Having a Blast on the Public’s Dime

The industry’s spin department was in full swing Thursday with a HarnessLink article on Batavia Downs’ (NY) recently-concluded meet. With the headline “Batavia Downs Fared Well in 2022,” you might think the track somehow managed to defy the national reality of a moribund harness industry. Not exactly.

Turns out, even after running 88 more races (though in the same number of days), the all-sources handle (total amount wagered on Batavia races) “was down 6.4% from last year.” But, says Batavia GM Don Hoover, “total wagering on harness racing in the U.S. this year is down 8.4% over 2021, which puts Batavia ahead of the national average.” Well done, sir! Hoover went on to cite the introduction of online sports betting in NY as a significant factor. And he’s right, but all that shows is racing’s (all kinds) continuing inability to compete with other forms of gambling.

Still, however, the horsemen won: “Total purses at Batavia were up 31% from 2021.” How? Well, in addition to holding more races, there is, the article artfully fails to mention, the massive taxpayer subsidization of NY horseracing – hundreds of millions in annual corporate welfare, which comes, I remind, at the expense of schoolchildren. Hoover: “In sum, despite slight [slight?] declines in overall wagering, I am happy with the robust growth shown in racing….” They’re laughing all the way to the bank.

(HW, as part of a broad coalition, is seeking to legislatively overturn those subsidies. The bill numbers will be changing in the new session; we will keep you informed.)

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  1. This reminded of someone posting recently that though Santa Anita had a record handle and attendance on their recent opening day, those numbers have dropped dramatically since. Opening day had 40,000+ people, and since then they’ve had 5,000 and 4,000. Sure sounds all great- then reality hits them. It will, of course, continue to drop. Sports betting just started in my state yesterday – I can’t wait to see how much of an impact it will make.

  2. It seems as though the PRO-RACING PEOPLE love to talk about how their industry is adding so much money (and jobs) to the economy of whichever given state in the USA they are operating in, but so far I have not seen an honest comparison BY THESE SAME PRO-RACING PEOPLE to the number of dollars being poured into the racing industry in their respective states (in the form of government subsidies and government-directed benefits including tax write-offs) to keep them propped up VERSUS the claims made by THESE PRO-RACING PEOPLE that a certain number of dollars (and jobs) is adding to their respective states and boosting the economy in their given state.
    The thing about the horse racing industry is that their industry standard is to start young horses out at 18-months of age and run them at a full gallop on a more or less daily basis by the age of TWO YEARS. This is fundamentally wrong. This is the standard industry practice and it is a violation of ANIMAL WELFARE.
    No person who honestly cares about their horses will force their young, immature, underdeveloped horses to perform as though they were fully developed and matured horses.
    The PRO-RACING PEOPLE in the racing industry have “built” for themselves a reputation that is truly corrupt to the core. The blatant animal cruelty, the blatant corruption in racketeering to manipulate the outcome of races and therefore the betting payouts is a standard part of horseracing.
    Our government should not be rewarding this criminal behavior or any of these criminal acts.

  3. It’s like spending one million dollars on an investment and being proud that your return was $1000. Only in this case, innocent sentient beings are being exploited for that thousand dollars.

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