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Emerald Downs

Muckleshoot Indian Tribe

Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association

Washington Horse Racing Commission

President's Message - July 9, 2010

Greetings from your WHBPA:

Good news, bad news.

First bit of good news is that due to travel and travel-related bronchitis on my part, I have not felt like sitting down and writing much, so I am late with getting out my July message. I am guessing that you didn’t notice that I was late…

Second bit of good news, since I am not feeling too well, this will not be too long, at least in a comparative sense. (This bit of good news is particularly good news to a couple of my vocal readers that feel I cause them to spend a few too many minutes reading my drivel).

Closing out the good news, summer has finally arrived. The weather is beautiful, too hot in fact, but hard to come up with many excuses to not get out and do something (unless you are feeling poorly…).

The bad news is that our industry continues to struggle. The economy contributes, without question, but we have fundamental competition issues that need to be addressed. Emerald Downs does its part; while its advertising budget is down a bit this year, they keep the website going, send regular emails out to those on their email listings promoting the track, send regular mailings out with coupons and specials to get people to the races and events, and do their best to get “butts in the seats.” While they have shifted from a daily replay show on FSN, I have heard favorable comments about the Saturday four hour show that took its place. Radio ads and TV ads are familiar and constant – I believe they are doing their part to get the word out. The poor and cold weather has certainly hurt attendance and handle; there can be no question of that, but there is a fundamental challenge that we face that we need to address.

We need to collectively educate, stimulate, and invigorate anyone we see or meet as to the beauty of the horse, the athletic genius that is a thoroughbred at work, and the skill, courage, and quality of our jockeys. We need people to come to the races just to “see ‘em go!”

Once we have got them to the track, we need to help explain to them how to bet, how to read a Racing Form, and we need to provide a positive message. Racing has its warts, and to the extent they come up, we need to speak about those issues as positively as we can. But it is important to know and to point out that in racing “the fix” is not in. People need to understand that casino games are all fixed, by their very nature, against the player. Only incredible luck, catching the largest of lottery winnings, can assure someone of being a winner at traditional “house odds” gaming. I am one hell of a fine black jack player, once winning well over a thousand dollars each night over eight straight nights in Las Vegas, but I have put it all back, and then some. Only short but good stretches can make someone lucky enough to win at the “one-armed bandits” or the tables – and those wins, based upon the fix that is in, will always end – the casino has rules that assure it will always win in both the short and long run against the herd of players there. Those games in fact are fixed to assure that the odds can be neutered in the short run, but never beat in the long run.

Horseracing is different. The house really doesn’t care who wins and who loses. It takes a “cut” to put on the show (the facility has to be paid for, the employees have to be paid, the purses have to be funded, the regulators need to be funded), but “the house” is otherwise indifferent as to who wins, and how much. Bettors take their turns trying to be smarter than the other guy, or appreciative of odds that they feel are fair for the risk that they are about to take. We need to make novices and friends and family understand that our game is not rigged against them – “the house” only wins if there is enough wagering activity to pay for its facility, employees, the purses and the regulators.

We are falling behind, and WE, not Emerald Downs, not the NTRA, not the Breeders Cup, not the guy next to you, but us, each and all of us, need to address the ebb tide.

I am sure that you have hit on friends and family in the past. Maybe this season, maybe last week. First, keep it up. Second, expand it. Talk it up with people at the grocery store, in line at the bank, while strolling through Costco. Ask them if they have ever seen a tremendous 115 pound athlete sit on top of another athlete, the second one weighing 1,100 pounds. Ask them if they have ever seen the “Seabiscuit” movie and if they felt the excitement of the stretch run. Encourage them to come out and experience it live and Emerald Downs. This fall, the new “Secretariat” movie will be coming out, and a new series on HBO will be coming out. Encourage people to watch these; I believe they will be positive
and help with the allure of the track. We need racing’s most ardent supporters to support racing, and to do all they can to expand it. And the best way to support racing is at Emerald Downs, making wagers with the cashiers or with the auto-tote machines. While it is easier some nights to bet from home on the computer, the impact to “the house” is much, much less, and much, much more is needed.

We need you. You need you. Let’s get to it.

Best of success to you. See you at the races.

Ron Maus

If you have comments or questions, I can be reached at ron@buffalostables.com.

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