Thursday, October 30, 2008

State of the Game

In a time when handles are falling, and signals are being cut off, at places like posts like this are seen regularly by racing fans:

Today I cant bet on CD, HOL, GG............seems like there are more disputes that hurt the bettor. You cant count on getting a bet down anywhere anymore. Why study all night just to find our your not eligible to wager somewhere.

Funniest Line in HollyGreed ADW Mess...
Todd T. Schrupp follows up Ken Rudulph's announcement that the fifth race at Hollygreed will kick off the
"$150,000 Guaranteed Late Pick-4"
Todd's response?"I wonder how long they'll circle behind the starting gate?"

... there is someone north of the border who has a plan: Start working together and not against each other.

In a piece related to falling handles (this is from a Harness racing magazine, but the problems are of course, pandemic in all racing) the writer puts together some very good thoughts. It is a tough look at racing, and that something has to be done, besides fighting.

It is worth reading, and here are a few snippets:

Horse wagering is the ONLY stable form of funding that keeps racing sustainable. Otherwise the product is an expense, completely expendable at the whim of casino companies, racetrack operators and governments more interested in diverting slot money to schools and hospitals than to horsepeople.

As the global economy enters a worldwide downturn, excuses are already on their way. Don’t listen to them. We were going backward when the economy was flying high. The greatest period for the history of North American horse racing actually came during the Great Depression when racetracks and gambling offered a welcome distraction in the face of huge unemployment and desperation.

In 2007, $224 million was allotted to Canadian standardbred purses, most of which came from slot funding in comparison. According to a recent independent study conducted in Canada by HLT Advisory Inc., the horse racing sector spent $8 million (1.6%) of its total revenues on marketing the sport. Bingo spent $27 million (3.9%), lotteries: $227 million (6.5%) and Casinos: $671 million (8.9%).

This writer wants to see the opposite of what is happening with the fights at Hollywood and Churchill and elsewhere. Instead of wanting more money to go to purses, he wants it to go to the sport to grow:

The message is clear. Our failure to reinvest in promoting the sport is suicidal.

Taking $25 million from purses toward development, promotion, marketing and technological change, if done properly, may make an impact. How about $50 million? This funding must be directed toward a well thought out plan for the revitalization of the sport and it must be paid annually.

For those seething at the suggestion of directing purse money to marketing efforts, convinced the lost funds will put horsepeople out of business, I suggest the following: the sport will die and you will sit idly by while it happens. Funding will dry up and this solution will cease to be an option.

Putting money into technology, marketing and the horseplayer. What a radical thought, huh?

To read it all click here.

And please, if you have not joined HANA to try and tackle this sorry state of our game, please do. It is free and we have some cool stuff planned over the next months. We'd love for you to be a part of it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Breeders' Cup Post Mortem

Thursday, Oct 23, 2:50am. I climb out of bed 10 minutes before the alarm clock rings. My flight leaves at 5:30am from LaGuardia. What was I thinking when I booked a flight at that hour?

Uneventful drive to airport and somehow I manage to arrive before 4:00am -- too early. Passengers are not allowed to proceed to the gate, yet. No chairs to sit in while we wait.

4:30pm -- Finally, security opens up. No hassles from TSA. Flight leaves on time.

I'm about 5'10" and 170 pounds. The seats on Continental Airplanes were built for people under 5'8" and 150 pounds. The coffee was the worst I've ever had on an airplane.

Arrive Houston. Run to the next terminal to catch the flight to Ontario, California. They are already boarding when I arrive. Good thing I'm not elderly or disabled because I never would have made the flight. I had to keep checking to make sure I wasn't on a flight to Ontario, Canada.

Arrive Ontario -- California, not Canada. Beautiful, sunny day. All the rental cars are off-site. Shuttle gets me there relatively quickly. I fill out the paperwork with the Dollar Rent A Car rep and then proceed to my car. I thought for sure I requested a compact car. I always reserve the smallest car because when they run out they will give a free upgrade to a larger car. The rep tells me I can upgrade to a full size for $10 per day more. I declined.

The parking lot rep (who turns out to the General Manager) points me to a Kia. I spot a nice Chrysler Sebring convertible. I ask him if I can upgrade to the convertible for $10 per day. He said, "I tell you what. I will upgrade you for free if you promise to use Dollar again." I said, "But of course" and then offer him a tip. He refuses it.

It's only 11:00am and I drive away with a big smile on my face in a brand new convertible for only $19.97 per day for 3 days.

The Holiday Inn Express is only a mile or two away, so I decide to check-in before heading out to Santa Anita. No problem and the very pleasant woman who checks me in gives me a free bottle of water.

There was a ton of traffic on the drive to Santa Anita. However, I arrived by the first race.

Jim Quinn had reserved his table in the Turf Club restaurant for Dr. Z and me. Theresia Muller, the sensational HANA Treasurer, and her friends were also in the Turf Club. It was the first time Theresia and I had met in person, but I felt like I was meeting a longtime friend. She is a bundle of energy and sharp as a tack. I'm so glad she is part of the HANA board. I didn't know it at the time, but Theresia is one of the best handicappers I have ever met.

Theresia and I chat during the second race. I notice that there is a good Dr. Z place and show bet on the coupled entry 1 and 1A. I don't bet it. Zanda Blue (#1) and Desert Siren (#1A) run 2nd and 3rd. It pays $3.00 for 2nd and the show bet pays more than the place bet $3.20. Dammit.

Theresia and I watch the paddock and post parade on the little TV monitor at her table. The #6 horse, Satellite, looks absolutely spectacular -- just bouncing and prancing around light as a feather. I'm still chatting, so I don't bet it. Satellite wins and pays $20.60. Double dammit.

Dr. Z arrives. We all chat and then go to our table. I bet the next race ( my first bet of the day) and lose. Triple dammit.

The rest of the day is uneventful, bettingwise. I just make small recreational bets and am behind for the day.

The food in the Turf Club was excellent. It was great spending a day at the races with terrific people. Losing some recreational bets could not put a damper on an otherwise fantastic afternoon.

After the races Dr. Z and I walk to the grandstand side of the track to locate our Breeders' Cup seats. They are at the 16th pole. Not terrible. However, for $600 bucks we were hoping to at least have a table on which to lay out our racing data.

We part ways and look forward to Friday's Breeders' Cup card.

Friday 10:00am -- arrive Santa Anita. I walk up the steps to my seat. As I'm walking up, there is a man sitting on a tiered concrete platform below my seat. I ask him what the cost of his seat was. He said, "These seats are free." What? Free? My seats, 7 rows back cost $600! What the #*$&???

