Solutions To The New Threat to Horse Racing – Legalized Sports Gambling:
In my Blog #1 – I detailed the problems that the horse racing industry is now facing due to the May 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowing state -legalized sports betting. Here I discuss some possible solutions:
● Dramatically fewer racetracks. With increased competition coming from legalized online sports gambling, there will be less revenue to split between too many existing tracks.
● Make racetrack “footprints” smaller. Not the racetrack itself of course, but the huge amounts of surrounding land are not required anymore at 90% of racetracks. Gone are the days of 20,000- 60,000 fans coming to the tracks, with the possible exception of a few big racing days during the Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown races. The racetracks are now “simulcasting” facilities, and there is no need for empty, cavernous grandstands and grounds.
● A racetrack should look so much like a “sports bar” you can’t tell the difference. The tracks should be comfortable locations where each fan has a TV monitor, access to decent and healthier food options, and a plethora of adult beverages—like a casino sports book. Make facilities a comfortable place to come and stay to eat and drink, watch games and play the races. Have VIP areas for your bigger gambling customers. For fans of limited means, make admission and parking free, sell your hot dogs, pizza, beer, soda, racing forms, and programs at cost. New Jersey is doing a good job at Monmouth racetrack of this of this- providing a comfortable race and sports bet to wager on their racetrack’s races and major sporting events.
● Racetracks must become “sports books” and accept sports betting, and racetracks must get their gambling menus on the major gambling networks that will soon be accepting sports wagering. This is an absolute must.
● Racetracks should love this idea of smaller footprints. Let them redevelop 50% of their land and make some substantial money, thus allowing them to reduce the cost to maintain their facility. In the future, due to the new coming competition for the wagering dollar, the owners of other smaller tracks will be looking to close them and realize huge profits re-purposing them as condos, homes, and apartments, et al. Hollywood Park’s closing in 2013 is a good example: The former track is set to reopen in 2020 as an NFL stadium for the NFL’s Rams and Chargers.
● Major tracks should race only three days per week with the Friday races starting at a 4 p.m. first post (finishing under lights in the fall and winter months). We need far less racing; three days per week is plenty.
• Smaller racetracks will have to race at night and not compete head to head with the majors. Why race when no one is watching? I realize this will require fewer racetrack employees and fewer horses, and that there will be fewer opportunities for lower-class horses, but we can still have many smaller racetracks located in less suburban areas. These tracks must not go head to head with the big tracks like Churchill or Santa Anita. But they can now be smaller, primarily simulcasting-only facilities.
● Treat your horse owners with respect. Currently, horse owners are often treated like criminals, requiring fingerprinting like felons. If you’re passionate enough to make a foolhardy investment in a racehorse, make it feel special, where you always have a great seat and good service at the track. I would love to take my wife to see our horses and have a nice meal and a glass of fine wine. The NBA arenas are extremely expensive for fans, and yet they are sold out because it’s perceived as a special social event.
- Lower your vigorish commission rates to be in line with sports wagering rates. Why will gamblers betting on their cell phones pay 16% – to 25% commissions to a racetrack when they pay as little as 5% to wager on an NFL or NBA game? They won’t. I understand it is extremely expensive to operate a racetrack. That’s why I recommend closing many of them, and make the remaining tracks much smaller and less costly to operate. I know the states never want to lower gambling fees- but if they don’t they will soon be collecting zero % percent – on a bunch of bankrupt and shuttered racetracks.
- My personal prediction is that Nationally, sports wagering vigorish rates will be spiking upwards. The major sports leagues will want their integrity fees, and there will be an additional layer of fees to the state’s governments. Additionally, as more “exotic” sports bets are offered such as in game betting, futures betting, and all forms of complex parlays, the vigorish rates on these types of bets in New Jersey already often exceeds 20% now. I am not advocating that horse racing goes to a 5% vigorish rate, but it must become more competitive with sports wagering rates.
- Embrace “Fixed-Odds” betting lines. In many countries such as the U.K. and Australia “”Fixed- Odds” total handle is higher that pari-mutuel handle. Sports gamblers are used to seeing on their bet tickets the wager, and the potential win amount. This requires National oversight as how does a “Fixed-Odds” wager contribute to the tracks purse structure? This is a must.
- Embrace “Exchange Wagering” (gamblers betting head to head with other gamblers and setting their own odds -with the exchange platform receiving a set % fee). This could be huge for horse wagering and entice large wagers from serious fans.
- Nationalize horse racing as much as possible. There is not an “NBA California”. There is just the NBA. This must happen wherein the horse racing industry gets its act together to act as one voice on racing dates, medication and safety standards, national advertising, and types of bets offered and standard vigorish rates. The naysayers will say racing is governed at the state level, especially on gambling regulation. Watch the NBA and NFL navigate these complex “States” issues in short order – not decades. We need a National racing commissioner with real decision-making power. The commissioner should probably come from major league sports and the tracks must let the commissioner make the final decisions for the good of the industry.● Feature celebrities at the track and in racing. Much of the U.S. television audience is obsessed with Hollywood and the music and movie industries. Make major horse races the place to be seen for the stars. Get racing back into movies, series, books, podcasts. Hire top national PR and marketing firms. Offer the tracks free of charge for as site locations for film and series.Horse racing is the greatest game in the world! New sports gambling competition and new technologies now require the racing industry to make dramatic changes to survive the next decade.Mark Paul – Author“The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told”
The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told is an inspiring personal narrative about a filly who broke through the male-dominated world of horse racing and inspired crowds of men and women alike, along with a trio of gamblers who embark on an unforgettable adventure that’s as epic as the historic victory of Winning Colors. It’s Seabiscuit meets Narcos, and the best true-life gambling story ever told.
When the gamblers unknowingly place their longshot bet with members of a suspected drug cartel at a racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico, they must figure out how to claim their prize – without getting killed in the process.
Mark Paul lives for action and adventure at locations where gambling occurs. He began his gambling career by sneaking into Hollywood Park and Santa Anita at age 16. Mark made a 5,000-mile journey in a sailboat through the Panama Canal and then on to the island of Jamaica, to attend Caribbean and South American horse races. He completed these gambling junkets alone, via bus, to gamble at the local thoroughbred racetracks. He was a participant in a $1 million win on the 1988 Kentucky Derby with two other gamblers through a bet placed in Tijuana, Mexico. He has owned interests in 34 racehorses. Mark has enjoyed a long commercial real estate career. With his wife, Renee, Mark raised over $750,000 for City of Hope Cancer research through their events held at the Santa Anita racetrack.● Place horse racing on television as a top priority and begin broadcasting on all the new online sources that will soon be created to stream major league sports to sports gamblers. Horse racing missed out on the television revolution decades ago; racing simply cannot afford to miss the opportunity to get on the new streaming services that will soon be accommodating the huge new sports gaming industry.
● Bring back “Match Races.” Beginning with Seabiscuit vs War Admiral in 1938, nothing captivates the fans and media like head to head competition. Try match races of top female horses against the males and the top East Coast stars against the top West Coast stars. Race Baffert against Lukas.