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Friday, July 25, 2008

Consumer’s Guide to Racing Fan Groups

In his Troy Record column, "Feel the Love,” Nick Kling examines several groups claiming to represent racing fans.

“At periodic intervals over the last decade, various members of the racing media have tried to poll Thoroughbred racing fans. The subject was whether there was interest in an organized group to represent the betting public. My own experience was that what appeared to be a positive initial response evaporated when it came time to move forward. The bottom line was this. Racing fans like to complain, but few want to surrender any of their autonomy to join a coordinated effort. That may be changing. Several groups purporting to represent fans, or calling them to join an organization, have sprouted like mushrooms.”

Mr. Kling described what he perceives to differentiate the various groups that we at HANA hope will not prove mutually exclusive. Of HANA he writes:

“A handicapping forum called 'pace advantage' appears to have generated some people who began the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA). Like the Self Appointed group, this one charges no membership fee. This group may be the most hardcore, in that the writings on its site are focused on betting and improving the return to the horseplayer”.

“The formation of grass roots fan groups like HANA, and possibly ThoroFan, reveal the difference in focus. HANA's primary goals are lowered takeout and the resulting higher return to bettors, as well as changes in the unfair tax laws which plague horseplayers. The people to whom policies like that are addressed don't stand in line for T-shirts, nor care if they can buy a sweatshirt for 10 percent off.”

He concludes with the caveat

“Time will reveal which of these groups: 1) has a positive impact on fans, and, 2) will remain in operation. For right now, isn't it nice to know someone cares about you? Do you feel the love?”

We at HANA thank Mr. Kling for joining other journalists in bringing HANA before the public’s eye. We would, however, like to adjust (as opposed to correct) his perceptions of us.

First, while HANA includes serious as well as casual players, I don't believe the term “hard-core” is an accurate description of all those whose support we seek. I myself am a weekend/holiday player whose handle couldn’t currently qualify for cash rewards even if I were to bet every racing day.

Second, although one of our stated goals is indeed IRS withholding reform, our main focus is on two issues 1) Lowering takeout -- either directly or else indirectly via rebates -- for all, and 2) Enabling every in-home or on-line bettor using any ADW he chooses to be able to bet any scheduled race in North America, and to be able to watch it live.

A minority of the founders of HANA may fairly be called medium-core activists, but all of us would prefer to cooperatively work together with OISH (Other Industry StakeHolders) to create a bettor-friendly environment that addresses everyone’s concerns and satisfies the needs of all involved.

We are definitely NOT happy with the special treatment given to a small subset of players known as “whales” who receive rebates on their bets based on their extremely high volume of dollars wagered. In our efforts to “level the playing field” for all bettors, we also expect to effect improvements in the areas of customer convenience, service, and treatment.

Will we be around for any length of time? Only if people continue to support us with legitimate sign-ups that will enable us to accurately measure our collective influence. In the meantime we hope to make all players aware of how the industry currently operates and what positions we believe will benefit players collectively in order to grow the game, and secure the enjoyment of racing for future generations of horseplayers.

This opinion was submitted by a California member of HANA.

7 comments:

kevin morris said...

I intend to join HANA, as I agree with your specific goals and the more general need to give fans a voice. Your using a picture of Mountaineer on your banner makes me question your knowledge of the track. I realize they'll sell their signal to anybody, but it isn't to benefit horseplayers, just their own interests. Mountaineer is not fan friendly. They are unresponsive to inquiries, they've pushed race fans to the side to install poker tables at the track, they don't allow anyone to bring in food/beverages (and the food they serve is horrible), they don't allow fans to take pictures, etc. They offer very limited betting options-no dime supers, few regular supers, few multi-race options-and their take-outs are huge. They do almost nothing to promote racing, which works against increasing handle, and they are the poster track for animal cruelty, as seen in the HBO special on horse slaughter. Please put up a picture of some other track-Keeneland, where they treat you like a king, or a track with low take-outs.

Twindouble said...

Feeling the pain.

When it comes to racing I'm a traditionalist and a very active player. It's been painful to me seeing the direction racing has taken over the years. The talk of a players organization is nothing new, goes back as far as I can remember including players concern about "takeout". Churning money is the way tracks have always made their profit so the expression "churn" is nothing new either. The difference now is a few through rebates are operating like the tracks taking advantage of the pari-mutual pools, it's no longer "mutual". That's painful to me. The closing of so many tracks and fairs over the years is also painful, destroying the cultural influences racing had on every aspect of the game. That was the beginning of a declining fan base. Anyone that lived close to one of those tracks felt the pain. The explosion of drug use in racing is not only painful to "hard core" racing enthusiasts also for the horses.

