Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl Weekend

We are taking a little break from the countdown this weekend at HANAblog. We will start it back up Monday and have a few surprises thrown in for those who have been following along and commenting.

For those of you commenting, thank you very much! Tracks, states and commissions need to hear from the customer so they can make the experience better. With handles down in 2008, and little sign of abatement, it is essential to the sport that we all play, no matter what you do - bet, train, own or run a track.

Many of the comments are focusing on the live track experience. Although we love hearing anecdotes and stories from local patrons (keep them coming!), we must reiterate - the live track experience was not looked at with the ratings. It is virtually impossible to rate the tracks for this with a small sample size, or without metrics to do it properly. But, you can help. In the future we plan on doing exactly this, through a membership survey. There are over 500 of you now in HANA, and we are growing daily. We hope to have enough members to get a statistically valid sample of horseplayer opinion through such surveys. We think it will be not only fun, but it will provide horseplayer value, and be good for the tracks themselves to see what players are saying about their service. Our game can not evolve for the better unless we speak up, have our voices heard, and work together.

How can you help? Please join us. Your privacy is assured, there is no fee to join. It only takes a minute. We do not bombard you with emails, either. Your privacy and opinion matter.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for joining HANA. We hope, with your help, we can make a difference.

Friday, January 30, 2009

HANA Track Ratings - #13 Santa Anita

The Horseplayers Association of North America has rated Santa Anita 13th out of the 65 tracks studied in North America.

Cumulative Takeout Score: 2.44
Field Size: 8.7
Wager Variety Score: 1.0
Best Bet: Low WPS takeout

Total HANA Score: 2.137

Rank: 13

Santa Anita, like Del Mar, has provided horseplayers with solid takeout value for some time as mandated. Also as Del Mar, field size is an issue, however.

On track promo's are a staple at Santa Anita. In addition, Xpressbet offers a 2% rebate to players who choose to play Santa Anita through the Magna ADW. Horseplayers with a churn rate of six or seven can up their handles appreciably with this promotion, and help their bottom line. The 2% rebate brings Santa Anita's win takeout to under 14%, which would rank them the best in North American racing.

Please join us at HANA. Membership is free.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

HANA Track Ratings - #14 Del Mar

The Horseplayers Association of North America has rated Del Mar Thoroughbred Club 14th out of the 65 tracks studied in North America.

Cumulative Takeout Score: 2.44
Field Size: 8.6
Wager Variety Score: 1.0
Best Bet: Low WPS Takeout

Total HANA Score: 2.135

Rank: 14

Del Mar represents good horseplayer value in several areas, notably its win takeout. Field size is on the lower end of tracks, but is respectable, and of special note: During the last ten days of the meet, field size improved dramatically to 9.5. In 2008 Del Mar, like most tracks on the Continent, had a tough year. Joe Harper, President: “No doubt, we were swimming against a strong (economic) current this year. But we swam well and we will get stronger because of it. While this economy has threatened to drown a lot of folks out there, we held our own and we don’t need to be making any excuses for that.”

From Del Mar: In the end, Del Mar’s on-track attendance dipped slightly by 4.3% and its overall handle was down by 7%. Still, the final numbers there — 16,002 and $13,001,768 per day — were far and away the best recorded in racing and once again among the national Thoroughbred leaders. It is notable, also, that the figure for total handle, despite the decline, registers as sixth-best in track history.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

HANA Track Ratings - #15 Gulfstream Park

The Horseplayers Association of North America has rated Gulfstream Park 15th out of the 65 tracks studied in North America.

Cumulative Takeout Score: 2.38
Field Size: 8.7
Wager Variety Score: 1.0
Best Bet: Exacta Takeout

Total HANA Score: 2.098

Rank: 15

Gulfstream provides not only exciting racing, and good field quality to its patrons, it also provides horseplayer value. In 2009 it has already been noted that field size is up from 2008 as management opted for racing one less day a week, and there is a resulting handle bump. From ESPN's Bill Finley, "Gulfstream is averaging 10.06 horses per race, a remarkably good number in an era where horses races so infrequently that the five-horse field is becoming an unfortunate but indelible part of the game. Through the first 12 days of racing in 2008, they had 9.19 horses per race. Even more significant is the upgrade in quality. With fewer races being run each week, the ones largely being eliminated are the lowest-level events. In 2008, 52 of the first 112 races at the meet were either starter allowances or claimers where the price tag was less than $35,000. This year, through the first 112 races, that number is down to 36."

