04/10/2017 12:55PM

Marks: Suffering from a complete disregard for our customers

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Where have the bettors gone?

I don’t think there’s any one specific answer, but over the years I’ve observed the inevitability of loss syndrome. The player, except for the minuscule number of elite professionals, must eventually lose so any medium that fails to constantly attract new customers finds its fan base eroding from mere attrition.

It’s not dissimilar to the body of water dependent on fresh stream supplies to maintain its level of depth. Cut off the stream and the lake bed dries up. It’s that simple.

That said, the live attendance at The Meadowlands began evaporating in the late 80’s some 10-12 years after its opening. Everyone within a radius of say 100 miles had been there and for whatever reason had been properly turned off, seldom if ever to return.

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Eventually only the hard core remains.

Why does this happen?

It’s a complex issue, but most outsiders tend to perceive harness racing as an insider’s game, corrupt or otherwise replete with issues that they simply are not privy to. In many ways they’re right.

For example, prior to the 2011 Super Bowl we knew much more about the status of New England tight end Rob Gronkowski’s ankle and Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot than we did about the condition of Exit 16W winner Special T Rocks and whether or not he was “on his game” all week. He may have been trained hard or not trained at all. Maybe he failed to leave the stall for a couple of days due to infirmary? Insiders may know or at least have some degree of insight, but the general public does not and all too often money is burned on horses having little or no chance of performing to par.

But we knew when and for how long Bradshaw practiced and could formulate conclusions accordingly.

In harness racing, a single race is often just one of a sequence of races comprising the season and unless it’s a big money stakes event, no one race differs that much from the others. Therefore, the tendency has been to earn while living to fight another day in direct conflict with the needs of the bettor, whose transaction is for that race and that day only.

The end result is that billions are burned up on horses which are content with earning checks instead of going all out to win this night! As soon as the novice players get sufficiently sophisticated to perceive when a less than all out effort occurs, he’s likely to conclude the odds are too stacked up against him and as a result he’s lost!      

Personally, I was never fully able to fathom why the performer’s rights superseded those of the bettor.

When a driver or trainer gets days (mandatory time off) for an infraction which is immediately stayed and life goes on, is the expectation that the bettor will think, “Oh he won’t do it again.”?

Yeah right!

When you get a traffic ticket for a driving infraction, there’s a penalty. Get nailed with a substance and its pretty much business as usual as a “beard” takes over.

What about the hapless guy at the track that bets on one of those stake eliminations in which everybody qualifies but nobody goes all out? What about this person’s rights? He made a bet, got less than an all out effort and of course winds up burning money.  Should he have known better? Perhaps! Is there a disclaimer suggesting that “The horses in this race are merely qualifying for next week’s final and may or may not be going all out tonight, therefore wager at your own risk”?     

We all know that answer and in many ways it’s symbolic of how racetracks have treated their customers all these years. And that in essence is the problem.  The needs of those putting on the show directly conflict with those needed to finance the show.  Racetracks have treated their customers as necessary evils for as long as I’ve been around, oblivious to the fact that sooner or later that customer wises up.

Perhaps if track officials were compelled to undergo apprentice periods early in their careers in which their weekly salary take was reflected in the number of winners they picked, they might have better comprehension of what their customer actually requires.

Racing is a spectator sport dependent on audience approval for its survival. Have we done this effectively over the years?

What do you think?