While I don't want to delve into the personal bathing habits of people in the horse racing industry, it occurred to me that some executives might try showering a bit more often. Frankly, there has not been a stampede of good ideas lately.
Fred Pope pulled out his upside-down business model drum and began it beating it again yesterday, and some of us may agree with his belief that if the only people making money in the racing biz are the ADWs and OTBs, then maybe they're not paying enough for the product they're selling.
But aside from Pope, where are the ideas coming from?
It's nice to see a track like Penn National develop a low-takeout Pick 4 bet in conjunction with the New York Racing Association. There's some upside to that. And Twinspires.com came up with a unique Jackpot 5 wager a few weeks ago that, if successful, will be good for parent Churchill Downs Inc.'s bottom line.
But who else out there is doing more than fighting over scraps from a pari-mutuel buffet that is less appealing to the general public than it has been in – dare I say – a lifetime?
Strangely enough, some horseplayers in California are. The customers.
I may not agree with their tactics (they are threatening a boycott and, in fact, their proposals are listed at the website http://www.playersboycott.org), but at least they have some suggestions that might help reverse a trend that began a decade ago when the total amount wagered on North American Thoroughbred racing peaked at $15.9 billion and has tumbled and tumbled and tumbled. At year's end it will be in the vicinity of $11.5 billion – a loss of $4 billion.
That's a 27% decline in a once-thriving business.
At the same time, the number of North American races has fallen, from 60,891 to about 51,000 – a decline of 16%. The loss in betting dollars is far outpacing the decline in product offered. Less is not more.
I hope officials in California and elsewhere read what the horseplayers are suggesting.
Then go take a shower and think about it.
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