Monday, January 17, 2011 - by Carol Hodes

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Of all the advancements in computer technology, I would like to thank the engineer who came up with the “undo” option that is available as part of most software applications.


I know there are many times that I want what I erased or when I have inadvertently deleted. 


Too bad there is not an undo key in life – or business.


As a fan of horse racing, I would like to go back to the 1970s and 1980s and undo the lotteries and casinos that chipped away at our business and sucked in our gamblers. 


The small fish flocked to the lotteries and slot machines.  The big fish were lured by table games and extravagant perks.


The forces to push for these changes, especially in New Jersey, were unstoppable. 


I know when I worked at Meadowlands Racetrack, initially we would not accept advertising from the casinos nor cross-promote with them. Why would we want to hand our gamblers over to them? As it was, we sold lottery tickets at a mutuel window; we were both state agencies so there was no choice.


Now, with the benefit of hindsight, maybe the industry and the legislators missed an opportunity to create a healthy synergy among all the gambling options. 


Racing should have protected itself legislatively. Whether that would have been possible is doubtful, but the support for one industry that will harm another is still at issue in the state. 


I was curious as to whether any of this was a concern in the 1970s when this was coming to fruition in New Jersey. This past week I spoke to two members of the Meadowlands management team who were there when the track opened and neither recalls any discussion of protecting the track’s business from other forms of gambling.


It makes sense. Who would have thought a once-a-week lottery could do any harm? It used a horse race to determine the winning lottery numbers. How much could that harm the thriving racetracks?


The lottery industry now has scores of drawings, scratch-offs and other games, including those that cross state boundaries. The odds of winning the mega-drawings are astronomical. But who does not have a dollar and a dream?


The casinos in Atlantic City lured gamblers with bus rides, rolls of quarters and groaning buffets. When the tracks finally were able to get the legislation approved to offer rewards programs, the damage was already done and the rebates could not match the offshore companies which do not have the overhead of maintaining a track, grandstand and stable area.


Are there answers that will restore racing to prominence as a popular gaming option? I do not know.


It is, however, too late to “undo” what was done. 


Editor's Note: The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

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The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

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