05/11/2012 5:08PM

Letters to the Editor May 13

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Smaller markets an important part of sport's big picture

I would like to take some issue with the April 15 letter to the editor headlined "Shedding baggage can help business." I have a unique perspective when it comes to what was written, since I am the announcer at Turf Paradise and Lincoln Race Course.

The letter suggested that a list of racetracks needed to close for a variety of reasons, and Turf Paradise was one of those listed. I would, at this time, like to point out that the writer's local racetrack, Lincoln Race Course, will indeed be closing at the end of the upcoming season through reasons completely out of its control.

As a result, many fine people that I have come to know through the last several seasons will be scrambling for work elsewhere. This is the unspoken part of the letter-writer's comments. If these racetracks were to close, how many countless, hardworking, professional horsemen and women would be put out of work at a time when the national economy does not need more people unemployed?

Also, how would simulcast handle be affected at those tracks the letter suggested stay open if some lesser tracks were to close? When the track in Lincoln closes, locals will have to travel the 50 miles to Omaha and go to Horsemen's Park to simulcast wager. If the writer is a "lifelong race fan" as he claims, hopefully he will have the conviction to do that on a regular basis.

Closing tracks negatively impacts the entire industry, from top to bottom, because if you shut out players who currently have a lower-level track (and do not legally have access to Internet wagering), they cannot bet on the races, they cannot enjoy a day at the races, and they cannot grow to love this game as many of us do. It would be completely retarding the growth of the game to  implement what the letter was espousing.

Not every racetrack can be Keeneland, Belmont, or Santa Anita. That is the sad fact we face here. To make a comparison, not every hotel can be the Waldorf-Astoria. Does that mean that every Red Roof Inn, Motel  6, or Holiday Inn Express needs to close? Of course not. People need places to stay all over this country of ours, just in the same way that racing fans in some of racing's lesser markets should have places to go and enjoy the game that they love.

Reckless suggestions and opinions would do more harm than good to the racing industry as a whole. That is also a fact.

Michael Chamberlain - Lincoln, Neb.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mike is correct....this "boutique" meet mentality will actually be the death of racing. New fans are only created from live meets, if you close all tracks except a few, you will eventually have a very local audience base. You will eventually lose most all wagering from the states without any racetrack. To prove my point, take a look at total wagering on horse racing from states that don't currently have any horse racing. My guess is that you will find that there is only minimal wagering coming from those states. Horse racing isn't ever go to be pro football (or even college) and there will be never be weekly broadcasts of horse racing that have a high viewership. You can be delusional and tell yourself that these "boutique" meets will "save the sport", but they won't. In fact, if we had only a few "high quality" tracks running, I'm confident that you would find in about 10 years that handle on these tracks would drop dramatically...when all the fans from the regions with the closed tracks no longer chose to follow the sport. In reality, the sport can grow, but it really requires a change of mentality that understands this game only exists because of gambling, and thus it is absolutely essential that the sport is perceived as entirely honest (casino games are perceived as honest (and are), people lose, but they don't feel cheated). But this would require full disclosure of medication, and barring trainers (and better yet, the vets who provide the drugs) who cheat for life (who really needs them? There are plenty of honest trainers/vets to replace them). Again, Michael is right, closing tracks would be the wrong direction for the industry to go towards and should be avoided whenever possible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mike, the problem is you aren't facing reality. Racing will survive in a downsized fashion with boutique meets being the norm. Just like mom and pop groceries, things change. You adapt.