No matter how the racing industry tries to dress them up, “Instant Racing Machines” – aka “Historical Racing Machines” – at racetracks are, in both purpose and result, the exact same thing as slot machines at those tracks – there to subsidize (prop up) the actual horseracing taking place. These machines are directly responsible for horseracing returning to Virginia (Colonial Downs) in 2019 and keeping tracks alive in various other states, including Oregon.
A recent article in The Oregonian notes racing’s decline in that state, a decline that eventually led to the 2019 shuttering of Oregon’s sole major track, Portland Meadows. If horseracing is to survive (be resuscitated) in Oregon, subsidization is a must, an inconvenient truth for most American tracks. Handicapper/columnist Jonathan Stettin: “Racing is on life support. The decline in fan base has led to an environment where the tracks that survive and thrive are the ones with casinos, slots, other unconnected sources of revenue.” “Unconnected” being the operative word.
Now, the focus is on Grants Pass, a fairgrounds track being revamped by coffee mogul Travis Boersma. According to the piece, Boersma plans on spending some $25 million by the time he’s done. He’s doing this, of course, because of the promise of those “machines.” There’s oodles of cash to be made there – in the racing not so much: “Boersma doesn’t expect the actual horse races to make money. But he’s got a plan to cover any losses: The main attraction at the Flying Lark will be 250 betting terminals known as ‘historic horse racing’ machines.”
Here’s the thing, and with apologies and sympathies to the anti-gambling advocates, we at HW have no philosophical issue with gambling – including “historical racing” – just the kind that occurs on the backs of enslaved animals. So, I propose, why not “historical racing” in lieu of, rather than in addition to, live racing? In addition to means artificially propping up a business that has no business being in business. In lieu of would mean the end of the abuse and killing of horses, and as an added bonus, more cash going back to the state for education and the like. That’s a win-win for the two most innocent, vulnerable members of our society: children and animals.