It's time for my yearly prophecy of doom and gloom for the racing industry, but either I'm not paying attention or things  haven't got worse over the year.

To begin, I think I need to lay off handicapping race track closures. Last year I predicted bad things for  Mountaineer ParkFinger Lakes and Scarborough Downs. The Finger Lakes, cut a deal with the casino that was supposed to put it out of business and Mountaineer Park seems to be doing fine. On the other hand Scarborough Downs looked like a lock to finally fold up the tent, but it seems some local developers have stepped in to develop the property, but plan to lease the track to the current owners to keep racing going. As usual this is a fluid situation in Maine, but who knows Scarborough may have more lives than a cat. In other track news, the State of Massachusetts is making noise like it wants to replace Suffolk Downs and keep thoroughbred racing alive in the state. North of the border in New Hampshire, it seems like it should be about time for groundbreaking on the track to replace Hinsdale Raceway and in Michigan there's talk of re-opening Jackson Raceway, but they weren't granted any dates for 2018, so that's probably dead. In New York, it looks like part of the Belmont Park property will become a sports stadium, there's also talk that the Aqueduct meet could be moved there as well harness racing now conducted at Yonkers.  Finally in Virginia, it looks like there could be some interest in resurrecting Colonial Downs. So, with that being said I would like to go in a different direction and talk about the heart of pari-mutual gambling, the mutual windows.

Yah, I know hardly anyone uses a real mutual window anymore, it's just a figure of speech. Actually at some tracks it's an adventure to find a mutual clerk. Somewhere in the past, I made an analogy to a pond that kept shrinking and race tracks, that they were dwindling, but likely to never to completely dry up. In the past couple of years, I think you can extend that theory to wagering.

It could be me, but it seems like there are a lot of horses going off at 2-5 or lower nowadays, some even go off at 1-9 and I'm not talking the best horses at the track. You can see it on claiming races on a Tuesday. This happens at both harness and thoroughbred tracks, but a favorite harness horse with a top driver, is a real lightning rod for this phenomenon. I guess there could be some explanation, like shorter fields, more honest racing, because the purses are higher, no money in the pools, or most people betting either make a living or think (like me) they can make a living betting the ponies.

I think the casual betters still go to the track, they just never get by the casino. Instead of spending a few bucks on a pretty horse, lucky number, or cute name, they're now tethered to their wampum card happily pushing buttons hoping for three gold bars to appear on the screen. Whatever goes into those slot machines, at one time went into the handle at that track, fattening the pools producing better payoffs. Now your just left battling for nickels and dimes against a savvier opponent.

Yes, I know I sound stupid because if I'm a smart bettor it's overlay, overlay, overlay that has been preached for years by anyone who could write a book. Then why the other night at of all places, Penn National did a claimer have $30,000 bet in the show pool. Granted it probably wasn't one person but say one person accounted for $20,000 of it, if that bet had lost that persons next bet to break even would have to be $2,000,000, wouldn't that set off some bells and whistles.  This example doesn't even come close to what happens in West Virginia where they still break to a dime, it's not uncommon to see over a hundred thousand in the show pools there. So what is it, why take that risk, is it money laundering, stupidity, or is there something those book writers never told us, but it seems to have gotten someone's attention.

How many times have you felt good, watching your sure thing load at 2-1, watch him start to draw off in the stretch and taking a peek at the tote board, to see your horse is now 6-5. Seems to happen every time, well I have been watching these giant show bets and well after the race is off, comes the final odds and the percentage on the favorite always goes down never up. Is this someone covering every horse, hoping the favorite runs out, or are the tracks themselves pumping in money to avoid a minus pool. Too lazy to do the math, but it does seem logical if you could bet less money than you could lose in a minus pool. Anyway probably a mute point as everyone is trying to take this away.

To start most ADW sites don't give bonus points for show wagering, taking away an extra incentive and most of these type wagers are made on five horse fields which most tracks don't offer show betting on, so is it just a matter of time till all "nickel and dime" wagering is banned? An even scarier thought is, what happens when casino subsidies go away and tracks have to once again survive on the handle?