If they stepped outside the line they would be in jeopardy of losing their jobs.
It was those people who provided me with the motivation to keep going. Ron Nichol, a veteran of the CPMA (Canadian Pari-Mutuel Assn) tweaked me to the idea. Hugh Mitchell (CEO of Western Fair, an Ontario racetrack and casino) characterised my goal as a daunting task, but was very generous with his time while offering his vast experience. Darryl Kaplan of Standardbred Canada (a rising young star of the industry) provided a great sounding board, often challenging my arguments allowing me to refine them. And of course John Blakney of the ORC (Head of the Ontario Racing Commission) and his management team for believing in the need for Horseplayer representation at the regulatory level. When I first met John he reacted like I was from Mars. I must credit John for taking the time to listen to the arguments, and being open minded enough to become a believer. Not an easy task for the man who has the most difficult position in Ontario Horseracing. There is a whole host of others who I probably should not mention for fear of negative repercussions, but thank you to you all.
At this point I am not sure what will happen with my concept in Ontario given the threat of the industry folding and the potential of the ORC having its role limited. It is my hope that the government will continue to providing funding thru the current breeding cycle as the industry learns to become self sustaining. Unlike OHRIA, I believe it is possible for this great game and industry to become self sustaining. It is my hope that if the Provincial government does providing funding they will create an Oversight Board which will establish criteria for racetracks to earn the funds. And such an Oversight Board will employ a Horseplayer.
I would like to thank to the HANA Board and it members for allowing me the opportunity to share my concept and thoughts on their forum. The volunteer work that HANA has provided has been ground breaking. They have almost singlehandedly brought the outrageous take-out issue within the game to the forefront.
The reaction I have received to the first two installments of my guest blog has been overwhelming. I hope it provides inspiration to all those believers that it is possible to have Horseplayers involved in the regulatory process whether you are in Canada or in the USA.
Below is a snapshot of my presentation to the OMAFRA Transitional Panel in Ontario which was created to provide non-binding recommendations to the Minister of Agriculture about how the Government might help the Industry adjust to the end of the Slots at Racetrack Program. The bolded lines are the questions asked by the Panel.
Follow Eric on twitter at @epo13
We thank Eric for his guest posts, and his work for horseplayers everywhere.
1/A vision for Industry self-sufficiency
-Continue government support for the current breeding cycle
-Continued support is based on pre-determined set of criteria, for which the funds must be earned- i.e./handle, innovation, horses per race. THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN WHEN ORIGINALLY SETUP
-Create an entity whose sole responsibility is to manage Ontario Horse Racing
-entity develops/enforces both pari-mutuel and on track rules and wagering products
-entity develops and markets the Ontario brand of Horseracing, both at the ownership and gaming levels
-create a major league sports format. Ideally across North America
-Eliminate Quarterhorse Racing-it is a travesty that money was wasted developing a breed for which there is no wagering customer at a time when the two current breeds were in crisis.
-Ensure Horseplayer involvement in the Process-IF HORSEPLAYERS WERE INVOLVED FROM THE OUTSET, THE RESULTS WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT
The above vision assumes some government responsibility in creating the problem and a desire to contribute to the solution
Should the government decide to only provide the short term transitional funding, the local breeding industry will die, which will cripple the local horse supply and ultimately the wagering industry. The Horseplayers will be quick to jump ship.
Comment-for the past 15 years the industry has shown no ability or desire to deliver a self sustaining model or vision, in spite of knowing that slot revenue would not last forever. The industry’s current model is incapable of achieving self-sustainability, its roots are rotted. To think the current host of industry stakeholders are capable of doing such is an extreme long shot at best. The current culture of entitlement is pervasive, the monopolistic DNA runs deep. Both must be eliminated.
Key adjustment challenges and what is required to meet those challenges
-Transition funds are to be earned based on a set of identified criteria-develop such criteria, touched on earlier
-Address Transparency, Accountability, Fairness and Integrity (TAFI) issues-involve Horseplayers in the process
-Balance racing supply to meet pari-mutuel demand-eliminate racing dates, not necessarily race tracks
-Develop new revenue streams i.e. / sponsorships, jockey advertising-first the perception of the game must be cleaned up.
-increase horserace wagering by developing a strategic marketing plan that redefines and addresses:
a) The CUSTOMER BASE-gamblers, gambletainment, horse/animal lovers
b) The PRODUCTS-keno-ize the game, introduce lotteries/sweepstakes, prop bets, exchange wagering, contests…..
c) PRICE-takeout reduction is an absolute in order for the game to be competitive with similar forms of gambling
d) DISTRIBUTION-corner stores, casinos, exploit new technologies to its fullest potential
Encourage dialogue, strategic planning and consensus building within the Industry
-the horseplayer perspective can play a key role in enhancing the dialogue and building consensus
Advise on priorities for transition support and how best to address the priorities, including how to allocate funding amongst these priorities;
-Co-priorities should be increasing the wagering base/developing additional revenue streams and ensuring a horse supply to support the wagering base
Provide additional observations on how the Industry can improve governance and work better together
-Make the horse wagering customer the number 1 priority. If such is achieved everything else will fall into place.
-Ontario horse wagering customers have been ominously quite. Perhaps because they do not care as there are a host of other horse wagering and gambling options
-An ADW monopoly is not health for the industry. Competition must be encouraged
-What is good for Woodbine is not necessarily good for the industry
-If an ADW becomes insolvent, horseplayers lose their funds-I have been arguing that funds should be secure and that the CPMA has let down Horseplayers by not ensuring such. Some thought I was ridiculous in that an AWD could never become insolvent. We now know such is possible
-It is interesting to note the industry has yet to make any noticeable changes to date since the announcement of the end of Slot funding
Gather information on the scope and dynamics of the Industry and consumer demand for its products and services
-the A circuit of Ontario racing is respected worldwide. It would be a shame for it to disappear
-the industry has historical fought amongst themselves which has partly been alleviated by the cozy relationship WEGZ has established with the HBPA and COSA, although this is not a healthy relationship for the overall industry
Assess the Industry's prospects in a competitive gaming marketplace
-potential is huge, the task is herculean
Identify the barriers to, and enablers of the Industry's transition to a self-sufficient business model
-Barriers: current attitudes of entitlement, old school approach, general lack of marketing sophistication, CPMA’s inability to react, a ADW monopoly
-Enablers: The customer/Horseplayer can be the most efficient enabler