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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The White Elephant in the Room

One of my favorite episodes of the Flintstones growing up was "The Gambler" epidsode. Freddy, a compulsive gambler in his younger days, had been cured through psychiatric consultation, until paperboy Arnold tempts him with a bet in a game of marbles. When the Flintstones' furniture begins to mysteriously disappear, Barney is dispatched to investigate Fred's marble games behind locked doors. The famous "bet-bet-bet-BET-BET" line was born and after some hard discussions with Barney he comes to his senses and confesses to Wilma. Even at an early age we were being coached about the evils of gambling, I would surmise that only the Wall Street guys missed the episode.

This article from the Cornell Daily Sun written by Tony Manfred, indirectly hit on a topic I have espoused here numerous times, that investing in ("betting on") race horses is no different than playing the stock market, although it receives a different and mostly dirty connotation. The witty Manfred eschews the following:

"If I bet $8,000 that the Patriots will beat the Dolphin and the Patriots lose I’ll be labeled an idiot, a degenerate, a sinful shmuck with a psychological addiction. But Mr. Atwater loses $8 billion and gets a pass because he throws these hallow words (illiquid, bundling, etc.) at us. Screw that. Hell, I can explain to you why the Dolphins beat the Patriots after the fact but that doesn’t mean Caesar’s should give me my money back and I should be pitied. It’s gambling.
But America’s a tricky place. We afford great prestige to those who gamble on money while simultaneously preaching that the act of gambling is not only wrong but immoral."

Here, here my good man. The article goes on to list the Pennsylvania Department of Health's criteria for defining a pathological gambler (of which if you hit five of ten you are a winner!). I enjoyed how Manfred lays it on these "I-bankers" who have gambled away millions, no different "than the dirty drunk guy at the end of the bar yelling at the TV, or the college kid found knifed to death by his bookie, or Keanu Reeves in ‘Hardball." Well, at least he didn't mention degenerate horseplayer, but you get the drift.

I remember when I started my interest in racing, that I received a lot of funny looks by my friends, co-workers and even partners. And when I hung my Ron Turcotte-signed Secretariat Belmont picture in my office, one even challenged whether I should display something of that nature, "being a CPA and all." Pish posh. The stigma is on our game and it will be difficult to get it off. Now, I'm not a big player by any stretch of the imagination, and nor do I profess to be. I follow the big races, the NYRA meets (more heavily focused on Saratoga), and when I go to the track, I have a $100 limit (not counting the triple crown or BC when I will increase it to $250. But I budget that as entertainment money. I bet small exactas and WP bets when I play, but nothing major. I have a twinspires account, but that is useful for race replays and obtaining free PP's, in addition to convenience. For example, on Belmont Day, I could bet from my seat and not have to deal with any of the long lines.

I love to handicap races and learn more about the game and its cherished history. Does that tarnish me as a horse racing fan and small time horseplayer and put me in the pathological gambler category? Of course not. But does someone think I am, who doesn't have all the facts about what a great sport this is? I just wish we could get the white elephant out of the room.

Some fellow bloggers that are trying to change the way folks think and how the industry operates have just returned from Las Vegas and the NTRA marketing summit. Here is a nice media release from the Thoroughbred Times that summarizes their presentation nicely.

1 Comment:

Handride said...

You are spot on. Image is everything, and i think the higher ups get that. keep on keeping on, don't get bullied, w/ blogs like ours we're making the sport look good.


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