OK. So my seat was a folding seat and his was a concrete bleacher. But a $600 difference in price?

Is it any wonder that the stands were empty on Friday and scalpers were willing to accept 1/3 face value?

It was a gorgeous day. The racing was top class. And the betting lines were short. Santa Anita and the BC did a good job of managing the event. The vendor food was substandard, but that is par for the course. However, there was a vendor near our seats that had delicious coffee.

When I went to the 1997 Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park, I seem to recall we got box seats for $75 and that included a box lunch with sushi. The 2008 BC did not include lunch and cost $600 for grandstand seats. My, how times change.

I made mostly small recreational wagers and ended up losing about $100 on the day. I was saving my ammunition for Saturday's card.

Dr. Z and I left the track and met up with Theresia and her friends at a nice restaurant in Arcadia. We enjoyed a good meal and then retired for the night.

Saturday 9:00am -- arrive Santa Anita. Same seats as yesterday. Great card for handicapping. I love marathon racing. I didn't have the winner, but it was logical. Had I taken time to handicap in advance I'm confident I would have had the winner. But the BC (like KY Derby day) is a recreational day for me. I bet small (unless I spot a bargain) and just try to enjoy the atmosphere.

The crowd was much bigger on Saturday, but there were still a lot of empty seats all around us. There were box seats to our right. Only about 1/2 of them were occupied. I think they cost around twelve hundred dollars, so it is not surprising they were empty.

I wondered why the BC won't use colored saddle cloths. Then I realized that the BC is an industry event. It is not meant for racing fans and horseplayers. That's too bad. If it was geared toward fans and players maybe the attendance and handle would have been higher? The food vendors would surely appreciate the larger crowds.

The one thing that really bothered me was the post parade for two of the turf races. For all but two races, the horses were paraded up to 16th pole on the synthetic surface, turned around and then warmed up. As they turned around, the fans got a chance to see each of the horses without the view being blocked by the lead ponies. However, there were two turf races where the horses were paraded on the turf course rather than the synthetic course and were never turned around to give the crowd a chance to view them. We could only see the lead ponies.

The one big advantage on-course horseplayers have over their off-course brethern is the opportunity to see the horses in the flesh. If that advantage is taken away then what reason is there to attend the live event?

For $600 I want to see the horses in the post parade. Is that asking too much?

I went 6 races in a row without cashing a recreational bet on Saturday. Finally, I saw something I liked. Midnight Lute in the 7th. I noticed he won the BC Sprint last year. He lost his last race badly. But judging from the running line I felt like something happened to him that was forgiveable. (I would find out the next day I was correct.) I noticed he worked a bullet 5 furlongs in 56 and change. I can't remember ever seeing a workout that fast, though I'm sure it happens. So I knew he was fit.

I confidently walked to the window and made my largest bet of the week.

As he pulled to the lead at about the 16th pole -- right in front of me -- he had this beautiful, high front leg action like he was bouncing off the synthetic surface. I don't know if was the surface or if he was superfit, but I've never seen anything like it. I can see why Baffert says Lute is the best horse he has ever trained.

Finally, a winner, and I recouped all my losses from the previous two days plus today.

Jumping forward one day, it turns out Midnight Lute had thrown a shoe in his previous race, according to the cab driver who took me to the airport on Sunday morning. He said he just dropped off the owners of Midnight Lute at the airport and they told him what happened in his last race. A cabbie wouldn't get the story wrong, would he?

Back to Saturday... I walked down to the rail for the Classic to get a good look at Curlin. He was super muscular. The only knock on him was that his coat looked a little dull. Steroid withdrawal? That didn't stop me from making a moderate place and show bet on him. Had he run 3rd I would have broken even on the race. As it was, I gave back some of my Midnight Lute profits.

Theresia had been touting Raven's Pass all day long. Did I listen? No. She also liked Henrythenavigator. Did I listen? No. Did I listen to her tell me about the nice exacta bet she collected on for the Classic? Yes.

I lost a little more on the rest of the races and figure I probably broke even over three days. Could have been worse. It just goes to show you how much those recreational wagers cost. But if it wasn't for the betting then what reason would a horseplayer have for attending the races?

Next year, I probably won't even bet the Breeders' Cup races. My kids' play sports. I missed their games on Saturday because I was at the Breeders' Cup. That will never happen again. I'd much rather see my kids' play sports than watch horse races -- especially races where horseplayers are underappreciated.

As Warren Buffet says, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." In this horseplayer's opinion, the price of the Breeders' Cup live event exceeded the value -- not the kind of bet you want to make too often.

From a horseplayer's perspective, here are the grades for the various entities I dealt with this past weekend.

Breeders' Cup gets a "B".

Santa Anita gets a "B+".

Continental Airlines gets a "B-".

Holiday Inn Express gets an "A".

Dollar Rental Car gets an "A+" for understanding the importance of treating a customer well.

John Swetye, HANA V.P.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Enjoy the Weekend, and Thank You

This weekend marks our Super Bowl. It is a fun time to be a racing fan. Today we do not speak of the business, and takeouts and all the rest. Well we will speak of it in one way: Betting on the Breeders Cup is available everywhere! With all the fighting and players having to have more than one account to play this game, that is no small feat.

A few HANA board members (and advisory board member Dr. Z) are at the Cup this week as per the yearly ritual. We care about the game here and got involved to help it doing much work over the past while of a business nature - setting up bank accounts, a paypal account (thanks to everyone who gave a few bucks!!!), incorporation and much more. But we are fans first and foremost and this day(s) are unlike any other in racing.

Like most, I will be enjoying it from the comfortable confines of the couch. I have my form, my Jcapper stuff, Horse Street stuff, Premier Turf Club clockers reports (an excellent resource for free; it is a pdf file), a six pack of diet coke and the pizza man on speed dial. That should carry me through until Sunday. If only I can hit one or two races. That's the hard part. I hope we all can grab a winner or two to make it all worthwhile in terms of the bankroll.

A sincere thanks to every one of you who have signed up, commented, donated and all the rest. Each morning when we check our database and see a fresh face it puts a smile on our face. It gives us hope.

Best luck at the windows, and to all members: Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Halsey Minor: No Slots

From a HANA members blog, an interesting post on Halsey Minor.

Halsey Minor, the former CNET founder and Internet entrepreneur who wants to buy tracks, might be a guy that can turn this business around. He says "slots do not belong in racing," and that if they are approved for a track he owns he would not implement them.

Minor, with the comptroller by his side, also told reporters that he wants to revive Maryland horse racing without slot machines.

