Makeover needed: Professional horse racing

For a variety of reasons that have very little to do with an abiding interest in professional horse racing, I've been to the races quite a few times and in several different venues. My husband is from New York's North Country (that's about four hours drive north of "upstate" New York), and the historic Saratoga Race Course is on our route. We go sometimes. Also, we were put up in the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino when Mike was invited to the Delaware state book festival. And his prior day job held a summer outing for employees last year at the Belmont Park.

I've learned enough from these trips -- which have all included bringing my young children -- to proclaim with confidence that going to the races could be a fun, thrilling, even educational family outing. But first, the sport needs a radical makeover.

Foremost, gambling has to be taken off site. My husband tells me that without gambling there would be no professional horse racing, so I won't go that far (even though I think gambling is a vice that can be addictive and that is a regressive tax on the poorest people). But if people want to gamble, I think they can place their bets online or go to Vegas or to off-track gambling parlors. That would remove the aura of seedy desperation that some racing venues have.

Don't miss the rest of our series on Makeovers Needed!