So What--Pete Rose Plays the Horse
Recent headlines in sport section focused on the seventy-four year Pete Rose and his entanglements with major league baseball. In 1989 he was suspended from baseball because of betting on baseball and, more specifically the Cincinnati Reds, the team he played for. Recently he pleaded his case for reinstatement into baseball before Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Baseball. His application was denied because as Manfred said [he] "continued to gamble".
ManfredManfred said, "....kept on betting legally on horse racing and professional sports, including baseball" (during his 27 year suspension). If that makes Pete Rose a bad guy and morally challenged he is a member of a large club.
Rose, who lives in Las Vegas, at least part time, is legally entitled to gamble on sports and racing in Nevada. Most every casino has a sports/racing book, as they are called. From early morning to late at night
Typical Sports Bookbets are taken on most every sport played. On Sundays in the fall the rooms are packed with football fans. Try to get a hotel room in Las Vegas during the March Madness or the Super Bowl.
Everyone associated with horse racing encourages pari-mutual wagering. The handle, the gross amount bet, is the main revenue source of our sport. Through take-out and taxation the entire industry from farm to finish line, survives. Most marketing activities at tracks, off-track betting parlors and ADWs are focused on encouraging wagering to enhance the handle. It is legal and accepted. Most political jurisdictions, where racing is held, count on gaming revenues. So what's the point?
It seems that major league baseball and horse racing see the world differently. What is a serious infraction for one is the life-blood of another. Can they both be right? In the case of Pete Rose circa 1989 they can both be right. Betting on a game in which you are playing raises serious ethical issues. Will a player do anything to influence the outcome or the spread in favor of his/her betting action? Even if the answer is no, the perception is yes. But as a horse racing fan it is difficult to understand how placing a bet on a daily double has anything to do with any other sport whether you play in it or not. One seemingly has nothing to do with the other. Or maybe it does.
To some gambling is a moral issue and reflects on an individual's character flaw. I understand, but it is a personal belief and should be kept personal. Imagine having a panic attack every time you approached a pari-mutual window at the track or click confirm on an ADW account because of a moral conflict.
The Rose case speaks more to the country's view of horse racing and betting on the races than to baseball. As we try to encourage new fans to try out our sport, another sport is with its actions portraying par-mutual wagering as an indication of moral corruption so severe that it can serve to ban an athlete from its sport. This seems over the top to a horseplayer. Racing needs to speak up to baseball about this matter. It is one thing to ban a player for betting on thegame in which he is playing. But, it is another to characterize legal betting on a sport that embraces it as immoral. As fans our call to action needs to be to let baseball know how we feel about their moralistic actions and why pari-mutual wagering on horseracing is not only legal, but enjoyable and necessary part of the sport's economic model.