"These things, they're cancer," Minor said at a news conference in the comptroller's reception room.

Minor also said he would consider building a new facility in Baltimore at Pimlico, which is home of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown. Minor said his plans to revive horse racing involve focusing on improving the track experience for fans.

"Slots do not belong in thoroughbred racing," Minor said

Slots are our drug. Like most subsidies that are given without benchmarks or penalties, they make us lazy and allow us to be second rate, ordinary, unremarkable. They have allowed us to completely ignore handles, and the horseplayer for a long, long time. I think Mr. Minor has a point, and it is amazing to see someone with the cajones to stand up and say it.

Over the last dozen years we as a business have received billions of dollars of slot money. Almost all of this money has gone into supply. It has been said by many that the slots boom has been a good one for drivers/jockeys and veterinarians and not many others. I do not disagree.

What is the result? Handles have gone down and fewer people watch racing today than ever before. What business do you know gets a $3,000,000,000 or $4,000,000,000 subsidy (enough money to pay for the purse for the Breeders Cup Classic for the next 800 years) and has their industry’s only measurable metric go down? None that I know of. Racing will be spoken about in MBA textbooks someday as a "what not to do" case study.

I don’t begrudge the slots boom and the business taking all the money. After all, I am a horse owner and get to race for inflated purses, in front of almost no fans, but it really does me no good. My training bills are small compared to many others out there, yet they are 150%-200% higher than the bills from my family stable in the 1980's - how’s that for inflation. A vet bill then might be $1000 a year. Now for some stables, it can be $1000 a week. It has done us very little good as owners in microeconomic terms. We have just shuffled money from one hand to the other.

As for the players, they have been annihilated. Takeouts pre-slots were in the 17% range. Now they are about 21.8%. The business got billions and the players have received a giant kick in the ass. I don't blame them one bit for leaving our sport and feeling cheated.

The sad part is that many will disagree with Mr. Minor and will probably be angry with him. Each time we hear something from the business it usually has something to do with marching on a state house for more slots, or sports betting, or some kind of hand out that does nothing but hurt racing handles. It has become a cottage industry, like trial lawyer or oil company lobbying in Washington. We know it is bad, we know it will not help us in the long run, but we can not help ourselves from bowing to the elixir of free money. It’s crack cocaine and we are its users.

When I first heard of Mr. Minor, I wrote a post about it.

In a recent interview on the Paulick Report, I found out that I really like Halsey Minor. Minor is a founder of CNET, a very successful internet firm which sold for almost $2.0B and he wants to buy and restore Hialeah in Florida. Why does a guy who worked in the Internet where tomorrow happens today want a piece of the racing business where tomorrow happens a decade from now? I don't know, but he appears to like racing. And he handles things like many I know in the Internet business - with common sense and no nonsense.

That opinion has not changed. I sincerely hope he succeeds and helps our core business thrive with a much needed change of business model.

We need a leader. We might have found him.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hollywood to Cut Purses. TOC Wants More Cash.

The DRF reports that Hollywood Park will be cutting purses for the meet. And ADW wagering is being battled for between providers and the TOC.

Account wagering through telephone and Internet sources could be disrupted at the fall meeting. The TOC is negotiating with the four account-wagering providers licensed to do business in California - TVG, Twinspires, XpressBet, and - regarding the distribution of revenue of bets from those sources. Couto has said the TOC is seeking a higher percentage of those bets to fund purses.

Looking for more money from your partners during a downturn might seem illogical to some, but so it goes.

In contrast, the work done at Louisiana Downs, the opposite seemed to work well. Their handle jumped this past meet.

They distributed their signal widely, and offered it out at a fair price, to places like Youbet and Premier Turf Club. It worked well, as most HANA members who are businessmen and women would expect.

Now in the third year of a marketing partnership, posted increases on Louisiana Downs racing once again. The online provider doubled their handle on Louisiana Downs from 2005 to 2007, and grew by another 10% in 2008. Louisiana Downs also reached an agreement with TVG network in late July, and the racing network's average handle jumped by 105% each day.

It should be noted that this partnership was not by accident. The LA horseman agreed to work with their partners, eventhough the Thoroughbred Horseman's Group recommended that they do not.

From the story dated May 19th when this deal was struck to help handles and players:

Louisiana horsemen have approved a deal allowing and Premier Turf Club the signal to Louisiana Downs

THG president Bob Reeves said his group did not recommend Louisiana horsemen accept the deal offered by Youbet.

Players from all stripes can take advantage of LA Downs via their ADW's across the nation, and players of all sizes can be rebated, so that the egregious takeouts that have been killing our business can be relaxed. Let's see if Hollywood Park joins the party, or chooses to fight for more of the shrinking pie.

Earlier this year, when handle losses were not apparent in Cali, internet betting was considered "not a big deal". It is now.

Further, this ADW fighting situation was commented on at the Paulick Report several months ago. It seems it might be coming true. As we try and squeeze more and more money from the player it seems he is packing up his toys and playing in a new sandbox.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Patrick has a neat post on his blog called "The Best Thing to Happen to Racing - A Depression". I too believe that racing has to hit bottom before it can put policies in place to make it grow.

Give it a read. It has some cold, hard truth to it.

As a player and someone wanting to see the sport grow, I do disagree with the ADW analogy - this is not a consumer durable business model. GM does get the most revenue because they are building cars, but we are not building cars, we are selling a gambling game.

The analogy we need to use is the internet one. Online gaming will probably garner well over $750 billion in handle this year, or next. We can not get a slice of that if huge percentages are taken away from the player. We will only grow if this is a low margin high volume business. Ebay took over the auction market and will be written about for centuries because it is high volume low margin (they take a small slice of a large number of sales by taking advantage of economies of scale). Etrade charges $10 a trade. In 1990 a $10,000 stock trade would cost you $300. Low margin, high volume wins on the internet, and is the antithesis of horseman and tracks fighting over who can get a bigger slice of the monster takeout we pay. Maybe if we do hit bottom we will blow up the system and start to position racing, allowing a new business model to thrive.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Excellent Examples About Winning

A couple of blog posts focusing on making racing better so we can promote ourselves as a place people can win.

First a post with some notes from posters about how hard it is to win at racing.

Second, an excellent post at harnesslink showing how poker is promoting winning players. The graph of Ferguson's online bankroll is better than millions of marketing dollars, in my opinion. Our game is a skill game, just like poker. Getting racing to put in place policies that foster that reality and promoting it is vital to our games growth. Unfortunately we'd have to look far and wide to come up with a graph like that in our game with 22% blended takeout, but we better get cracking.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Vet Records - For the Bettor

James from Massachusetts left this comment awhile back when he signed up for his HANA membership:

I'm with you on the medical information.