The trend to commercialize racing like turning a long standing stake race into Budwiser commercial put a pain in my stomach, well I'd like to puke. Then to see bunch of woman in bikini's, bouncing boobs in a stretch run says it all, numbing to say the least. If Andy Warhol were alive today he'd have a huge come back on racing alone. Yes, his art was painful to swallow to begin with, to me anyway. What's next, WALLSTREETS TRIPIL CROWN OF RACING? Betting exchanges to boot. Financial groups turning century plus old tradition into a garbage pail of financial instruments? Does oil and banking come to mind? Talk about pain, it's excruciating to me.

I can go on but I have to say this over the years I've spent time on online racing forums, including the DRF forum also PaceAdvantage, I've agreed and disagreed with many members including prolific posters with a wide range of experience in racing. When the DRF forum close up PaceAdvantage absorbed many of those members. If there's any group of people that have the players in mind I would hang my hat on HANA because they sprung from those forums. I'm just a player and anyone from those forums can vouch for that for sure.

Twindouble

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with whales getting better rates than casual players. I think volume discounts are important for any business. The lower the takeout the bigger the incentive to bet. -- John Swetye

Twindouble said...

John;

Pari-mutual wagering isn't in my mind a place to give out discounts. We "all" are gambling not stocking up for a sale. That's very clear to me, if they want to cater to the whales do it some other way. Giving individuals personal access to the pools (batch wagering) only adds to the miss trust players have about the game today. To me when your gambling the only advantage anyone should have is their ability to do so.

Twindouble

Anonymous said...

Twin,

To me, it's all about customer service. The best ADWs offer the best services and best prices. If you're not happy with the way you're treated at your racetrack or ADW then find one you do like. That's what competition is all about.

You say "when gambling the only advantage anyone should have is their ability to do so." Why? There is more to being a good player than being a good handicapper.

You say whales should be catered to in some other way. What would you suggest?

How is that fair that the only advantage someone should have when gambling is their ability to do so?

If people who are expert horse race bettors are allowed into the betting pool, that is not fair to inexperienced bettors.

Maybe there should be minimum competency tests required before one is allowed to gamble?

We have laws that say you must be a high net worth individual before you can invest in certain types of hedge funds. So why not use that concept for racing? If you can't pass the minimum competency test, you can't bet. No more sticking hat pins through the program or betting favorite colors. It's not fair to those players because they have to bet against experts.

John Swetye

My belief is that if you are a serious bettor then you play the game like you run a business. You keep track of your wins and losses and pay your taxes when you win. You try to find the highest quality, lowest cost service, data and material providers. It's good business practice.

kevin morris said...

John, I don't think anyone blames the whales for taking what's offered to them. The problem non-whales have with the rebates is that that money is coming from somewhere, and we (I include myself in the small fish catagory) feel it is coming from our pockets. In other words, it's just another iteration of the movement to lower takeout. Maybe what would work would be ADW's that cater to smaller fish and don't give rebates?

Anonymous said...

I think we need to get away from the notion that rebates (necessarily) = whales. An ADW like Premier Turf Club gives (from what I hear) gives very healthy cash rebates even to smaller players. If we can get the market opened up a bit, I think we can see more of this...we just need to get the tracks and horsemen to recognize the value in that.

There still will be ADW that target and rebate only whales, I don't see that changing. I don't think we need all ADW to operate the same way. So rather than getting rid of whale rebates, I want to expand them down to the lower levels. You don't need every ADW to do it, we just need to make sure the few who do, are successful.

If the bettors don't respond to it, then the market has spoken, and small bettor rebates will go away. I just want a level playing field to start with, and for that type of experimentation on the part of ADW to be encouraged. It is happening now, but on a limited basis.

We can try fighting for a lower takeout, and maybe in a few select instances we can get something lowered somewhere by a few percent. That won't have anywhere near the impact, or be as easy, as fighting for expanded rebates.

(Mentioning PTC is not being is shill, if anyone knows of another legal ADW that gives healthy cash rebates to small bettors, they deserve mention as well. I cannot bet with PTC being a CA resident, and have no financial interest in them)

--Raleigh