Meeker Calls for Passion to Move Industry Forward

Tom Meeker, president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Inc., told racetrack and gaming officials Tuesday that racing has become a remedy for state deficits rather than a means for economic development.

"Racing today is seen not as an issue of fiscal development by the states, but an issue of fiscal expediency, Meeker said in a keynote speech at the Racing and Gaming Summit in Tucson, Ariz., a precursor to the annual Symposium on Racing.

"If we fall prey to the notion that we are going to be a solution to budget deficits and that that is the primary benefit of racinos, then in the end, racing will suffer."

Meeker said racetracks should recognize the competitive opportunities racinos provide, but realize expanded gaming is not a cure-all to industry woes.

Meeker said racinos stimulate a better internal competitive product in both simulcasting and on track markets and enhance external competition.

"Added monies available to us through racinos provide an opportunity -- if we choose to utilize that opportunity -- to make us more competitive on an external basis, which allows us to be more competitive with myriad entertainment options."

Although he didn't offer specific solutions to industry problems, he said passion about racing is needed to move the industry forward. But beyond passion, there needs to be a commitment to change.

"Racing today needs passion," Meeker said. "A passion that has total commitment and is goal oriented. The passion I'm talking about is when you walk out that door you are committing the next 365 days to solving problems."

The speech, light-hearted at times, targeted apathy and called for industry leaders to "think young" or to think differently about change and the way to solve problems.