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Technology in Our World
Published in The California Horseman - August 1991

We can read the number on a license plate of a car from outer space.  The new computers on the F-15 are 50 times stronger than the older versions.  We have discovered that there are 20 billion galaxies in the heavens.  The technology of mankind is streaking forward at an ever increasing rate.

While these scientific wonders are happening, the entertainment and sports industries are streaking forward as well.  The Holyfield-Forman Heavyweight Championship Fight made the two fighters very close to 40 million dollars.   Raghib Ismail signed a contract to play football in Canada for about 24 million dollars.  Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Roger Clemens and Doc Gooden earn vast amounts of money as sports stars.

Entertainers are tremendous earners these days.  Consider that Jack Nicholson earned about 60 million dollars for his role as Joker in Batman.  Michael Jackson signed a one billion dollar multi-year deal with SONY.

Wrestlemania drew the largest pay per view audience ever and just imagine the money being made by wrestling stars like Hulk Hogan.

This brings us to the state of affairs in the hose racing world.  The care and feeding of horses in America is an industry that requires over 50 billion dollars annually to sustain.  Our industry employs a great many people which is good for the economy.

Yet with all this occurring in the world around us, the horse racing world has seemingly missed the boat.  Recently the New York Times and Sport Illustrated fired point blank at the decline of of the racing industry.  The reasons of tax reform, the recession, the war and a host of absurdities are given as reasons for the decline.  In fact, it is the lack of advancement that is responsible for the decline.

It is common knowledge that progress must occur.  We are in the sports entertainment, and gambling business.  These are some of the best growth industries on earth and yet racing is the odd man out.  Let us examine where racing has missed the boat.

Lottery results could have been determined by the results of horse races, rather than ping pong balls.  We have missed the boat by being a part of a nation's lottery system.  It has been said that our national debt might well be settled by wagering.  Horse racing in concert with a lottery system would have been good for all concerned.

Most sports thrive on controversy.  The Detroit Pistons are the bad boys of basketball.  Hulk Hogan must destroy Sergeant Slaughter at Wrestlemania becuase Slaughter is an American traitor.  George Norman represented the senior citizens against Evander Holyfield.  Just the various nicknames of sports figures and teams create controversy and excitement.  Monster of the Midway, the Purple Gang, the Real Deal, the Bad Boys, Macho Madness and Hulkamania, the Rocket, Air Jordan, the Mailman, Dr. J., Arnie's Army, the Big Red Machine and onward, exemplify the media use of nicknames to develop interest in sports figures.

Sports coverage is new and exciting and controversial these days, which is what the public wants..  Television coverage of horse racing has retained a format that has seen little change over the years.  In part, this standard format is responsible for poor television ratings.  If the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame were playing the Miami Hurricanes opposite the Breeders' Cup, television ratings would be terrible for the Breeders' Cup.  Controversy is a veritable necessity these days in sports.  If controversy isn't there, do what other sports do: create it, encourage it, promote it.  In short, make it happen.  There could be, should be, and there actually is tremendous interaction between jockeys, trainers, owners and of course horses.

While Cable Television has provided a market for historical sports films, racing has failed to adequately provide material.  NFL Films, NCAA Basketball, Major League Baseball, Super Bowl, World Series, Rose bowl and many more events are on television while horse racing does little to fill television airways with its rich history.  It was not thtat long ago when the story of Sir Ivor won an award at the Cannes Film Festival.  I developed video preservation of the rivalry of Alydar and Affirmed, the stakes races of Ruffian, Kelso's five victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and more.  Yet with so much rich history and colorful people, we as an industry don't provide adequate sotrries of our won sports legends.  Subjects like Charlie Whittingham's 14 victories in the San Juan Capistrano, Woody Stephen's five straight victories in the Belmont Stakes, the colorful Angel Cordero, Jr., the story of Northern Dancer, and so many thousands of interesting subjects are part of our legacy but they are not developed in quality media material and presented to the public.

We have patted ourselves on the back for the Breeders' Cup, which is a definite step forward, but not made any more progress.  The Kentucky Derby should, by now, have a 20 million dollar purse.  It should certainly be no less rewarding than a championship boxing event.

It is never too late to enter the race for the interest of the sports fans.  We have a stronger foundation to work with than any other sports.  If you stop and compare our sport with other sports, we can easily complete and conquer.  Let's compare us to Basketball, Baseball and Football.  They have owners and we have owners; they have coaches and we have trainers; they have athletes in their players and we have athletes in our jockeys; they have regional stadium locations and we have regional racetrack locations, they have one winner from tow participants and we have one winner from several participants which allows racing to provide a more interesting betting event.  I believe that racing should be presented by the media in a new way that would attract many new fans.

