Wednesday, July 25, 2012
What We Have Here Is an Opportunity to Communicate
An on-line petition is being circulated requesting the U.S. Senate to establish a National Horse Racing Commission (NHRC).
The driving force behind this effort is Sean Kerr, who is listed as the Interim Executive Director, Bladerunners: National Horse Racing Commission Movement.
The following passage appears in the petition:
"The purpose of establishing NHRC is to protect all those that are involved in this sport. That includes owners and trainers. Many trainers come under scrutiny for violations, where in another state it may not be so. This causes confusion among ranks and damage to their reputations and livelihood. This contradiction within the system causes failure for viability and protection. This must change.
With a NHRC in place all jurisdictions will fall under the same rules; it will level the playing field. We believe that fairness in business and all transactions has the utmost value to bring the sport of horse racing into a modern model of sportsmanship and clean competition...”
My concern here is the possibility that racing's customers are once again being left out of the equation. A friend of mine closer to the situation has assured me that "level playing field" and "fairness in ... all transactions" is intended to encompass wagering as well as racing, but as my mother always told me: "Be sure to get it in writing."
The Senators and the witnesses attending the recent hearing on "Medication and Performance Enhancing Drugs in Horse Racing" may actually support the concept of uniform rules of racing and wagering with harsh penalties for violators that are enforced consistently, but there is little uniformity of opinion as to what those rules and penalties should be.
Banning race day medication has become an issue as contentious as Obamacare. "Put the horse first" may be the rallying cry of reformers, but "make the horse finish first" is the cheater's mantra.
Like some of the owners and trainers in control of racing now, there are some horseplayers who are also vested in the status quo. For them, "No news is good news" and the best change is none at all. It's the little guys among owners, trainers, and players -- forced to compete on playing fields tilted toward deep pockets -- that need to be organized to collectively influence a correction through strength in numbers. The petition authors may not appreciate how much all have in common.
While some racing participants seek Federal intervention, in New York State the Governor has decided to intervene in the operation of the New York Racing Association based on takeout "irregularities" that involved overcharging takeout and underpaying winning bettors by a total of $8.5 M over a 15-month period. So far no petitions have appeared in NYRA's defense, even though their loudest critics were those in charge of oversight bodies charged with preventing such fiascos.
If the wayward Hayward was the monkey that spoke no evil (but keyed it), then the ornery Sabini and the angry Megna were the state-appointed sapiens who neither saw nor heard any: The former claimed it was simply an oversight, but the others demonstrated spectacularly that they didn't provide any.
Indeed, this joint commission to control the criminally clueless - if not the crooked and corrupt -- were caught napping on the job.
Consider: Was the situation scandalous? Yes. Did it involve betting? Yes. Did winning bettors lose money they should not have? Yes, but the practice of rebating high-volume bettors at the expense of players without such subsidies has the same effect (and more than 1% worth); a fact ignored by racing regulators and operators for the benefit of the perpetrators.
Enabling professional gamblers to "Beat the System" while destroying the game is the real betting scandal.
I tried to find the member of the news media who first tied that term to the thwarted takeout termination uncovered finally, if not snappily, by DiNapoli. Googling '"betting scandal" NYRA' proved inconclusive, but it did reveal the term's most frequent repeater, "reporter" Adam Sichko of "The Busness Review" at bizjournals.com.
This prolific columnist's audience appears widened by references and links in "The Capital Business Blog," "World News, Inc.," "buzzbox.com," "Sports Betting Review," and others. After reading his related columns in chronological order, the uncharitable among us might equate his unquestioning and unchallenging articles on the State's takeover of NYRA to administration press releases.
Whatever his agenda, Mr. Sichko's coverage appears to have played a significant role in promoting the public's acceptance of the Administration's actions against the association.
Regarding new NYRA board appointments, only the "NY Post" seems to have a source within the administration. Frederic Dicker reported that the existing board and executives will continue until the end of the Saratoga meet.
"The source said Cuomo's office has been flooded with experienced racing hands interested in being appointed to the board. State Operations Director Howard Glaser is coordinating the appointment process," and that "the governor's office has heard from about 200 experienced racing executives interested in that post."
Also, according to the source, "We're getting interest from people around the country, and the selection won't be limited to New Yorkers."
"These are people interested in becoming part of the New York family, and it may make sense for us to have expertise from people from other states."
"The hope is to bring entirely new blood onto the board, people who perhaps know more about horse racing outside New York rather than the current group that's been very insular."
"There are some former executives from Churchill Downs [in Kentucky], as well as other prominent racing venues."
One can only hope the above reflects the Governor's intent to work cooperatively with other jurisdictions to develop model rules with best practices from all venues for conducting racing and wagering in New York; one that other states would also be willing to adopt in lieu of Federal intervention.
If Mr. Kerr were to read this, perhaps his organization could persuade Congress to mandate the formation of an NHRC board as a rotating representative body from racing states to facilitate joint action toward uniformity with funding from those states.
Like the UN Security Council, there could be permanent members; CA, FL, LA, KY, and NY, as well as multiple rotating member tiers completing [as an example] a nine-member board, with three members from AK, DE, IL, MD, NJ, and PA, and one from AZ, IN, MA, MN, MS, NM, OH, OR, TX, VA, WA, WV, etc. All states would be kept in the loop for input and ratification.
When the model is proven workable, the Federal government could then use the IHRIA to mandate its implementation in all states with enforcement by a commissioner who would serve at the pleasure of the NHRC board.
Once the Federal government is willing to act, it should also make it legal for adult residents of any state to wager on-line -- at least in the privacy of one's home -- on races at any racetrack at a direct and effective takeout rate which is the same for all pari-mutuel pool participants