Jeremy Plonk in his ESPN column this week hits the nail on the head. Titled "Take the Money and Run" the article echos many of the HANAblog themes and it seems to agree with our HANA open letter that Jeff wrote below.
Wake up and smell the monopoly.
An industry struggling for its financial survival has been blessed with the only legal internet gambling in America, yet wants to funnel it all down the drain because its factions can't agree on who gets what.
While it's natural to want more, unfortunately it's even more common to over-value your personal worth. Both factors appear at play as America's horseplayers twist and turn in the breeze.
A nationwide dispute between Thoroughbred horsemen and advance deposit wagering (ADW) companies continued at an impasse this week. All the while, fans and bettors alike were shut out from online wagering on most of the top signals in the sport, including Churchill Downs and Hollywood Park.
We have been mincing no words here that we feel blocking a signal and asking for more money in a time of falling handles is a short-sighted concept that will hurt, not help racing. Horseplayers have been taken for granted for so long, and it seems they are not taking it any longer. Plonk agrees:
Now, you might as well write your bets on a paper airplane and try to fly them to the racetrack.
Racing organizations had better realize this: I'm not a crack addict. I don't need to play the sixth from Anytrack USA this afternoon. In fact, I can go weeks on end with plenty of other fancy-free hobbies and habits. And I'm not alone.
We can miss racing, and the worst part? Once you stop, it is really difficult to get back into it. Rebuying forms, watching replays, learning track biases. It takes time and effort. Hong Kong realized this when they changed things aggressively this year with pricing and delivery when faced with new competition from Macau casinos. They knew just how vital it was to keep horseplayers, well, playing horses.
We have also been very hopeful that the business will learn that ADW and them working to expand the market is much more important than getting a bigger slice of a shrinking pie. This short-term goal seems to be prevalent in racing and Mr. Plonk seems to agree:
I've sat next to a president of a state horsemen's group who openly complained about a handful of customers in the grandstand of his local track calling in their bets on the cellphone to an ADW company instead of going to the track's betting windows, thus depriving the horsemen of a bigger percentage of those few bets. How simpleton can you possibly be? You base your argument on a few dollars going local to national, but fail to see the benefits of big money coming national to local through the ADW. Honestly, the thousands of guys betting in their underwear around the country today were not making 600-mile, cross-country roadtrips to your track.
He also thinks what horseman are asking for is unreasonable:
And, of course, the horsemen have now come calling for more of the pie. Much more. Simple math tells you that going from 20 percent to 33 percent is not asking for 13 percent; it's asking for 65 percent more than you used to be getting. Try going into a contract negotiation with your boss and asking for a 65-percent raise on your current take-home pay.
We have been mentioning here on the blog the simple fact that these entities don't just fund themselves. They are working for customers and putting some of their share into rebates and new technology - one of the few entities ever in the monopoly of racing who have actually done that. That is why they grew at 17% last year. Putting money into the highly taxed customer resulted in growth (go figure!). Now we seem to want to change all that, for some strange reason.
They should be happy as a lark that they bear ZERO of the expense involved in developing software, staffing, marketing, promoting or processing a single wager.
The article is a good one and we have not done it justice, so give it a read.
In racing we see a whole lot of cheerleading at times from the press. We think this is sometimes misguided and sometimes we tend need a good kick in the butt; this is one of those times. I am glad Mr. Plonk stepped up to the plate to let racing know that fans are not gonna take it anymore.
The message has been said loud and clear by racing fans:Full access of all tracks by all ADW, lower prices through open rebating, new technology advancements and a genuine respect for the bettor, or we will not have a business left.