Vic Zast

From the perspective of being an owner, an industry pioneer in corporate sponsorship, a track president and fan, Vic Zast writes the "Destinations" column for The Blood-Horse. His five-star ratings of international events have shed light on racing in all corners of the globe - from England, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai to Japan.

Vic is a regular contributor to, a columnist for the Illinois Racing News and has written on racing for, National Public radio and The Age, Australia's leading daily.

Vic makes his home in Chicago and lives in Saratoga Springs in August.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Comment of the Week, Johar’s #24

Johar sparred with wmcorrow about what's the over-riding feature of horse racing and made more sense. Here is his Comment of the Week:

Johar says:
18 Aug 2010 at 01:02 pm | #

wmcorrow: I do indeed realise the problem you are referring to, but I disagree in some ways. Racing needs BOTH handicappers and horsemen. Make no mistake, horsemen bet too and many of them bet big amounts. This is not black and white, where horsemen only “like to look at the pretty horses”, and gamblers are the ones funding the sport. Everybody needs to stop fighting their corner and pull together. The professional gamblers I know also love the animal, and know a lot about them. And, as I said, many of the horsemen I know (myself included) are significant handicappers.

Casinos and racetracks are entirely different business models and operate on entirely different wavelengths:
(1) Casinos are all about the destination and customer service. With few exceptions, racing has great sport in poor surroundings. The horse is the draw.
(2) If you lose $100 at the casino, that’s $100 in their pocket. If you lose $100 at the track, the track gets about $6-8 (their portion of the takeout - and that’s if you wager ON track!). This is what allows the casino to put so much money into customer perks and facilities, while operating with very low takeouts on slots that racing can never compete with. Overhead at a racetrack (purses, backstretch etc.) is enormous compared to at a casino.
(3) Racing/handicapping is extremely complicated to a neophyte. Not only is it hard to pick the right horse, it’s hard to bet that horse correctly to maximize return.
(4) To many gamblers, racing is boring. One event every 30 minutes? They’re frustrated by a slow dealer!
(5) Racing has serious and legitimate integrity issues....medications/rogue trainers/jockeys etc.

For these reasons, racing cannot be marketed as only a gambling sport if it is expected to compete with casinos. No serious gambler would tolerate our takeout, let alone our other problems. The horse is our draw. That is what will get people in the doors, and once they get interested and educated, they’ll bet.

One last thing that racing does a poor job of explaining is: racing handicappers are betting against each other. The track genuinely wants you to win, unlike in a casino where in the majority of games you are playing against the house.

I fully understand our need to attract big-time gamblers to our sport. That would help more than anything.....that is why so many states have (or are looking to get) slots. But we can’t compete toe-to-toe with casinos for the reasons above. The horse is our draw, and we must use it.

Written by Vic Zast

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