Does anyone know what happened to the four horse in the third today? He looked lame and raced poorly. What about the five horse in harness racing at Woodbine? He was "Vet Scratched Sick". What did he have? Is he ok this time or is the trainer "taking him out for a tightener".

These are questions we ask ourselves as bettors quite often. We have no idea if a horse is in tip-top shape. We don't know if he is over what was ailing him. We are told to "watch the board", but what kind of advice is that?

In Hong Kong they truly take their sport seriously and they take bettors seriously. After each sub par performance, the horse is checked and this information is made public, so the bettors can be confident and know what happened. Tomorrow in race three we do not have to guess if this horse is fine, or what happened to him last time. It is there for us to see.

Veterinary Records of Declared Starters on Sunday, October 19, 2008

2 MARVELLOUS 03/10/2008 Substantial mucopus in the trachea after track work. 13/10/2008

It is there for every horse in to go tomorrow, and it is on their website each day.

They take it one step further. Full vet records in a database. This is not only good for bettors, but it makes sure that our four legged friends are also taken care of.

This not only helps paper handicappers, but also the software ones or the sheets. Sometimes a performance when a horse is lame or sick skews the data. If this information was in data files, sharp software providers could incorporate this in their numbers and make their predictions better.

Hong Kong is fighting for their bettors dollars and have so for a long time. At HANA I know we all hope that someday we feel like we are treated the same way.

Friday, October 17, 2008


In an interesting blog piece - not overly interesting since the writer touches all the 'inside baseball' stuff that these folks truly believe: Wagering is down because of high gas prices (a curious one since we bet about 12% of handle on track in 2008), the economy, Eight Belles breaking down - but interesting because it shows the chasm between those inside the business and those who pay for it in the comments section.

There is even one fellow on there who thinks that if we suck more money out of the fan and put it into purses so owners can make more money, the sport will grow. Oh my head. Thankfully a player chimed in:

The customers are not "speaking", they are "shouting".The problem is not the economy,as racetracks do well in bad economic times. When people are out of work they go to the track to try and get a few extra dollars to patch a hole in their budget.

All the customers see is one segment of the game trying to get more money from another segment from a shrinking pie instead of putting in programs to grow the fan base,that would raise all boats.

The emphasis on exotics (carryovers) is a band aid for a hole in the bottom line and creates a perception that the mandates for synthetic tracks and race managers can no longer say we do not care who wins,as they prefer longshots.

In Ca.the racing Board is run with a majority of Horsemen, for the benefit of horsemen,no other State will stand for that conflict of interest.

Lower the take out,write races for the customers,not the five horse fields for horsemen that become jockey races,put races in the pick six that can be handicapped with horses with records.

It comes down to a perception of an integrity problem and an unlevel playing field.The customers have said "enough of this".

Respect the customers, give them a voice,level the playing field and racing will find the people still love racing,and the fan base will grow,solving the problem.

We have a long way to go to bridge the gap in letting the inside folks know that we need real change to grow this business. Band aids will not do it. The major hurdle is that the insiders do not even seem to know what the problem is, yet. No worries folks, we'll keep trying to get the message through.

We are trying to give those players in the comments section a voice. But we need help, so please sign up if you have not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe's Words Could Not Be More True

Joe Riddell, a long time race watcher and insider, was recently interviewed for a piece on racing. In it he explores mainly what we have been speaking about at HANA for some time.

On racings business model:

You're absolutely right, not only does it not have the right business model, it doesn't have the right management team in place. As a whole you have to understand where our customers are, where they've gone, what they're demanding and recognize that we need to bring them back into the game and certainly back into the revenue stream

Finally, someone in racing speaking exactly who the great lost customer is, and doing so accurately. Notice he does not want to give us a hat or a balloon:

RH: Who are the customers?

JR: Customers are the gamblers who are demanding a certain rate, a certain convenience and customer service that the industry has failed to provide. They're usually pretty high end, very intellectual gamblers who have now had their need satisfied by their bookmakers, who don't pay anything into the pool, into our race tracks and horsemen's purses.

On where the customer is gone, and how we get them back:

RH: So what does the horse industry do?

JR: Recognize why we lost them and understand how we need get them back. … It's as simple as understanding they are very price sensitive. We're trying to tell them that we want to charge them 20 percent for our product, and they're saying, 'Well, we'll pay you 10,' and we say, 'Okay, go away

On how to fix this mess:

RH: What would you suggest when you mentioned that the wagers are looking for players or looking for a uniform vehicle in which to wager, how do you think that could be brought about?

JR: Frank Stronach, who's the founder of Magna Entertainment, about five or six years ago mentioned what he called the Central Betting Exchange. … The Central Betting Exchange idea was to have all the signals go through one hub and then individual brokerages like my company, Premier Turf, can then get a brokerage license attached to that hub, and it would therefore be able to be a stock trade. ... So you could choose to get a volume, a company that would give you the lowest rate, or a higher rate with more customer service, more perks involved.

The Central Betting Exchange idea is one that I've spent a long time thinking about, working on and it is a truer model, where all the race tracks can agree to sell their signal ... for whatever rate they think their tracks can handle.

So … you've got all the signals coming to one central exchange, where different entities like Premier Turf, like Twins Spires at Churchill Downs, like Express Bet of Magna, can hook onto that central exchange and be able to handle to take bets on every horse running in North America today at a price that is appropriate, that is low enough to attract all the clientele.

On why racing can not fix this, and why there is no movement to fix this:

R: It's very simple: they have the wrong managers. They've gone out of their way to hire accountants and attorneys to do it, and these accountants and attorneys, especially more attorneys than anything, are very smart people, but if they've ever gone to the races and handicapped a race and placed a bet, they are disqualified from management at these race tracks. And I'm not being facetious, I'm not exaggerating. That is exactly what they've done. They've gone out and got these very smart people who don't understand the game, who don't understand the mind of our customer. ... If Vegas had the same model, it would have been shut down a long time ago, it would be a ghost town now.

