As many of us have learned from recent media reports Montana Simulcast Partners and Nick Alonzo’s Montana Clubs have ended their long running partnership with Montana Board of Horse Racing as of Dec. 31.
Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that led to this outcome. Advanced Deposit Wagering, betting on your phone or computer has been somewhat of a double edged sword. While it provided bettors access in areas of Montana that couldn’t access a simulcast site, it has over time contributed some to the decline in simulcast wagering.
In addition, due to financial problems within the administrating authority, the Montana Board of Horse Racing. often the simulcast product offered was subpar. Advertising and promotion were sometimes limited and over time contributed to the simulcast revenue decline.
The defeat of the sports wagering bill House Bill 475, sponsored by House Majority Leader Brad Tschida, that would have provided revenue to the Board of Horse Racing together with the amendments to Senate Bill 330, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Mark Blasdel, delaying implementation of Historical Horse Racing now appear somewhat shortsighted.
Executive Director Tom Tucker and the board will try to find a new partner for simulcasting for 2020 and going forward. They should be applauded for setting aside sufficient revenue to insure the 2020 race dates awarded to Miles City and Great Falls.
However, the revenue scenario for 2021 and live racing is now in question. But, as always, in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity. This turn of events may be a silver lining in creating a sense of urgency that the Legislature often needs to act. The need for passage of the sports wagering and Historical Horse Racing legislation becomes much more compelling.
We can only hope the economic impact study being prepared by Department of Commerce can effectively convey the value horse racing, breeding and ownership provides to our Montana agricultural economy and has for over 150 years. I trust the Legislature already knows this but they like to have the data to hang their hats on. Time to work together, pull up our boot straps and make sure they get it.
Daniel Fuchs, of Bozeman, is president of the Montana Racehorse Owners and Breeders Coalition.
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