From Gulfstream's January 24th press release: "Through the first 14 days of the 2009 meeting, on the eve of the ultra‐popular Sunshine Millions, Gulfstream Park recorded an 8.6% increase in “live,” or on‐track handle while also showing a 5.4% bump in all‐sources handle."

If this continues, it appears that Gulfstream is sure to crack the HANA top ten in 2009.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

HANA Track Ratings - #16 Louisiana Downs

The Horseplayers Association of North America has rated Louisiana Downs 16th out of the 65 tracks studied in North America.

Cumulative Takeout Score: 1.67
Field Size: 9.4
Wager Variety Score: 1.0
Best Bet: 20.5% Exacta Takeout

Total HANA Score: 2.038

Rank: 16

Open in 1974 and home of the Super Derby, Louisiana Downs takes the 16th spot in HANA's rankings. Like its counterpart Delta Downs, Louisiana possesses some decent horseplayer value in the exacta and double pools. Field size is on the high end of tracks on the continent, which of course is something horseplayers look for.

Monday, January 26, 2009

HANA Track Ratings - #17 Delta Downs

The Horseplayers Association of North America has rated Delta Downs 17th out of the 65 tracks studied in North America.

Cumulative Takeout Score: 1.67
Field Size: 9.0
Wager Variety Score: 1.0
Best Bet: 20.5% Exacta Takeout

Total HANA Score: 2.037

Rank: 17

Good field size and a decent takeout score make Delta one of the better value tracks to play in North America. Their website contains several useful features, including free video and race replays, unlike some of their counterparts, as well, which earns high marks from horseplayers.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

HANA Track Ratings - #18 Fonner Park

The Horseplayers Association of North America has rated Fonner Park 18th out of the 65 tracks studied in North America.

Cumulative Takeout Score: 2.44
Field Size: 8.4
Wager Variety Score: 0.0
Best Feature: Extremely Low WPS Takeout

Total HANA Score: 2.025

Even small tracks can provide value for local horseplayers and deserve to be recognized. Little known Fonner Park possesses the 2nd lowest win, place, show takeout on the continent. Fonner races a short meet, in Grand Island Nebraska and has done so since 1954.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

HANA Track Ratings - #19 Sunland Park

The Horseplayers Association of North America has rated Sunland Park 19th out of the 65 tracks studied in North America.

Cumulative Takeout Score: 1.45
Field Size: 9.3
Wager Variety Score: 2.0
Best Feature: Field size

Total HANA Score: 2.024

Rank: 19

Nearly $54 million was wagered on the Sunland product last season, up over 32% from the previous season. Business continues to surge, bolstered by full fields and increased racing quality.

Please join us at HANA.

Friday, January 23, 2009

HANA Track Ratings - #20 Sam Houston

The Horseplayers Association of North America has rated Sam Houston Race Park 20th out of the 65 tracks studied in North America.

Cumulative Takeout Score: 2.00
Field Size: 8.7
Wager Variety Score: 2.0
Best Bet: 12% Pick 3!

Total HANA Score: 2.000

Rank: 20

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1st Annual HANA Track Ratings Preview


65 tracks were rated

Ranks 20 through 11 will be released day by day starting tomorrow

10 through 1 will be released with full text, including comments from the tracks themselves

1 through 65 with all accompanying data will be released on HANAweb. It will encapsulate all factors and data points so players can use this as a player resource

It is important to note that these tracks are rated by the algorithm below - this is not subjective. If a track has eight grade 1 races with full fields, but has 31% takeouts it will not make our top ten (quality of field is not considered); conversely a low takeout track with 5 horse fields and no wager variety will not make it either. I guess a good way of putting it is this: Which tracks give you the most bang for your buck, where you can bet a low cost superfecta, with a big field, at a low takeout. Then you just have to sit back and enjoy the race, knowing the track you are patronizing is giving you some value

Comments are welcome; and please enjoy our first annual HANA Track Ratings


The Horseplayers Association of North America is proud to introduce the official HANA Track Rating System in a continuing effort to provide valuable assistance to our members in their handicapping endeavors. Knowledge is power and the purpose of this rating system is to allow members to make more informed decisions regarding the value of their wagering dollar at different tracks. This initial release of the track rating system is set up to be comprised of quantitative factors: takeout, field size and low base cost wager availability.

