A SLOT-STYLE BAIL OUT?

Despite the dire warning contained in Proverbs 26:11, I once again return to my favourite industry/sport, horse racing.

For the past decade, the government-owned racing promoter, Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) has been blighted by a series of Boards, apparently graduated from the Ray Charles School of foresight, who act like entrants to an incompetence competition.  The most recent example of this mindless leadership has touted, for years, that racing’s salvation lies in combining horse racing with slot machines.  Equally short-sighted newspaper scribes have contributed to a cacophony of calls for CTL to introduce slots to the racetrack and its Off Track Betting Parlours (OTBs) creating the sort of brutish babble not heard since open voting won Barabbas an election.

It’s all talk so far as, despite annual promises, not one CTL controlled slot machine has graced the racetrack or a single OTB.

You talk too much;
you worry me to death.
You talk too much;
you even worry my pet.                                                                                                                                                                                      You just talk, talk, talk….
You talk too much
.”

Everybody wants pie-in-the-sky.  Nobody wants to work to produce a viable horse racing product.  So, we’ve noted the success of slots at some U.S. racetracks and, absent necessary critical analysis, we’re trying to import that formula.  But, will we?

You talk about people
that you don’t know.
You talk about people
wherever you go.                                                                                                                                                                                                     You just talk, talk, talk…
You talk too much
.”

U.S. racetracks like Parx Racing; Charles Town; Presque Isle Downs; and Zia Park experienced economic booms when slots were installed.  This because:

(1)     U.S. Legislation makes racetracks the exclusive location for           legalized slot machine gambling in the State.  This forces slots         aficionados to attend the racetrack to bet.  In Jamaica, no slot machine      player will be attracted to a filthy, antiquated Caymanas Park or Hole-       in-the-wall OTBs instead of Acropolis; Jamaica Grande; or Coral Cliff           where their favourite pastime is professionally presented.

(2)     U.S. State legislation ear-marks a percentage of the tax revenues from slots for purses and breeders bonuses.  No such luck here.  Here, know-       it-all CTL Directors who’ve never run a slot operation in their    academically-oriented lives, have invited tenders from experienced slot   operators to partner CTL by installing slots at the track/OTBs.  CTL’s    cut will be a minority share of the operator’s “drop” (the slot operator’s        winnings; in the U.S., slots operators are regulated to retain no more than 7% of stakes).  Our Government will still collect all slot taxes paid         and the minute sums expected from CTL’s share of the drop isn’t   legally ear-marked for anything so can be spent at CTL’s discretion.

(3)     None of the U.S. tracks is State-owned.  In Jamaica, Government divested an essential service (JPS) but retained ownership of a racetrack.

In U.S.A, questions have arisen regarding the propriety of racetracks benefitting exclusively from slot operations to the detriment of the taxpaying public.  Horsemen have fuelled these protests by their standard ultra-selfish approach of earmarking slot taxes exclusively to purses instead of at least partially to health or senior citizens benefits.  Taxpayers are pressuring Governors to revamp these slot licences and to redirect the taxes elsewhere.  Meanwhile, lazy racetrack directors have simply pocketed the cash in the windfall years and done nothing to improve the racing product or infrastructure (Canada’s Woodbine is a notable exception) so, if the plug is pulled, they’ll be back to a bankrupt square one.

The uncomfortable truth is horseracing’s development isn’t possible without a fundamental restructuring of its finances to make it (including the Tote and Bookmakers) more attractive.  As currently structured, local horseracing will neither flourish nor grow.  Lord have mercy!

Fundamentally, Government has no place in horseracing promotion which must be divested.  Divesting the property would be counter-productive so divestment should proceed along the lines of licensing investors willing to construct a new racetrack.  When that new track is up and running, Caymanas Park can be used by Government for low-cost housing for public servants or whatever.

Strict racing regulation will force private promoters to produce a competitive Tote with a takeout akin to the worldwide norm and to modernize operations so that punters can subscribe to secure websites through which they can obtain the form; place bets; and watch races live.  Bookmakers oughtn’t to be licensed except they make their own book and they could negotiate innovative cooperative arrangements with the new promoters.  Bonuses and incentives to occupational licence holders should be reduced from today’s world highs and be paid to winners only.  There’s more but no space….

Good Luck!

THE TERRIBLE TOUT

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