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Updated: February 6, 2020 at 10:47 am
By Bill Finley
This week’s Green Group Guest of the Week on the TDN‘s Writers’ Room Podcast, Thoroughbred Idea Foundation Executive Director Pat Cummings, implored the racing industry to learn from what has happened in Pennsylvania and to end what he sees as decades of complacency.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has submitted a budget that calls for $204 million to be diverted from the state’s Race Horse Development Fund and used for a program that would provide college scholarships for Pennsylvania residents. Should the money, which comes from slot machines proceeds, be taken away, the end result would be devastating for those racing and breeding in the state.
Cummings said the industry has become too reliant on casino subsidies, which can be taken away at any time, and should instead be making efforts to make horse racing a more attractive gambling proposition.
“The Pennsylvania situation must be a wake-up call,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call for those in other states and a wake-up call for Pennsylvania horsemen. They have given out over $2 billion in purses earned from slot machines over 13 years. That’s a heck of a lot of money that has gone out of the system. They need to do without a little bit of that and they need to invest in the future of the sport. They need to make it more competitive. You have to have a competitive wagering product.”
Cummings said that the racetracks owned by casino companies have no incentive to try to grow handle on their racing products. He believes owners and breeders are the ones who must take charge and work for changes that would improve the sport and make it a better bet. He says the takeout must come down, breakage must be returned to the bettors and the sport must do more to modernize and keep up with the times.
He applauded Monmouth Park, which is run by the horsemen, for committing to fixed-odds wagering and Maryland racing interests and politicians for investing in renovation projects at Laurel and Pimlico
“Try something,” he said. “Let’s get out of this multi-decade funk this industry has been in. The horsemen need to demand it from the racetracks because the racetracks are oftentimes the ones setting and defending the takeout rates. There are things that can be done to make betting on racing more attractive.”
He said that if owners and breeders don’t take greater control of the sports and the decision-making processes, that will “hasten the demise of racing in many places.”