RACING: Run on OTB accounts; Jersey told to suck it up; Venezuela’s mad for it

racing-otb-jersey-venezuelaBettors can’t withdraw their money fast enough from New York City Off-Track Betting accounts. Hard numbers are hard to come by, but the scuttlebutt is that money has been flowing out of OTB accounts like air out of a deflating balloon. Even if OTB were to somehow find a way to emerge from bankruptcy protection, observers feel the company would have a hard time convincing punters to give them another chance. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, those bettors are going, boy, and they ain’t coming back.

Speaking of New Jersey, the Press of Atlantic City has published a rather scathing editorial suggesting that New Jersey’s horse racing industry has a tenuous grasp on reality. The writer sums up the racing folks’ plea for more government support thusly: horseracing is broke because people don’t go to the track anymore, and because people don’t go to the track anymore, horseracing can’t afford to put up the purses needed to attract the best horses, which in turn means that even less people go to the track, so give horseracing money and everything will be fine.

Mind you, it’s a bit ironic that the writer’s point of view is shaped by his desire to see New Jersey bail out Atlantic City’s casinos instead of New Jersey racing. Nevertheless, it’s clear that New Jersey’s gaming interests are beginning to sense that there’s only room for one charity case in the state’s lifeboat. Small wonder that revenue-starved state politicians are pushing so hard to launch their own online gaming product.

If horseracing is languishing in America (and in the UK), perhaps there are lessons it could learn from Venezuela. In that country, horseracing is the #2 spectator sport behind baseball (but ahead of football). The local Horse Racing Gazette sells 200k copies per week – more than most daily newspapers. Betting is technically illegal but tolerated, both at the track and at bars and restaurants. Attending the aging La Rinconada racetrack is a social event, with bums (asses, not vagrants) filling all 12,500 seats. Significantly, Venezuelans are passionate about the sport. “[Horse racing] is in our blood,” says one avid race fan in attendance. So what does Venezuelan blood have that American blood lacks?