I've been knocked out by the flu this week so I haven't spent much time reading or writing...or doing much of anything. But there are a couple of racing items taking center stage this week that I wanted to highlight, although they are not in the "good news" side of the ledger.
The first item is the potential closure of the New York City OTBs on Friday due to financial problems. There has been a long running issue with NRYA and NYC ITBs for a while now and it appears to be coming to a head in the near future. If you want to read more on this you can check out the article over at DRF.com (New York OTB Faces Friday Closing), or you can check out the blog Left At The Gate, which does a fantastic job of covering all things related to New York racing.
The second issue at the forefront is with racing in the state of Maryland and the possibility that racing and simulcasting will shut down beginning January 1st. (DRF.com: Maryland officials express fear of racing shutdown). Like a lot of the quarrels in racing today, the problems in Maryland involve the discussion of slots, casinos, racing dates, and state legislatures.
I haven't written about either of this issues before today because, frankly, my knowledge is limited to what I read in the DRF or other industry publications and I don't feel like I have a great grasp of all the facts involved in each issue. But these are important issues within the industry and, sadly, are issues that will continue to dominate the game in the coming years. When you combine these controversies with the current state of the economy, which magnifies financial strains, the situation becomes even more dire.
I've got a post I'm working on that delves a bit more into some of the implications of handle, purse sizes, racing days, and the economy that I hope to have posted in the next day or so (depending on how this flu goes). The post doesn't specifically address the issues in New York and Maryland, but looks at the big picture situation within the game. While as a whole, horse racing has been facing financial issues for decades, the current economic down turn has taken the cracks in the wall and blown them into full fledged holes.
What the industry does at this point in time is critical to the future success of the sport. At some point, the economy will get better (it's just the nature of the beast). What that economy will look like is anybodies guess, but things will turn around and people will increase spending. Horse racing, and all gambling activities, are extremely susceptible to economic pressures - as is evidenced by the weekly emails I get from the Bellagio telling me I can get a suite at their property in Vegas for two nights at $125 a night. Any industry associated with gambling is begging for dollars, not just horse racing.
The question that confronts horse racing, and it's the question that is front and center in New York and Maryland right now, is what changes need to be made to ensure growth and stability not just next year, but ten years from now? Will we see a band-aid applied or wholesale reform? Wholesale reform is needed in many jurisdictions but a band-aid is all that the powers-that-be seem to be interested in.