I first met Brad Cummings in the spring of 2008, shortly before the launch of the Paulick Report. He had no publishing experience and knew nothing about horse racing. Naturally, I hired him. Cummings was the Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote as we dreamed the impossible dream of a fallen horseracing writer/editor trying to stage a comeback with a news and aggregation website that challenged authority.
Both from the Chicago area, we hit it off immediately. He was a Republican. I was a Democrat. I was a Cubs fan. He pulled for the White Sox. I was playing the back nine of my career and Cummings was standing on the first tee, holding a golf club in his hands for the first time. (While that was a metaphor, we actually did play golf once; I think it might have been a first for him and it was a last for me – playing with Brad, that is.)
Aside from his creativity, Cummings' most endearing qualities were his endless optimism and enthusiasm. He was the yang to my yin. And he was, and is, a quick study.
The truth is, the Paulick Report would have lived a short life were it not for Brad Cummings. He did all the stuff I didn't like doing, and did it well. We grew in readership, redesigned the website and expanded our business model and staff. Nearly 11 years later, the Paulick Report is still standing, though Cummings departed for greener pastures in 2012.
Even while he was putting in 80-hour weeks for the Paulick Report, still learning the business and networking with horse racing industry leaders, Cummings began working on a new project: a lottery game based on the results of a horse race. As a newcomer to the sport, he was chagrined to see a declining fan base and wanted to figure out how to introduce horse racing to a new audience.
He came up with the basic outline in 2009 and formed EquiLottery Games LLC and applied for a patent the following year. It was a fairly simple concept, really, but one that hadn't been tried before in the U.S.: have a daily lottery game based on something a little more exciting than numbered ping-pong balls being sucked out of a tube.
I would have given up after the first few times a state lottery executive, racetrack or horseman's organization said, “No, not interested.” That's not in Brad's DNA.
It's been nearly five years since he left full-time employment to focus entirely on EquiLottery, which, like the Paulick Report, has evolved since its formation. There have been a lot of ups and downs and broken promises from some he's made his pitch to, but he's persisted while trying to forge a marriage between two competitors for the gambling dollar – horse racing and state lotteries.
Finally, this spring, under the new branding of Win Place Show, Cummings' vision has come to fruition. The Kentucky Lottery adopted the game for a trial run in three major markets: Lexington, Louisville and northern Kentucky (near Cincinnati, Ohio). Click here to learn more about the game and the location of outlets where you can play. If you're in Kentucky, please show your support for Win Place Show by finding a lottery retailer that carries the game and buying a ticket or two.
Ticket sales have outpaced projections, according to Cummings, and the technology platforms have all worked as they should. It's been a success so far.
A portion of revenue from each lottery ticket sold goes to the racetrack and horsemen on which that day's game is based. (The other day, when I bought my first Win Place Show tickets, Mahoning Valley in Ohio was the host track, but races from Gulfstream Park in Florida, Keeneland in Kentucky, Parx Racing in Pennsylvania and Turf Paradise in Arizona have also been used, and there are agreements with a number of other tracks.
But the revenue to racing from lottery ticket sales is not the only reason the horse racing industry should embrace EquiLottery's Win Place Show. The game introduces our sport to a new segment of the population, people who gamble but are probably not horseplayers. They can download the app and watch that day's Win Place Show race on their smart phones or a dedicated website.
As someone who didn't grow up in horse country, my first exposure to Thoroughbred racing was on a nationally syndicated television show called “Let's Go to the Races,” sponsored by a supermarket chain. Shoppers got tickets for each week's show when they purchased groceries. Our family would watch every Saturday night to see if our tickets matched up with the winning horses from taped races with voiceover announcers like Phil Georgeff. I've talked to many others from my generation whose interest in racing was piqued by that show.
Win Place Show is not that different from “Let's Go to the Races.”
Cummings has expanded his horizons outside of racing with EquiLottery. He's reached an agreement with Speedway Motorsports Inc. – which operates some of the nation's largest NASCAR tracks – to create a lottery game based on the outcome of auto races. He's held high-level talks with virtually every major professional sports league as well to start a lottery game based on their sport.
Horse racing has dragged its feet getting behind a horse racing lottery game. Maybe it's because the industry doesn't have the structure to cut deals on a national basis. Maybe it's leaders are stuck in the past.
That's one thing I'll never say about Brad Cummings. He's as forward thinking as anyone I know.
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