- The National Players Boycott of California Thoroughbred Racing. Player Commentary
December 14, 2010

I would like to help the boycott succeed. Please feel free to use the opinion piece below in whole or in part if it can serve that purpose:

Some distinguished horseplayers discovered new disincentives to continue playing California tracks when CHRB Vice-chairman, David Israel, described their average age as “deceased” and “decomposed.” In his apparently designated role as director of disinformation, he discounted their participation relative to that of a younger demographic -- despite the fact that older bettors have more time and money at their disposal. The symposium speaker’s short-sighted remarks denied if not defied the reality that racing’s short-term survival depends on seniors.

By discouraging existing and potential customers with higher takeout and disingenuous rhetoric, the CHRB is dooming its scheme to create a “promised land” overflowing with purse money for thoroughbred horse owners at the direct expense of horseplayers. Thanks to Mr. Israel, horseplayers of all ages and geographic areas are beginning to realize just how little respect they are accorded from most horsemen, track operators, and state government representatives. At least he didn’t deploy the ultimate d-word, “degenerate;” that politically incorrect term applied by so-called industry “stakeholders” to racing’s customers with far greater frequency in private than in public. Perhaps even he was afraid to disturb sleeping dogs lest they be drawn into their own defense in the face of egregious exploitation by racing executives. Indeed one can only wonder how long horseplayers will continue to accept the decline in satisfaction they derive from a pastime they once enjoyed over the course of a lifetime.

Wake up, bettors in California and elsewhere. This isn’t just a disaster in public relations. This “racing as entertainment” hyperbole is a disguised, but determined effort to deprive players of potential for profit. Even if you bet recreationally, you do so with the expectation you can come out ahead with sufficient insight, alertness, and experience. The probability of that happening decreases as less money is distributed to winners, and greater numbers of players are driven from the game as bankrolls and enthusiasm diminish. Worse, the deck is being stacked against you so that horsemen who compete in California can be subsidized rather than be forced to reduce their costs to levels that exist at other racing venues.

The market for recreational gambling has increased, but not for betting on horses. The younger generation isn’t being deceived. They know that wagering on races is no longer a good deal or even a fair one. They are already boycotting the game. The rest of us need to share their distaste if not disgust for how racing has evolved over the last thirty years, and join them on the sidelines. Only then will any alternatives be considered for striking a balance among horseplayers, horsemen, track operators, and government regulators that enables racing to return to self-sufficiency and stability. That is what you will be helping to accomplish each time you decline to bet a race at a California track starting the day after Christmas. A train has to come to a stop before it can change direction. We need to get the attention of the conductors one train at a time.

Some players will never see the bigger picture and will refuse to join the boycott for reasons that almost always boil down to self interest. Even boycott supporters will have their resolve tested by Santa Anita’s return to a natural dirt surface and a temporary increase in field sizes expected during the first few weeks. Yet if enough of us stand in unison and with patience until the initial excitement of the new meet wears off, the drain on handle will become more pronounced and eventually the desired effect will be achieved.



Editor's Note:

We want the Boycott to truly be a grass roots effort. We are trying to create an atmosphere that encourages player participation. Rather than directing players to submit pieces written about topics chosen by us, any time you feel strongly about a racing related topic, feel free to write it up and submit it.

If it strikes a chord with other players, we'll do our best to see that it gets published.

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