Look, those of you who religiously come to this site week after week I know are horse racing fans as am I.
But the fact is, that to most people, horse racing these days means the triple crown and Breeders Cup. And that’s it.
Sad. But true. At least in the U.S.A.
Horse racing venues all over the country are closing…or at least threatening to, and that bothers me greatly.
Recently in Vegas, the Global Gaming Expo addressed horse racing’s declining popularity, producing a model for the Sport of Kings that keys into the poker explosion of the past 13 years.
Problem is, ONLY 40 people showed up. Not many for a room that holds 180.
What they said is…basically, the blueprint for recovery is there.
But it has to be sold.
“There is a big disconnect between watching horse racing and understanding it,” said Michael Calderone, CEO of Horse Racing Simulation.
“We are in the age of video games. Education and technology can do for horse racing what it did for poker in 1997, what Madden did for the NFL and what took NASCAR into mainstream America.”
Calderone believes history does repeat itself and his statistics are revealing.
“The average age of horse players is 50 and over, which is similar to what poker used to be,” Calderone said. “Both are social events that need a venue to educate people on how to play to win. We found that 63 percent of people age 36 were playing video games compared to 50 percent watching movies in the last month.”
Tony Fontaine, president of Pro Pick Racing, said horse racing needs a better way to make money than just adding slot machines to tracks.
“Slot machines bring in money, but haven’t increased the handle,” Fontaine said. “Horse racing is a difficult sport to watch on television. We don’t know what to watch. Who knew about Blame before the Breeders’ Cup or which horses and jockeys to follow? People at tracks play slots, they’re not betting horses.”
So how does this change? Enter the video game and cable TV market.
“HRTV and TVG have done a great job, but each is a single channel,” said Todd Roberts, president of Roberts Communication Network. “RTN will be offering 80 channels that will show all the races at every major track in the country as well having channels for harness racing, greyhounds, jai-alai and handicapping shows 24 hours a day.”
Hey, people laughed at ESPN when they launched a 24-hour sports programming channel and look where it’s gone.