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REFLECTIONS AS WE TURN THE PAGE ON 2012

December 23, 2012

op/ed
by Craig Bandoroff
TDN 12-23-12

I read with interest Charlotte Weber's letter that
appeared in the TDN on Dec. 21. That same day I also
read the CNN article, "How Racing Became Cool" and
an article in the Wall Street Journal on hand-held
devices and Internet gambling. The combination gave
me cause for year-end thoughts as we turn the page on
2012.

There isn't a more constant and loyal supporter of
American racing and breeding than Charlotte Weber
that comes to my mind. To refer to her as a stalwart of
the sport isn=t an exaggeration. Her words struck true
with me because they remind me of two important
takeaways I had during a period of time I spent several
years ago exploring ways to revitalize our sport and
coalesce our industry. Working with Anthony
Manganaro, Duncan Taylor, and Doug Cauthen, I
attended several meetings exploring "next steps" for an
industry in crisis. Although, as of this writing the
project is dead, I had the opportunity to meet several
very bright people in the world of sports entertainment
and sports law. The takeaways I came away with were
this:
1. Our industry needs a strong owners group to
represent and assert themselves and take control of
their product and the playing field. The present model
where the racetracks (movie theaters) and trainers
(directors) have more control than the owners (film
studios) is backwards and detrimental.
2. We need racetracks that present our sport in a
modern fashion that can compete with other major
league sports and leisure activities. Fans want an
experience that represents value, in attractive, clean,
technologically advanced, modern facilities.
Although a handful of racetracks provide a quality
experience, many like Calder that Charlotte references,
seem to have little interest in promoting our sport or
providing their patrons with a quality experience.
Further evidence of many racetrack operators and the
industry's deficiency is the absence of allocating slot
revenue to make capital improvements to the racing
areas of their facilities and develop a meaningful
marketing plan to promote racing. Perhaps a strong
owners group could show the way by attracting
investors to own and operate a state of the art race
track unlike any we have presently?

The CNN article illustrated that the large ship can
change course. England now has attractive and modern
facilities offering a pleasant experience for their
patrons. Placing the emphasis on the social experience
has helped revitalize the sport and attracted a young
audience. What reasons are there that, if a similar
model was employed here following best practices in
places like England, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan,
where racing is popular, that we wouldn't see similar
results?

If Internet gambling is soon to be with us and patrons
can gamble on their hand-held mobile devices as
outlined in the WSJ article, then a threat like we have
never seen may be upon us. The ease of play,
convenience and addiction factor make this a
competitive force that could be a lethal threat to many
gambling entities, not just racing. It puts even greater
need for the points outlined above; modern clean
facilities enhancing the social experience of a day out.
As we close the book on another year it seems to me
that there are "green shoots" out there that provide
reasons for hope. Organizations like The Jockey Club,
Breeders' Cup, and RMTC are taking the lead on
numerous important fronts that have required attention
for years. They are committing capital and taking
important steps to lead us in several critical areas. They
should be applauded for and supported in their efforts.
Let's hope that 2013 can see further progress. We all
know the world