The article is not an eye-opener here, of course. But it sure will be in racing execs and horseman group offices. I hope they read and heed it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NTRA Plan Unveiled

A big HANA thumbs up on the NTRA Safety Plan, announced today:

The initiatives include:

• A continued move toward uniform medication rules;
• A ban of steroids from racing competition;
• Out of competition testing for blood and gene doping agents;
• Uniform penalties for all medication infractions;
• Mandatory on-track and non-racing injury reporting;
• Mandatory installation of protective inner safety rails;
• Mandatory pre- and post-race security; and
• Adoption of a placement program for retired Thoroughbreds.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Grassroots Speaks

With a sincere thank you to HANA President Jeff Platt, we have a database and email capture interface finally done. This was a huge step for us. It was difficult to capture all of your names and handle figures in the gmail interface and this makes it easy. Although we have mentioned we will not pester you with piles of email - we hate that as much as anyone - we would like to get an email newsletter, possibly on a quarterly basis sent out to members. This way we can update you and offer out some member benefits (we hope!).

One of the neat things about the interface is that we can read and respond to some of the comments we have received when you all signed up. We are going to reproduce some of them here, only with state and initial, as we respect your privacy. We think the comments are interesting and they do show our group has a broad spectrum. We should have some statistics done on the list soon, but at first glance this really is a grassroots movement. For those who filled out handle figures we have a good range of small players in the $1000-$5000 per year area. Then we have another set of $5000-$30000. There are sign ups from virtually all over North America as well.

Here is a smattering of some of your comments. Thanks to everyone who signed up, and remember to tell a friend if you can!

Great idea to unify the fans, long overdue. Thanks.

Why are windfall scores taxed??

lets get this game cleaned up.I'm an owner who would like to see the playing field leveled.

I hope you will start with a more mainstream approach first because not only will it attract a greater level of support from the non-professional horseplayers such as myself but also it enables the organization to be able to hopefully start achieving goals sooner rather then later. As a CPA I am aware that the tax code is rather unfriendly to horseplayers and effect to remedy that should be put on the forefront. In addition, the current mess on the ADW front is issue which should be put front and center on the agenda. Both of these issues are contributing to a contractionary environment for handle and the industry as a whole needs to be focused on being expansionary in their policies instead. Lowering takeout is part of the equation, but that is a complicated area where unilateral action alone will not be successful.

I would love to have uniform betting. Like for the pick 6 and alternate scratch betting in all betting places. And ten cent betting for all bettors. At the local track no ten cent betting is allowed for anyone for any track. How nice!!!!!!!!! If you complain they kick you out.

Love your idea, heres hoping we can make an impact.

Let me know how when and where I can help.

Good work initiating this.

27 years old, my favorite sport is slowly being killed off.
J, Ontario

Being a handicapper is like being the Maytag repairman, it is a lonely business. I am glad to see these groups forming because there are some huge issues facing this sport. I'm not sure the industry wants the opinions of the players, but maybe a united voice can help. It's like chicken soup, it couldn't hurt!


I like the idea of someone finally appreciating the folks who keep the races going. On ADW I think the Kentucky horsemen are just plain greedy. Seems they don`t just want a share of the betting, but they want to be a partner.They are actually hurting racing at a time that is`nt to wise to do so. Good expression here is, They are cutting of their noses to spite their faces.

I am now disabled. ....... we players are always referred to as "bettors," not customers. That in itself has to change. I play horses on my computer now as I can not drive 60 miles to play a horse. I am fed up with all the recent stories regarding our game--They are the same headlines we saw 25 years ago. Hope I can assist by joining your organization.

I live in Texas and I have not been able to bet on the California tracks since the Santa Anita meet. I used to live in Los Angeles, so most of those tracks are my favorites and I understand the trends there. This ADW dispute is senseless considering the fact it is the bettor that turns the "machine." You can't get more from less. This debacle is just a matter of egos and lack of communications. If we as horseplayers could agree to miss some action and stage a strike to show our displeasure, I think the message would be loud and clear. Get the message out for a one day event.

I am glad someone has started this. Let's keep the momentum going and improve horse racing on this continent.
R, Ontario

Good to see an organization for real horse racing fans that wants real reform in the thoroughbred industry

Hopefully this org. will have some positive effect on the industry.I for one have reduced my handle by half over the last few yrs simply because of all the BS.I now find myself doing things I would rather not do like betting offshore but that is where the tracks are forcing me to play

Enthusiastically agree with the list of current issues.

This is "The Sport of Kings" and needs to be protected. I am completely in favor of the horseplayer having his say in how racing is conducted in all countries.
W, Alberta

I'm not sure how active I can be in HANA at the moment but I support what you're doing 100%!

Let's help clean up this sport to make it safe and fun for the horses. This is in the best interests for us players too

I enjoy your blog and very much enjoy horse racing.

Would like to see the amount taxed on exotics changed to $1200 Same as slots in casios.

I just want to be able to bet without having to go through hoops

If you're trying to help the bettor/fan I'm behind that effort. My suggestion is not to lose focus by tackling too many side issues. Good Luck.

I worked 10 years for a Horsemens Group and learned some of the ins and outs. As a betting customer in additon to my experience in the equine industry, I could perhaps add some valuable insight or perspective to your organization.

Long overdue; and your efforts are most appreciated. A sincere Thank You

Sick and tired of what horsemen and track management are doing to the game that I love. Lower the takeout or implement rebates for everyone. The game needs to be competitive with other forms of gambling. End the signal wars. Treat customers as if they MATTER and amazingly
handle will grow.

If I could legally bet online from Connecticut my handle would go up significantly.

Lower takeout, only way to save the game. Unfortunately, tracks are not in position to do this, nor do they have the will or leadership. In the current economic environment cant see good things for racing. But it is the greatest game. Good luck.

I work for a XXX firm and would be happy to discuss ways that our company could help spread the word for HANA to the media and generate press for issues and events.

We thank everyone for their comments, good or bad. Let’s hope we can make a difference.

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Technology & Horseplaying - A Look Back

It is no secret that the fractured state of racing has not used new technology to their advantage. We have been betting in the same pari-mutuel system for around 100 years, and other than now allowing betting in some areas on the internet (except Arizona of course) and a few new bets, we stagnate.

Bob Evans of Twinspires has been speaking of getting more and more tech friendly, as have others. HANA's very own Cary Fotias speaks of trying to work something out with racing where we all lobby for a fixed odds betting exchange. There is movement out there.

Poker grew from being a game we watch being played in a 1960 Clint Eastwood western, to what it is today. Cangamble speaks of poker playing in his last blog post a little.

For where we have come and what the consequences are, of course we can look at negative growth handles. The economy in the US almost doubled since 1998, yet horse racing handles did not grow a cent. This is reflected on the public and their interest in racing.

For a snapshot of where racing is in terms of web searches, check this post at It is interesting how brands like the UK betting exchange Betfair, and poker have captured the imagination, while we seem to wilt on the vine. It is a piece called "Case Study of Racing in the Internet Age."

