Instant Racing works much like a video Bingo machine does. It is an electronic gaming system that lets a player wager on replays of past horse races. To make it as new/fair/blind as possible, all of the names and other identifiers are omitted from the videos. Instant Racing machines possess a distinct likeness to a machine that has been popular for quite some time now by way of displaying the player’s results using spinning wheels.
The Red Mile in Kentucky has instant racing machines
In actuality, you are betting on a dead horse. It isn’t funny either-in any sense. This dead horse has (sadly) become more profitable and more popular than the living and breathing ones that real race tracks are intended for. Horses stored on servers are cheaper to maintain than caring for the real thing, proving yet again how simulated lives and experiences have taken preference, and for some even taken over the need for the real thing.
From a purely business standpoint it makes sense, as long as you are on the outside looking in on the horseracing industry. It has been the perfect storm for the horseracing industry. Following an economic downturn, compounded by an aging industry stuck with rising costs, and the availability of technology to compete with actual experiences, horseracing definitely is not what it used to be.
Keeneland is also getting in on the action
The cost of caring for horses, including housing, transport, training, and veterinary are increasing, as are the purses and prizes for other forms and mediums of gambling.
Plug It In and Go
The success of Instant Racing has come with its own unique set of circumstances. It goes without saying that the detriments linked to horse racing tracks give it a boost, but its timing has been uncanny, as well.
By design or by accident, Instant Racing has taken everything expensive and difficult about horse racing, put it into a box, plugged it into a wall and allowed people to make (or lose) money off of it. It has created so much revenue that Kentucky went as far as amending its definition of parimutuel betting in order to not feel so guilty about allowing people to bet and win money off of dead people and animals.
A blueprint of the upcoming instant racing complex
Although the amenities that go along with spending time at the track, like the horses, the grounds, the whole atmosphere is absent in a machine like Instant Racing, the low amount required to place a bet (a nickel) and the high frequency of races is such that gamblers do not miss the fleshy elements of a true day at the races. Instant Racing is pure profit. The results are already decided. It is nothing short of recycled gambling; part of the whole “new to you” movement, which is certainly unique to the gambling and horse racing industry. It would take a few minutes to think of another industry with such a large customer base that would not be outraged and complain over having to watch or consume old content…and pay to do so.
A typical machine
The strategy itself seems awkward, the hope that betting on dead horses will promote live horse racing and bring in more visitors intrigued by watching and gambling on the real thing. Instant Racing, however, makes live races a liability. This so-called historical horse racing offers gamblers a more efficient, faster, accessible, and polished alternative to the real thing.
It is a bit strange to listen to people get into an uproar over the ethical treatment of gambling, but it is creating some controversy over what exactly Instant Racing is. Proponents of Instant Racing believe it is parimutuel gambling and a faster, more frequent way to win or lose money.Those opposed to it claim these are poorly disguised bingo or otherwise automated machines profiting from a loophole not blocked by horse racing laws specific to the states where the legality is questioned.
Kentucky is at the forefront of instant racing’s legalization
A Sign of the Times
Just as reality television became popular because of its inexpensive production costs and the almost assurance that somebody would be shameless enough to watch “real” people interact, the rationale and thinking behind Instant Racing presents similarities. Both ideas are absurdly simple, the kind of ideas that might make you feel uncomfortable to say out loud. On the surface, these are dumb and unimaginative notions. Who would want to watch regular people on television?! Who would want to watch old videos of horse races?!
On-screen view of a race
Apparently, the answer is everyone. Solutions to problems like boredom or low cash flow used to require new and original ideas. These days, old is the new “new” and “original” is programming from a network that doesn’t run infomercials after midnight any longer. On a serious note, peoples jobs and livelihoods are on the line. race tracks that are still operating are arguably doing so because there are not many others still around to compete with; almost, but not yet, on par with novelty attractions.
