Friday, April 25, 2008

Why You Should Become a Scarborough Downer

Kudos to the American Journal for including a 'Scarborough Downs Report' in their sports section (and for adding the disclaimer that its author, Michael Sweeney, is the Publicity Director for Scarborough Downs).

Below are refutations for the two primary reasons someone might not be inclined to visit Scarborough Downs:

You are wary of losing money.

That's admirable, but also probably inconsistent. I assume, for example, that you have no problem dishing out tens of dollars at a restaurant for a meal whose inevitable destination will be the bottom of a toilet. Couldn't that be considered a similarly wasteful loss of money? Well, yes and no.

It is wasteful in the sense that the end result is relatively expensive waste deposited into the sewage system. In fact, similar life-sustaining nutrients probably could've been consumed (and excreted) using less money than you dropped at the restaurant. But it's not wasteful in the sense that the experience (hopefully a good one) was worth the extra money you spent on a meal out.

Similarly, an afternoon at Scarborough Downs could be determined a waste of money. After all, there is the possibility that you leave the track with less money than you brought with you. But I would argue that, like dining at a restaurant, a trip to the Downs will yield an 2-3 hour experience that is worth the money spent.

Moreover, unlike eating out at a restaurant, you may also leave with more money than you brought.

Gambling is morally wrong.

If you're against gambling on horse races for moral reasons, you should also morally excuse yourself from investing in the stock market. In other words, as absurd as this premise first appears, both exercises are actually logically consistent for three reasons: Each requires analysis of data, each requires the consideration of the actions of others, and each is a form of investment.

A shrewd investor in the stock market might consider such disparate data as a company's stock price, its price-to-earnings ratio (P/E), and its dividend and yield when she determines which company (or companies) to invest in. Similarly, a prognosticator at Scarborough Downs has her own metrics to consider when determing which horse(s) to gamble on, such as a driver's Universal Driver Rating (UDR), a horse's past performances, and a horse's starting position.

Also, like investors on Wall Street, bettors at Scarborough Downs must consider the actions of their fellow participants. Investors must interact with the prices at which other shareholders are willing to buy or sell their stocks, and bettors must react to the fluid odds generated by the betting decisions of the their fellow bettors.

And finally, gambling at Scarborough Downs is morally analogous to investing in the stock market, because both activities involve an investment into an entity with a hope for monetary return. The money the stock investor pumps into Company A allows that company to grow and prosper. In return, the investor is hopeful of monetary gain in exchange for that investment. Likewise, the gambler's money at Scarborough Downs is deposited into the pockets of the drivers, trainers, owners, and stables involved in the enterprise. In return, the gambler is hopeful for monetary benefit.

A close reader would recognize I've used investing as the verb for the stock market investor, while using the soily term gambling as the action for the Scarborough Downer. I don't think it would be morally unambiguous, however, to slide the former word into the description of the latter actor.

Or vice versa.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Now that I've convinced you to become a Scarborough Downer, check out my Scarborough Downers' toolbox.

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