There is a big drive for new members on Paceadvantage and elsewhere for HANA. We are working our butts off here, and we need ya! Please sign up if you have a moment (it only takes 2 minutes!) and if you already have signed up, can you tell a friend? We really want to add to our brand spanking new email database. Without members, we are nothing and we will not be able to effect change! Thanks. Happy Columbus Day, and to our Canadian members, Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

John Pricci Adds to the Discussion

John Pricci on his blog adds his name to the growing viewpoint that something has to be done to shore up falling handles.

This is the tide that can lift all boats, those of the customer’s, racetrack’s, horsemen and states where betting on horses is legal. And where does this infusion come from? What can reverse the current trend and stimulate an industry that contributes to so many economies?

It’s called a tax reduction; lowering parimutuel takeout. Whenever and wherever lower takeout has been enacted, over time it’s resulted in increased handle--read revenue to all here. For the groups mentioned above, it’s a win, win, win, win. Less is more; a little smaller slice of a much larger pie.

We need help to add to this vision. Please sign up for HANA. It is free and there is strength in numbers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Expect More Cali Handle Decreases

Today, the TOC and Cali racing have reached agreement at Hollywood.

California horsemen and Hollywood Park reached a tentative agreement Oct. 10 that allows the track to operate its 40-day autumn race meet, but a stalemate over host fees to be paid by account wagering companies for interstate bets remains unresolved.

As a result, it is increasingly likely that there will be no out-of-state advance deposit wagering on Hollywood's races during the stand, which runs Oct. 29 through Dec. 21.

Glad they got an agreement. Now they might want to come up with a plan to offer their product to bettors. It's kinda like agreeing to open a store, stocking the shelves and then putting a padlock on the front door.

Declaration of Horseplayer Independence

This editorial by Cary Fotias, who we recently announced has joined our Advisory Board here at HANA, was written around June of 2007 and has appeared in various places. You can help make a difference. Please join HANA today!

Declaration of Horseplayer Independence

When in the course of thoroughbred events, it becomes necessary for horseplayers to dissolve the financial bands which have connected them to insensitive racetrack owners and short-sighted state legislatures, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the rightful station to which they are entitled, they should declare the causes which impel them to action.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all horseplayers are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are market-driven takeout rates, sterner drug policies, the integrity of the wagering pools and the embracing of new technologies that could make it easy to bet on any race, anywhere, at anytime.

At my urging, Ron Geary has started a revolution in Henderson Kentucky. Paul Revere is riding once again, and the Ellis Park 4% Pick-4 is catching on like wildfire. Although Sunday's Pick-4 was canceled due to a lightning-induced power outage, Saturday's Pick-4 wagering was over $65,000 - a remarkable achievement, given that only the twin gorillas of Belmont and Hollywood handled more.

Please continue to support this bet as often as you can and for as much as you can. This Pick-4 isn't just about Ellis Park, it's about the future of the game. If we all band together and SEND IT IN, the residual effects down the road will be very beneficial. Other tracks will start losing Pick-4 handle to Ellis and will be motivated to lower rates themselves. Maybe then, politicians and racetrack owners will finally realize that LOWER TAKEOUT RATES are actually GOOD FOR BUSINESS. I chose the Pick-4 as a launching pad as it wasn't handling very much. If Ron and I had tried to lower WPS to 8%, where it probably belongs, the resistance would have been overwhelming. As guerillas, we have to choose our battles wisely.

In 1971, I was a student at the University of Michigan. John Sinclair, manager of the band MC5 and former leader of the White Panther Party, had been sentenced two years earlier to a 10-year jail term after giving two "joints" to an undercover narcotics officer. It was outrageous - the police, with consent from the Nixon administration were conducting all kinds of illegal searches ( I got pulled over many times just because I had long hair). On December 10th, the worm finally turned. John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and several other 60's activists like Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin staged a rally for John Sinclair at Crisler Arena.

Lo and behold, marijuana's status was changed from a narcotic to a controlled substance, Sinclair was a free man within a week, and the citizens of Ann Arbor got the local legislature to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession to $5 for an ounce or less. After a while, I guess "the authorities" just didn't know how to deal with 40,000 people getting high on the diag at the annual April Fool's Day Hash Bash.

So, you see, the system does work. You just have to get involved, fellow horseplayers.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

NTRA: Wagering Down 10%!

Today Ray Paulick highlights that wagering is off nearly 10%.

“Our industry’s difficult year continued during the summer as a harsh economy and other factors continued to negatively impact business,” said Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the NTRA.

The harsh economy I believe is a scapegoat. In contrast:

Betfair shrugs off tough times.


New CEO says company is on track to meet predicted 30 percent sales growth

The Australian newspaper The Age reports that Betfair's incoming chief executive in the land of Oz, Andrew Twaits, says the economic slowdown is having little impact on the firm, and after four months of trading in its new financial year Betfair is on track to beat its goal of 30 percent sales growth.

Fears that the licensing of Betfair in Australia and licensing the Darwin-based corporate bookmakers to operate on Victorian racing (see previous reports) would affect the traditional wagering provided by Tabcorp have proved to be unfounded, judging by the results so far over the spring carnival.

In fact, Tabcorp's win and place wagering figures have been on the increase since Betfair resumed operating on Victorian races from last July. There is little doubt that, rather than affect it, Betfair had stimulated Tabcorp turnover.

Twaits said this week that there was no doubt that the opening up of Australia's wagering industry, particularly Internet wagering, had led to increases in turnover by all providers, including Tabcorp. The disclosures have disproved dramatic claims by traditional horse racing associations and politicians who opposed Betfair's licensing that it would impact adversely on the industry.

Bet Curlin at the Second Call, Anyone?

Thanks to equidaily we see that betting exchange giant Betfair is going to be offering "in running" betting to its Australian customers on Gr. 1 races in that country.

The only race we've ever tried it on in Australia before is the Melbourne Cup. If it catches on here as much as it has in the UK and Europe, it will be huge.

"In the run betting has become so popular in the UK, it now accounts for about 18 per cent of all money traded on UK horse racing."

For those who do not know, in running betting is betting a race while it is being run. For 2 mile races overseas this can result in millions being bet during the race. People flat out enjoy this type of betting as it brings a brand new twist to horse racing.

A long known rule in business is that if you offer your customers more choice you will grow. The ROW (rest of the world) seems to get this concept in betting. In North America we do not seem to be able to join them. When we go to a State house, or legislature we go asking for more money from different forms of gambling. I think we should have been asking for more delivery mechanisms like this one to grow our core sport. We'd probably be much better off.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ray Paulick: Task Farce

Ray has a pretty tough piece up on wagering integrity and horseplayer concerns here today.

