Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Dec. 28, 2023
A good Thursday morning to you all! Hope everyone had a good holiday regardless of what you were doing. I got a little cold right before Christmas, so I was thankful for the day off just to sit home and rest and paint most of the day. I also watched an NBA game for the first time in quite a while. I know NFL dominated the ratings on Christmas, but I do enjoy the tradition that the NBA started with having a full slate of games on Christmas. I even ended up watching another NBA game the next night after Santa Anita opening day.
I mention this because on Twitter there was a pretty raucous debate about whether or not horse racing should run on Christmas or not. Like many topics of racing dialogue, it started with Ed DeRosa (Hi, Ed) and ended up with people on both sides of the argument calling each other names and telling the other they’re dumb. So basically, a pretty normal day on Horse Racing Twitter.
I saw the, let’s call it, "debate" starting up and immediately turned off the app. If there’s one thing worse than slow racing days on Twitter, it’s the one day with NO racing on Twitter!
When I worked at Portland Meadows, I actually used to lobby for us to run on Christmas. I thought it would be fun to run at night. We’d be the only track going (obviously), but maybe it could turn into a big local tradition for people. Have a big buffet up in the turf club, I could dress up as Santa and fire presents from up on the roof to people down below. It would be a hoot! I do think any track that tries it, it will take a little time to build local momentum, but nationally it could be an instant hit. Or flop. I suppose it would depend on a few factors.
First of all, I think it would take a fair bit of the industry to get behind it. If just one track was running, do the ADWs open up? Obviously, most other tracks/off-track betting sites aren’t open, so it would clearly be an attend-live or bet-at-home option.
I’ve always been fine with the idea of working on holidays. It’s part of working in the sports/gaming business, and I can only think of a few times where I was bummed out about it. I also don’t have children or a family of my own, so on Christmas I’m essentially just sitting around my house doing nothing waiting to go to work. I can also very much understand how someone with a family or lots of family would want the day off to spend with their loved ones. Also the people who work on the backstretch who generally work seven days a week probably enjoy having the holiday off.
The debate for running on that day is to give our customers something to do and bet on racing. You better believe that millions of people were gambling and betting on football and basketball all day on Christmas. So maybe some family members could have been exposed to racing and betting if there was a track running that one of the people in the family was firing away at.
I think it’s perfectly fine for people to debate one side or the other. I’m truly a fence-sitter on this particular issue because it truly doesn’t affect me all that much. If we ran, I’d show up to work and be happy about it. If we don’t, I’ll stay home and relax and try to find something to do. But I’m never going to begrudge anyone who wants to spend the holiday at home with their family.
The other thing that might affect a track deciding to run on Christmas is the actual day of the week. Many tracks have people who work at other tracks on their normal off days or have other jobs. A track that runs on weekends is even more unlikely to want to run on Christmas when it falls on a Tuesday, as staffing might be difficult. But I also think it could be very fun and an opportunity for the track, or tracks, that does finally decide to run on Christmas. I’m doubtful we’ll see it anytime soon, but we shall see!
Everyone, have a happy and safe New Year!