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Ramifications For A Racetrack

By Terry Cullipher


We’ve all heard the question, “what’s wrong with the horse racing industry today?” Although you are sure to get a variety of answers to that question, today the answer that comes to my mind is; 


“All the political B.S. has all but killed it.”


The Illinois Racing Board recently allotted Fairmount Park just three days of racing for 2010.  April 27, April 30 and May 1.


Fairmount Park originally was awarded 52 days of live racing - but not without being subject to two conditions that can be viewed on page 12 of the document from the Illinois Racing Board by CLICKING HERE. (THE ALLOTMENT OF THOROUGHBRED AND HARNESS RACING DATES FOR CALENDAR YEAR 2010).


However, after it was all done, the Illinois Racing Board stripped the track of the 52 days and allotted them only 3 days.


In a time when horse racing is begging---I mean ABSOLUTELY BEGGING for new fans, bettors, clients, and let’s not forget youth--- it’s amazingly disappointing for the industry at the Illinois Racing Board’s way of thinking in handling their “dog and pony show“.


Here are just a few questions we have. Why only 3 days? How did this help? Who paid the price? Is this a battle between two people, or the whole Illinois Racing Board and Brian Zander/ Fairmount Park? It may be a bit confusing to some folks, but to put it in simple terms -- if you don’t race enough days so my team can keep insurance, then there will be ramifications.


So who looses here?


Not the Racing Board. Not Fairmount Park -- Brian Zander  kicks back in his chair with his feet propped up on his desk (with flip flops on) smiling at this wonderful deal for this track. Fairmount Park has just become a betting parlor.


The biggest looser here is Illinois.


As much of a financial crisis that this puts horse folks in, and as tough as it may be, these horsemen and women will be forced, for financial reasons, to relocate their horses, operations, and families to other cities, tracks, and training centers -- many of which will be out of state. Some will close their stable operation all together and retire.


The vets, tack shop owners, horse shoers, feed and hay companies, and all of their suppliers will have to change their way business, as they too will be force to relocate. The whole agricultural part of the business will be hit hard. Let us not forget the restaurant, grocery, retailer, and gas revenue that will relocate with these folks. This all means jobs lost. And that mean revenue lost -- revenue that cannot be recovered for the state of Illinois.


One would think, with all the public scrutiny that Illinois has fell under in the past decade with people in state and government offices, that this kind of behavior would be a thing of the past. It is quiet shocking (but not surprising) as we all watch how all this has been handled.


Having said all this, Fairmount Park hasn’t necessarily been the innocent victim here. It is no secret that Brian Zander has been GM of Fairmount Park for over 20 years. And through the years, the track has seen a huge decline in handle and attendance, as well as the number of racing opportunities. Also, let us not forget the “Happy Customer” has also plummeted at the track to an all time low.


However, the careless attitude of track employees seems to be at an all time high.


The General Manager of any track or business deserves credit for the numbers they produce -- whether that is good or bad. The difference in tracks and other businesses is, racetracks (industry wide) seem to fully support and embrace their General Managers--whether their numbers are up or extremely low. Actually, it appears the longer the decline in their numbers, it seems their job security becomes even stronger, unlike other businesses. Let a GM have a continue decline in numbers for even 2 years in other businesses. He or she will most likely be looking for a new address. (That means they’ll be in the market for a new job).


Nevertheless, the situation at hand needs to be addressed. Whether it be contacting the governor's office or by demanding an investigation of how the allotment of dates has been handled. People’s livelihoods are at stake.


In short, the people of Illinois are tired of watching folks in state and government positions, use their power to intimidate and manipulate for their own benefit.


The views contained in this article are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of

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