Something we all know too well?

For anyone not paying attention, the volume of pari-mutuel handle on horse racing is down this year by roughly 5%. It’s not just a Kentucky problem. By year’s end, total pari-mutuel handle in the United States may very well dip below $14 billion for the first time since 1999. That’s 10 years of stagnation.

It is well worth a read. And on behalf of HANA, if I may, a big thanks to horseplayer Mike Maloney for taking the time to help the game.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Treating Us Like We Have Intelligence

We are not slots players, we play horse racing because we can think.

Keeneland continues to outperform in terms of customer service and common sense. We noted below that they, after reviewing fans through a survey regarding polytrack, contacted Jeremy Plonk and created a polycapping database, which can be accessed right on their site.

We are not slots players. We like this new feature and want more and more information from our tracks. Preferably for free, so we can give them a whole pile of money.

Jeremy Plonk on is promoting this service to everyone he can.

I'd like to invite all horseplayers to utilize the Polycapping tools at this season, which opens Friday. The database provides information on every winner since the 2006 fall meeting, which is when the Polytrack was installed. Keeneland employed me to devise the information contained, so that it would be done from a handicapper's perspective. With raw data and your own creativity of filters and searches, you can unveil trends and stats that go beyond the conventional past performances.

Best of all, the database has an easy, free download feature, so you can take the raw data and input it into your own spreadsheet files and manipulate it as you normally would information in Excel, etc.

Polycapping is not a spoon-feeder tool trying lure newbies to the game. It's devised by a degenerate (me!) for everyday and regular horseplayers who are looking to get an edge, and more importantly, grow their confidence of betting on all-weather surface races. The Polycapping database also includes turf races.

Key elements in the database that you won't get anywhere else include air temperature, rainfall totals and whether or not the gallop master was used before each and every race. Here, you can get ahead of the curve of even track maintenance officials and try to glean trends that affect the racing surface before anyone else does. Many other traditional handicapping methods can be filtered and analyzed, such as the importance of a local workout, past experience on turf or Polytrack, turf-to-Poly or dirt-to-Poly movers, turn-backs and stretch-outs in distance, what circuits produce the most winners, fractional and final times in hundredths so you can devise pars for each distance and class, etc.

This is one of the most handicapper-focused acts of customer service that I can recall, and wonderful to see a company "get it" when it comes to horseplayers like us. The data is updated daily throughout the meeting, courtesy of Equibase, so each day you're getting up-to-the-race trends.

Good luck at the 17-day all-star game that is Keeneland.

Jeremy Plonk and consultant to the Polycapping database at

Also, another place, and another way that Keeneland realizes we are not slots players, we think and like it, is with allowing Premier Turf Club its signal. Premier Turf Club is an ADW that gives cash rewards, trying to stop people from playing offshore. In addition it is run by players, very cognizant to the needs of the thinking horseplayer. PTC offers daily a free handicappers clocker report for Keeneland. They apparently hope to have live paddock inspection reports added as well.

We are not slots players. Some out there know it.

Last up, Keeneland seemed to be very worried about speed on their poly. Players complained, and they seemed to be very receptive to our complaints. Well boys and girls, what happened? Late in the last meet, and during this one so far, speed is not really an issue. The track seems more than fair for us. That is all we can ask for isn't it? The inside plays like the outside, in both sprints and routes. Checking my handy Jcapper software, I can see speed horses are holding their own. 'E' and 'EP' horses are ROI positive in sprints, in fact. I would bet dollars to donuts that they have worked that track due to customer issues and made it a priority for this meet.

We are not slots players. We don't need to win a lottery type bet to make us feel good; watching a ball spin around a wheel and guessing right does nothing for us. Unlocking a pace scenario and hitting an $11 winner, or finding a little known trainer angle to nab us a $22 exacta is what we want. Keeneland, Premier Turf Club, Jeremy Plonk and everyone associated with this meet so far understands that, and players like me want to say one thing: Thank you. Lower prices through rebates, helping those of us who want to work at our craft win, and constantly asking us what we like and do not like, is an elixir that every track should serve.

I will be playing Keeneland this meet, and for many more meets. With customer service and respect for the bettor like they show, I think we all should.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Thanks to Cangamble for giving the heads up on this article regarding racing and its lack of a central authority.

A half-century ago, horseracing in America was a collection of politically-appointed fiefdoms (state racing commissions) overseeing tracks that derived 100 percent of their (legal) wagering handle through their own pari-mutuel machines and had virtually no competition for the wagering dollar. In 2008, American horseracing is still a collection of fiefdoms.

We all know that is true. 24% rakes here, 19% there, how about a lil 31% on some bets in Pennsylvania. Or Clenbuterol. 15 days here, 30 there. There is absolutely no direction or standards.

And as we all know, the fingers in the pie when it comes to wagering are even worse. This sport is governed by an act that was put into place when Saturday Night Fever was number one at the box office, and a peanut farmer from Georgia was President. When "That 70's Show" was not a show, but a way of life.

The last major legislation affecting horseracing — at the state or federal level — was the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, which was signed into law before the word Internet had entered the dictionary.

From a historical perspective, the growing crisis was inevitable. The only semblance of a national governing body in horseracing, The Jockey Club, was founded in 1894 and eventually wrote the rules of racing observed throughout the United States, but its loss of a case in the New York Court of Appeals in 1951 essentially eliminated its regulating authority.

The result?

In 2004, overall handle dropped by one-half of a percent, and in 2005 the overall decline accelerated to 3.6 percent as a result of a 6.5 percent decrease in on-track handle and the biggest drop ever in simulcast handle — 3.6 percent. Simulcast handle rebounded modestly in 2006 even as on-track handle continued to sink, but in 2007 the simulcast figures dropped off again. Total pari-mutuel handle on horseracing in 2007 was $14.725 billion — down three percent from the high in 2003 – and the mid-year quarterly update from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase (The Jockey Club's data-collection subsidiary) on wagering in 2008 has reported a 4.15 percent decline from 2007.

I wish in 1978 the Interstate horse racing act also enacted a Commissioner's Act, where they, well, actually named one and gave him some clout. It might have saved us the misery in wagering losses the last few years. HANA would not even be needed, perhaps.

Maybe someone like Jim Rockford would have done the job.

Sorry, it's late and there was a lot of racing today to play. It's the only kick-ass guy from the 1970's I could think of.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Press Release: Fotias & Dr. Z Join HANA Advisory Board

Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) Announces Cary Fotias and Dr. William Ziemba Join HANA’s Advisory Board


(Charlottesville, Virginia. October 3, 2008): The Horseplayers Association of North America is pleased to announce that Cary Fotias and Dr. William Ziemba have joined HANA’s Advisory Board as its first two members.

