Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plan B

Oh, the excitement! To think the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is a mere week away – next Friday and Saturday! But before that, there’s Thirsty Thursday at Rio Mambo with $2.99 margarita specials! But before that, there’s mid-term election on Tuesday!

So first things first: there’s some important politics to discuss, most notably here in Texas, and the hopes and dreams and visions of a 2011 Texas Legislature that will embrace slots!

It’s no secret that the ailing Texas horse racing industry would like to “expand the footprint of gaming” to “generate more revenue for the state and raise purse levels to improve the quality of racing.” So once again, the horse racing industry and horsemen associations are firing up the gambling lobby and painstakingly devising their plans as follows:

Plan A: Slots
Plans B: see Plan A

Well, it’s no secret there’s a lot of opposition to expanding the “footprint of gaming” in Texas Legislature. And our gun-totin’-coyote-killin’ Governor doesn’t support it either (read: veto). So, it would be in the best interest of the horse racing industry to devise an improved and more palatable Plan B.

And I’m here to help.

I have assembled a modest list of potential Plan B’s, all of which could generate more revenue for horse racing, as well as for the state. And all these proposals are VLT-free!

Plan B-1: Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW, or Account Wagering). Texas is the second largest state in size and population. 268,820 square miles. And there’s only 8 7 places where you can legally place a parimutuel wager. It’s 2010: There are iPhones, iPads, TiVo, direct deposit, electronic transfers, FIOS, video streaming, Skype, Toll Tags, debit and credit cards, etc. The last time I paid cash at a Sonic was June 2008. If I can [painfully] watch Cliff Lee get shelled by the Giants on a 30 minute delay courtesy of my DVR, then I should be able to wager on any race at any time while I’m at home, in my pajamas, doing laundry. It’s a no-brainer.

Individuals have griped about the Texas Lottery; it hasn’t lived up to expectations and has not provided the promised mega-funding. Well, here in the ADW model, Texas provides a controlled (read: Texas monopoly) internet betting exchange and enjoys their chunk of commissions on winning tickets. The racing industry supplies the product. It’s ridiculously easy money.

And Texas sells. TexasBet, TexBet, LoneStarWager, or something to that effect. I’d sign up. “Remember the Alamo!” and “That’s the way baseball go!”

Plan B-2: Strategically Placed Toll Road (SPTR. Or SPaToR. Oh, well, I’m workin’ on some kind of clever acronym). I hear the Texan Battle Whine over and over: “Texans pour into neighboring states to enjoy casino gambling. Texas is losing millions of dollars.” Well, one thing that Texas has been enjoying and implementing over the years is The Toll Road. It seems that every time a new road or express lane is constructed, there is a toll holding its hand. And the fees increase. However, Texans and their beloved motor vehicles just continue going about business (we all have Toll-Tags, which is nothing more than ADT – Advanced Deposit Toll – because we don’t really handle money … see Plan B-1). Anyway, I have provided in a schematic below, where the state of Texas could strategically place toll booths:

Of note, one would be in El Paso going into Sunland Park, NM (casino); toll booth on I-35 North going into Oklahoma (casino); and a toll booth on I-20 East into Shreveport, LA (many casinos). The funds generated from these toll plazas would be dispersed among highway maintenance, education, horse industry, SPCA of Texas, the Governor’s hairdresser’s annual gratuity, and the establishment of The Culinary Institute of the Cooking Impaired in Blum, Texas. An annual surplus would be expected.

Plan B-3: Lower the age restriction on gambling. “Texans pour into neighboring states to enjoy casino gambling” and so forth. Would you like to know what else New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana have in common? The legal age to gamble is 18. The legal age to gamble in Texas is 21. So let’s amend the Texas Battle Whine: “18, 19, and 20-year-old Texans pour into neighboring states to enjoy casino gambling …” These folks are adults. They earn a paycheck and they aren’t allowed to enjoy gambling – even pari-mutuel wagering – in Texas. Think of the notable military bases here in Texas, like Fort Bliss in El Paso, a block away from Sunland Park and Casino. Don’t you think these young soldiers would enjoy a day at the racetrack on their day off, versus sitting in the NCO Club listening to the same ol’ tunes from Led Zeppelin? Think about it: Lone Star Park offers free general admission on Thursdays for military personnel. Well, that would mean a whole lot more if they could entice the younger crowd. And instead of UT Alumnae Night, where everybody present graduated between 1964 and 1977, they could offer UT Night – free admission and dollar drafts with student ID. College students would have more fun betting $1 exactas and dime superfectas – but there would be a helluva handle.

Plan B requires a little creativity, a little guile. Don’t risk all your money on just one horse – this upcoming Texas Legislature session needs a good “saver” bet to aid the horse industry.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October Occupato

Horse racing?!? Breeders' Cup?!? Kind of forgot about that stuff.

Needless to say, my usual October dalliance with impending Breeders' Cup hoopla has been momentarily voided. My time and attention is currently occupied on an unusual anomaly: Texas Rangers playing baseball in October.

Notably, this distraction has wreaked havoc somewhat in my Horse Racing World; it is a sport and/or hobby that requires constant attention and observation, otherwise I'm completely discombobulated.

There are racing stars that are a given: Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road, Looking At Lucky. But recent Breeders' Cup chatter brings up other names that, as a fan, I should recognize and get a thrill: Harmonious, Joshua Tree, Espoir City. Who??? If I didn't take a brief moment or two this morning to read Steve Haskin or other some other turf writer, I would've have thought they were a trio of artists that played at the Kerrville Folk Festival.

Although I may be [temporarily] clueless is not the point. The issue is that to really know and love and appreciate and get really really excited about the impending Breeders' Cup, it requires serious homework and devotion by racing fans. If I'm already feeling somewhat uninformed of the star-power featured in this year's Breeders' Cup, how does the occasional fan and horseplayer feel? Will they care that this is a championship? Or will it be just a really good betting opportunity? And maybe, just maybe, this could be an example of some of the troubles that is plaguing the industry? I mean, it takes some effort to keep up with all the players, and a lot of us lazy slugs just don't wanna do it ... or we're distracted by other things.

Well, I best get crackin' on Who's Who in the Breeders' Cup or else I'll have to rely solely on the Magic Beer Bottle.

And by the way, whatever happened to Rachel Alexandra?? (Just kidding ... I'm not that clueless!)