Can poker Save racing?

Mar 4, 2008 7:00 AM

by Ray Poirier | Can poker be the savior of horse racing? More specifically can the World Poker Tour concept be applied to horse race betting as a means of stimulating more interest?

That was the discussion last week at the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) following a presentation by Steve Lipscomb of the World Poker Tour (WPTE).

Lipscomb’s idea deals with what he calls the World Thoroughbred Tour and is patterned on the poker format. He cited the many parallels between racing and the poker market in 2001, the beginning of the rebirth of poker.

"At that time," Lipscomb said, "Poker rooms were closing in droves. Fans were dying out. People asked how do we save poker?"

The answer for the World Poker Tour was to change the concept from the kitchen table weekly poker games to a spectator event that attracted television popularity. And the biggest fans and most of the poker stars were people under the age of 30, he stated, a demographic seriously missing from the horse racing scene.

Lipscomb said he and his crew worked with Drew Couto of the Thoroughbred Owners of California and Billy Koch of Little Red Feather Racing to develop a tournament-type strategy that would attract participants.

Scientific Games Corp. (SGMS), the company that provides the ticket-issuing systems for the California tracks, has the capability to handle such a tournament concept, although it would be up to each participating track to format the wagering to its own operation.

The concept was described as having a tournament participant pay a $25 entry fee. The person would be provided with a tournament bankroll that would be placed on a plastic card. The player would then choose his wagers according to tournament regulations.

California racing regulators were impressed by the concept and have ordered staff to draft a proposal for study at their next meeting.