Mr. Fotias spent almost a decade on Wall Street as a currency trader, but was lured to racing and fulfilled a dream of becoming a full time handicapper and has done so for the last 16 years. He is currently the Founder and President of Equiform, a New York City firm that produces The XTRAS and The SHORTS, which are handicapping products for evaluating current condition and form cycles. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed handicapping book, Blinkers Off, which describes an innovative numerical approach to form-cycle analysis.

His philosophy meshes well with HANA’s goals as he is a vocal proponent of lower takeouts and delivering our product in a better way. In addition he has a strong interest in the cutting-edge concept of betting exchanges and how they might be developed in the U.S. He feels the game would prosper if it would only adapt to the economic and technological realities of the information age.

Dr. William T. Ziemba is the Alumni Professor of Financial Modeling and Stochastic Optimization, Emeritus in the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia where he taught from 1968 to 2004. He now teaches as a visiting professor. To horseplayers however, he is best known for co-writing the book “Dr. Z’s Beat the Racetrack” which revolutionized the way that horseplayers wagered. He has also co-written a new book titled “Handbook of Sports and Lottery Markets".

“Seeing that membership has been growing rapidly, we feel that an advisory board was a good next step for our group,” said HANA President Jeff Platt, “and we are thrilled that Dr. Z and Cary have chosen to join us.”

HANA’s Advisory Board is being assembled to offer input to HANA members and to act as a sounding board for its direction and mission. It will be adding new members in the near future.

The Horseplayers Association of North America is a grassroots group of horseplayers, not affiliated with any organization, who are not pleased with the direction the game has taken. HANA believes that both tracks and horseman groups have become bogged down with industry infighting and have completely forgotten something: The importance of the customer. HANA hopes, through proactive change on several key issues (including but not limited to), open signal access, lower effective takeouts, affordable data and customer appreciation, the industry’s handle losses can be reversed. HANA is currently made up of more than 200 horseplayers (both harness and thoroughbred) from almost all states and Canadian provinces. It currently represents over ten million dollars of yearly racing handle.

Our web address is and interested horseplayers can sign up there for free. We are horseplayers, just like you and we are trying to make a difference. We need and appreciate your support.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

HANA Update

A conference call occurred last night, as has been the weekly norm for the HANA Group.

It has been a busy time, and we are very happy with the membership numbers that are rolling in. Thanks to everyone. But it is also time for a Mea Culpa: The membership has not been updated via email yet, and that is our bad. We are currently trying to get all members and emails logged in a database and that has taken some time. Many of you (thank you again!) have added notes to your membership asking "how can I help?" We are not ignoring that, we love it, however getting the ducks in a row takes some time.

Here is what we have been working on and plan to do over the next while:

1. Get out a newsletter to members, updating them on what's been happening and what they can do to help. If you have not told a friend about HANA, forwarding a newsletter is a good way to!

2. Get the "Hana Store" up and running. We have heard some nice things about our logo and our mission. I know some of you want some gear to wear to the track. We are trying to get that up soon so if you want, you can buy some and help out your organization. We now have a bank account. It has less cash in it than many of our ADW betting accounts, but we hope to hit some supers and get it to grow.

3. Set up the HANA Advisory Board. This involves getting some members involved to help on big picture stuff.

4. Getting a PayPal donation link going. We know it is tough out there in our economy and with high takeouts; and we know there are many who can not help financially. We never expect it from our members. However, if someone out there does, they will at least have a place to donate. This cash will go to several marketing avenues that we have planned and have discussed.

5. Helping the player through web tools and other web based avenues. We soon hope to have track ratings, handicapping information and more up on our website.

So you are now up to date. Our slogan has been "Rome was not built in a day" and that is never more apparent. There is a lot of work to do. But please know we are trying. Together we hope to make the game better for us all.

Thanks for reading and good luck at the windows!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

THG - Not Making Many Friends

The Thoroughbred Horseman's Group (the one that wants to negotiate all ADW deals for horseman) don't seem to be making too many friends in our sport. At the International Simulcast Conference yesterday several groups locked horns.


Drew Couto, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California and vice president of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, said keeping the current structure whereby horsemen and racetracks “trade 70% dollars for 40% dollars” amounts to a “recipe for disaster.”


Chris Scherf, executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group, said turning the negotiation process over to horsemen could threaten tracks and disrupt a competitive marketplace.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Scherf said.

A few track executives who were on hand expressed concerns about the THG. Beulah Park general manager Mike Weiss said he believes the THG is dictating terms, not negotiating, while Tampa Bay Downs general manager Peter Berube said he has been told the model doesn’t work.

"I don’t prescribe to the THG position,” Berube said. “I think they’re unreasonable.”


And Dan Perini, an attorney for ADW provider, said the THG model—horsemen, tracks, and ADW providers each would get one-third of pari-mutuel takeout—would eat into company revenue, and in some cases, “the ADW provider would be left with nothing.”

From players the reaction is obvious. Since ADW's are the only place that we are getting a price break, or convenience, when they lose we lose.

This last quote from THG is what I think is what is wrong, and is somewhat disingenuous:

“Their retention is much greater on two-thirds (of the handle),” Couto said. “This is the trade of a 70% dollar for a 40% dollar. It needs to be revised, or we’re all going to be history.

THG wants more ADW (eg arguably the players) money for purses. If not "we're all going to be history" according to Couto. I would vehemently disagree. Under the present ADW environment, the one which the THG says is broken and wants to change more in their favor, purses for horse owners have actually gone up. We are clearly not "history". From the NTRA:

Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators (second qtr. 2008 vs. second qtr. 2007)
Indicator 2Q 2008 2Q 2007 % Change
Wagering on U.S. Races* $3,837,687,728 $4,003,960,415 -4.15
U.S. Purses $317,235,241 $306,210,835 +3.60

Purses are NOT the problem. They are going up, and were up 3.60% in the second quarter of 2008. The problem is wagering. It is down another 4.15%.

The player needs to be rewarded to churn money and grow our game. There is a crisis in our business, a wagering crisis.

HANA hopes these groups get together and find a way to make sure players are part of this "three legged stool". If they are not it is very possible that wagering losses mount, which will result in purse losses. And if we reach that tipping point, there will be very little this business can do to stop it. It will be a snowball of horseplayers money moving to the nearest poker table, or betting exchange.

Anyone ever try to push a snowball back up a hill?