Randy Birch, the former announcer at The Woodlands parimutuel dog track, will be honored Wednesday, Aug.14, at the Community America Ballpark. That same night the Kansas City T-Bones will play the Lincoln (Neb.) Saltdogs.
Birch, who also was an announcer for the T-Bones and KFKF-FM radio, will recount the glory days of The Woodlands, particularly during the 1990s. Tapes of the richest greyhound races in the history of the sport from ESPN2 will be shown. The handles in each of these races were more than $300,000.
Anyone who talks to Birch for very long about The Woodlands quickly learns his views about how parimutuel tracks have been shut out of the gambling industry in Kansas because of excessive taxes. These same laws favor casinos such at the Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway. That law requires casinos to give up 22 percent of their revenue to the State of Kansas, but casinos must yield 40 percent.
Birch is appearing at the T-Bones game in a reunion event of former Woodlands employees and fans. He said he is looking forward to the night. Chris Brown, the general manager of the T-Bones and a friend of Birch, arranged for the event.
Although Birch said he is most disappointed that The Woodlands sits idle, he readily admits that he has found a new way of making money by announcing at dog tracks, such as the one in Palm Beach, Fla., from his home in Shawnee, via the Internet. And this same Internet has given a substantial boost in attracting new bettors worldwide according to Birch and a recent article in Time magazine.
Birch has written a book entitled “How I hit the jackpot on bigjackpotbetting.com — where winning happens.” Birch describes bigjackpotbetting as a “sort of online clubhouse“ where a bettor can visit anytime without leaving his or her living room.
Birch tells of the telephone call from Jimmy Smith of Trackdata Marketing on March 25, 2010. Smith wanted him to do “one of those funny opens” he did while at The Woodlands. Smith was one of the early day players at The Woodlands; Birch describes him as one of the greatest handicappers he has ever met who made thousands.
Birch’s efforts have expanded to other track locations including Jacksonville, Hollywood and Orlando in Florida and his hometown of Dubuque, Iowa.
What Birch’s effort has shown is how the Internet has changed the face—and the body—of how we communicate. It has provided serious challenges to traditional media such as newspapers and magazines. And it is one of the major reasons the U.S. Postal Service is in financial trouble. Folks can communicate very quickly by using the very cost-effective Internet.
I seriously doubt that The Woodlands would ever come back as a parimutuel track. The owner of the tracks, the late Bill Grace of St. Joseph, Mo., missed his opportunity, according to those that were close to the situation. Presently, another use for the location would appear most likely, according to those who watch such things.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.