Traditional taxi firms are being upended by Uber. This audacious upstart provides on-demand transportation to people using the Uber App to contact independent-contractor drivers affiliated with the company. Taxi interests, however, have sent out SOS pleas to sympathetic friends in high places, like the mayors of Paris, France and New York City.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio has so far failed in his attempt to limit Uber’s growth in the Big Apple to one percent annually and prominent members of his own Democratic party have opposed his efforts. Uber mounted a public relations campaign that included a coalition of tech-savvy New Yorkers and many members of de Blasio’s key minority constituents. (A large percentage of Uber drivers come from minority groups.)
A bitter de Blasio lashed out after his chastening by comparing Uber to big oil companies and greedy real estate developers…and vowed to fight on to regulate Uber and curb its growth.
Presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton weighed in on the subject of free-lance work by stating:
“Many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing a website … even driving their own car. This on demand or so called ‘gig’ economy is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future,”
Whenever disruptive technologies like Uber imperil old ways of doing things, such reactions are typical and expected. Entrenched interests in quasi-monopolies are always against consumer choice and so are the politicians they help put in office.
Like the taxi business vis-à-vis Uber, pari-mutuel wagering continues to be disrupted by alternative forms of gambling like sports betting, slot machines, poker, and other casino games and, consequently, wagering handle continues its long-term decline. To stimulate a turnaround, pari-mutuel wagering in North America must be disrupted–in terms of takeout percentages–to make it a far more attractive betting proposition.
Yet the retailers of horse-race betting in the United States have stubbornly refused to try significant across-the-board decreases in pari-mutuel takeout percentages (for a protracted period of time to see if they work). By significant takeout reductions, I mean enough to make pari-mutuel betting competitive.
The chief executive of Time Inc. made a candid and ominous observation to the Wall Street Journal (July 28, 2015) about his efforts “to save the company” that could very well have been made about the pari-mutuel industry in the United States: “If we don’t find new revenue streams…it’s a slow and steady death.”
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