Harsh times ahead for Buenos Aires Province racing or one more chance towards modernization?
After months of speculation and rumors, the Government of the Province of Buenos Aires announced Wednesday that it will be reducing the funds that provide a very high percentage of the purses of races run at the Province Racetracks, mainly San Isidro and La Plata. The funds arise out of a Provincial Law passed back in 2005, called the Racing Law, that mandatorily funneled to racing a percentage of a much bigger fund made out of the proceeds of the net wins of slots machines operating in different “bingo halls” in the Province of Buenos Aires.
The Racing Law was passed at that time because in the Federal District Palermo Racetrack had got the right to operate slot machines in its premises, thus creating a major financial advantage over the racetracks of the Province.
The Racing Law also provided certain guidelines, short of a complete legal framework, for other matters pertaining to racing, such as the opening of betting shops, a related gaming lottery, a racing TV channel, export of signal and data, among others, but they were minimally, if at all, implemented by the Provincial Lottery during the 12 years of Peronist Administration in the Province, much more interested in expanding the business of “bingo halls” and casinos.
Most, if not all the “new matters”, never became a reality, but the continuity of the funding of the purses made almost everyone to forget that there were necessary for the “self-sustainability” of racing. During the first two years of the new administration ,which started in January 2016, matters did not change much since the new authorities have a very negative opinion of gambling in general and the racing community looked more interested in continuing its domestic fights, thus no plan B was ever prepared in case the flow of funds were finally reduced, as the rumors and unofficial comments of the authorities indicated.
Now, the new administration of the Province of Buenos Aires has decided to reduce the percentage of funds that provide approximately 75% of the purses at both San Isidro and La Plata. The fund for purses will be only 9% of the bigger fund instead of the previous 12%, thus reducing the purses in approximately 26%. The huge social liabilities of the Province of Buenos Aires, where millions of people live in poverty or almost with no infrastructure at all (no pavement, no sewage, no water, etc) made the new administration search for cash at any corner of the treasury and the fund created by the Racing Fund was an obvious target for politicians.
However, the Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires has also announced that a new bill will be sent to the Provincial Legislature amending the Racing Law, details of which are not clear yet. The reduction of the funds dedicated to purses is indeed very bad news for all related to racing in Argentina, where the Province of Buenos Aires is by far the biggest racing jurisdiction, but some observers believe that this immediate reduction of the purses may very well put an end to the well-known internal disputes among the different sectors of racing of Argentina, who have not been able to work toward having one voice to negotiate with the public sector and confront with the gigantic lobbying efforts of casino and “bingo hall” owners.
Argentine Thoroughbreds, its land and it horse people, are among the best in the world. Even after years of very serious macro-economic financial crisis Argentine racing has always managed to produce excellent horses that have excelled all over the world. What Argentine racing has not produced is a group of people with the will, talent and resources to jointly design, promote and negotiate with the Government a set of measures aimed to make Argentine racing a modern activity in line with other racing jurisdictions that few years ago were looking at them as an example of a prime racing jurisdiction. The Thoroughbreds, the land and the horsemen are still available. Hopefully this damaging decision of the Provincial Government and the financial crisis that will follow, may convince all parties of the activity to leave domestic fights behind and together confront the harsh times ahead with one voice, the voice of racing, a modern and viable racing.