Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard recently (November 2, 2015) had an article in the magazine titled “Pro Sports’ Achilles’ Heel” in which he identified and discussed matters that threaten the future of the four major North American professional leagues.   Mr. Karlgaard is correct when he says:  “Great sports franchises and coaches can teach us a lot—as can the worst ones.”

In his view, the NFL “is rife with life-shortening injuries and performance-enhancing drugs,” and has a number of well-known meddling and incompetent owners.   The NBA , with a season beginning in October and ending in June, “has too many games–82 in a regular season, which means more than 100 for those teams making the finals.”

America’s supposed pastime, Major League Baseball,  “offers scant appeal to Millennials” with long and drawn-out games and flagging participation by African-Americans.  Finally, in the NHL “you can often injure the other team’s star player with little consequence.”

This article provoked thoughts about horse racing in North America.  First, the sport/business has a lot of work to do in regards to how it is perceived by the public.  Uniform medication rules and testing need to be instituted across the various jurisdictions in order to improve the integrity of the product.   Second, aftercare for retired racehorses is a humane issue that requires ongoing attention.  Third, larger field sizes are desirable in driving up pari-mutuel handle.

But racing’s Achilles’ Heel is an uncompetitive wagering product owing to takeout percentages that repel many bettors.  This deterrent has not been addressed by racetrack owners and managers who are evidently unwilling to at least attempt to test the effects of significantly lower takeout on betting revenue.

Whether the professional sport leagues can maintain their respective current level of popularity for the next half century or more is a great unknown.   How, for example, does one make football or hockey safer?

As for American horse racing, an absolute certainty is that the future is decidedly bearish unless the industry dramatically improves its image, promptly enhances the integrity of the betting product, and offers bettors a far better deal on pricing.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business