We could easily provide the technology system to arrange for telephone wagering on televised races.  The high cost of OTB could be removed in New York and the betting would increase if this was done by the New York Racing Association.  This new system with some advertising, would earn money, in time rather than cost money.

While boxing and wrestling ant other sports are examining the power of the pay per view market, we could have "bet and view."  We would also have a share of the pay per view market which will reach more that 60 million television sets before the end of the century if we can develop the proper interest in racing.  The plans for a national pick six is already in progress and this could also be incorporated into a television-telephone wagering system.  Team style racing events could also bring new interest to racing. Regional competition set up somewhat like the NCAA Road to the Final Four is another concept that has many possibilities. Worldwide events held in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Berlin could open new vistas to international racing events. which could lead to international wagering.  We must pay the states and the government to do these things, but 20 and 50 million dollar racing events are what must become a reality if we are to survive.

There is a great effort that must be made to produce results but we must make an even greater effort if we are to succeed.  Put very simply, whatever efforts have been made by our racing leader have fallen short so far.  We are behind the other sports and entertainment events in the fight for success.  The entire racing community truly appreciates those who are making efforts to improve things. While it is not the intention to find fault with those individuals, the results speak for themselves.  We are failing while other sports are succeeding.

It is time for our industry leaders to make a renewed effort.  It is time to change the look and attitude of our wonderful and beautiful sport, on television, at the sales and in the wagering areas.  We simply must change with the times.

After Thoughts - April 30, 2002

More than decade has passed since I wrote this article.  Wrestling is bigger than ever.  The Scorpion King with The Rock in the leading role, opened in theatres and set an all time record for an April opening of a movie.  Hulk Hogan is once again the wrestling champion and that branch of sports entertainment is bigger than ever.  Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis will fight for some remarkable sum of money.  Michael Jordan is worth about 400 million dollars.  George Lukas is closing in on being worth 2 billion dollars and the new Star Wars movie is due to open soon.  Sports Cable Channels show entire old entire games.  This area has little racing history while baseball, basketball, football, tennis, hockey, golf and many other sports are showing past great games.

Racing's Internet presence is not competing adequately with competitive websites to equal other sports, and with other forms of entertainment.  Take the time to see for yourself.  Just take a look at some of the movie sites.  We are in a new age and it is still my judgment that we are still not up to par with the rest of sports and entertainment world.  We still do not have the controversy that is so present in the sports world.

As I typed this article, the problems seem to continue to plague our industry.  The NTRA is now around but we are yet to make a serious dent against our competition.  We continue to race for about one billion dollars in purse money against at the racetrack costs of about two and a half billion dollars and that does not include the purchase price or breeding costs of the horse who race. We look primarily at a band aid for an amputated limb in the form of slot machines at the racetracks.  Please understand that I am not saying anything against video lottery terminals.  Frankly it is a strong move in getting in step with the rest of the world and should really help raise purses.  However, with all of the great minds in the world today, it would seem we could certainly explore stronger additional remedies to our problems. There has still been no increase in the purse of the Kentucky Derby.

As Dennis Miller says, "but these are just my opinions, I could be wrong."

February 21, 2003

Now we look to Video Lottery Terminals as our salvation.  Each state sees the VLT as the way to increase purses and it will, but only for a while.  Once gambling in this format is in every state, the natural competition between the states will deliver far lower revenues than forecasted from this contemporary form of gambling.

We must also consider the that virtual reality combined with increased bandwidth for hand held devices which can deliver video on a mini screen, is also going to have a strong effect on at track gambling within the next decade and probably much sooner than we currently anticipate.

Of course, the future will have many surprises for us because, as our great creative minds are sure to devise, retinal projected virtual reality will arrive soon.  There will many gaming devises that will divert revenues to sources throughout the world.  The gambling instinct of man (and woman) will be available as they say, twenty four - seven, which means every day at all times and you will be able to carry your own casino around with you.  It actually already exists with online quotes and sports scores and a host of information transmission via wireless cell phone.  In twelve to twenty four months the video camera cellular phone will replace the the still photographic phone and we will continue to prograss from that point.

Our best product is the horse and the race and our sport.  The movie Seabiscuit to be release at the end of July, 2003 will once again allow us to see how exciting racing can be and just as the exquisite film productions of Phar Lap and The Black Stallion demonstrated to us in the past.  Our best bet to get our big share of the public interest is to expertly broadcast our sport for what it really is, the most exciting game played outdoors.

Once again. as Dennis Miller says, "but these are just my opinions, I could be wrong."