Historical Horse Racing is Making History
There are those who believe that Instant Racing is going to save the horse racing industry, but very few people within the industry itself are saying that. It’s more likely to come out of the mouth of casino folk with lips curled into a cheshire cat-like grin.
The forces behind machines like Instant Racing claim they will share revenue with a desperately in need horse racing industry, but in reality, business is about eliminating the competition, not funding it, so what is there for the gambling industry to gain from spreading the wealth other than prolonging the inevitable dissolution of horse racing as we know it.
Television contracts with large networks like NBC, which televises the Triple Crown events, will allow the casual viewer/fan of horse racing to believe that horse racing is right where it always has been, in a warm and cozy paddock. Unfortunately, televised events like this are just window dressing veiling the harsh reality of an industry past its prime.
Portland Meadows has just given the OK
The tracks and paddocks that are still holding races and events probably will not be able to hold on much longer, and the land on which races were once held will become next sprawling casino where the only horse racing to be wagered on will be through Instant Racing. It is an inconvenient indictment of the world we are living in, where life feeds on life, and traditions fall by the wayside and makes progress seem quite overrated.
History Will Repeat Itself
You cannot help but think the idea for Instant Racing was created by the wrong people, and if horse racing could still be successful if games like these were applied differently. At the risk of offering up a pun, historical horse racing has become the horse racing industry’s Trojan Horse.
“Glinda the Good” is history. But would you know it?
Under a friendly and harmless facade, historical horse racing has placed itself inside the industry, and has now attacked from the inside out, leaving traditional race fans shocked and bewildered that horses are responsible for destroying the legacy and institution they helped to create.
Simulcasting, which had been horse racing’s only bright spot in an otherwise bleak forecast, is the closest thing to historical horse racing. Both have quick action, unfortunately, it appears Instant Racing is winning the battle for wallets and purses.
Using a platform like this to bet on horses does not nurture an interest in live horse racing amongst the most important age bracket, the younger generation. If anything, historical horse racing reinforces what a generation raised on clicking and email holds sacred; immediate results.
Nothing is easier or more satisfying than seeing the results of a wager in as many clicks as seconds. In fact, with Instant Racing, it is not even necessary to watch the entire race-you can simply click to find out who won the race…again. Horse racing is sleeping with a ghost, to be sure.
The ghost of horse racing past is only as far away as that gambling machine that is constantly mistaken for an ATM. The horses and jockeys from previous decades are seemingly pulling double shifts, supporting their own legacy and at the same time trying to save the ones following in their footsteps
It may have seemed like a good idea as a means to win back gamblers lost to the explosion of casinos in the past several years to allow for casino games and the feel of a casino by building what is called a “racino” to replace lost revenue has done anything but help save horse racing tracks.
Some revenue has been generated to improve the tracks, fields, viewing areas, and general infrastructure, but it may be all for naught, as recent studies show that attendance at the tracks has been in decline and incorporating “racinos” has failed to stop or even stall that trend.
What’s more, the creation of a quasi-casino atmosphere at race tracks has done the polar opposite of what it was intended for. Horse racing fans and gamblers have been turned off by the additional distractions and clientele that casinos attract. race tracks and horse racing, much like commercial air travel, is no longer what it used to be.
That air of glamor and mystery is gone, replaced with an attitude of getting things done quicker and for less money. It is a wonderful idea in theory, but as any person who has flown in the last five or ten years has figured out, the reality is far less shiny and happy. The bottom line drives everything, and anything that doesn’t streamline the function of a business is the next thing to be eliminated.
The bad news for race tracks is apparently there is something even better than the real thing-in more ways than one. Historical horse racing is cost-effective, time efficient, cheaper than housing and maintaining flesh-and-bone horses, and most importantly, that much easier than watching a live race. It is a painful truth to confront, without a doubt.
Regardless, sitting back and watching isn’t a luxury the industry has. Once Instant Racing becomes significantly more profitable than real, live races, there will be no upside or sustainability for the industry to keep moving forward.