It is important to note that tracks may be unable to exert complete control over some of the factors incorporated in rating, consequently it is possible for a track to receive a poor rating even though it has many well intentioned, player friendly individuals on its staff. The primary purpose of the ratings is to provide information which will help horseplayers make decisions which will improve their bottom line and should be viewed accordingly.

Rebate availability has not been used in our calculations due to rebating ADW's not being available to our members in all states, and we are not at liberty to disclose the specifics of rebate levels available from those ADW's that offer them. It should be noted however, that tracks that are rebate friendly (make their signal available to rebating ADW's) experience a marked improvement in their ratings with for example, a nominal rebate of 5% being offered. The benefit derived from specific rebate levels is left for the horseplayer to determine.


The rating in each category is calculated by breaking the range of the data into 5 equal segments and assigning a 4 through to 0 (A through F) grade to each. The low cost wager variety category earns a point for each wager available. The final takeout grade is the average of the takeout of all wagers for a given track. The composite rating is derived using a 5x3x1 weighting scheme with composite takeout being assigned a weighting of 5, field size a 3 and low cost wager variety a 1.


Each wager category will be rated from “A” through “F” with each letter grade representing an approximate 20 percent range of the total population of all north American tracks. An “A” rating, for instance will represent a standing in the upper quintile of all NA tracks while an “F” rating will represent the lowest. All available wager categories available for each track will be rated. Note that ratings are based on what is available today, not necessarily what is considered optimum.

WPS takeout ranges from 15% to 20%. The following grades will be assigned:

15% - A

16% - B

17% - C

18% - D

19% - F

20% - F

Exacta takeout ranges from 18% to 26%. The following grades will be assigned:

18% - A

19%, %20 – B

21%, 22% - C

23%, 24% - D

25%, 26% - F

Quinella ranges will be as above.

Trifecta takeout ranges from 19% through 31%. The following grades will be assigned:

19% - 20% - A

21% - 23% - B

24% - 26% - C

27% - 29% - D

30% - 31% - F

Superfecta ranges will be as above.

Daily Double takeouts range from 12% through 26%. The following grades will be assigned:

12% - 15% - A

16% - 18% - B

19% - 21% - C

22% - 24% - D

25%, 26% - F

Pick 3/4 takeouts range from 12% through 29%. The following grades will be assigned:

12% - 15% - A

16% - 19% - B

20% - 22% - C

23% - 25% - D

26% - 29% - F

Pick 6 takeouts range from 15% through 28%. The following grades will be assigned:

15% - 17% - A

18% - 20% - B

21% - 23% - C

24% - 26% - D

27% - 28% - F

Takeout Composite

The takeout composite grade will be computed by averaging and rounding the equivalent numeric value of the letter grade in each category.

Grades will be assigned as follows:

3.85 - 4 = A

3.51 - 3.84 = A-

3.16 - 3.50 = B+

2.85 - 3.15 = B

2.51 - 2.84 = B-

2.16 - 2.50 = C+

1.85 - 2.15 = C

1.51 - 1.84 = C-

1.16 - 1.50 = D+

0.85 - 1.15 = D

0.51 - 0.84 = D-

< 0.51 = F

Wager Variety

A player friendly track will offer the largest variety of wagers to the customer. This includes 50 cent trifectas and pick-3 and pick-4's as well as 10 cent supers etc. Availability of these player friendly wagers will be considered in the rating of each track. The baseline for each track will be $2 WPS, $1 exacta, $1 trifecta, $1 superfecta, $1 pick bets and early/late daily doubles. This will earn the track an “F”. Any wager availability beyond this will earn an increasingly higher rating. A point will be awarded for each of: $0.50 trifecta, $0.10 superfecta, $0.50 pick-3, and a $0.50 pick-4.

Field Size

Field size is another “customer friendly” element that should figure into a track rating. Does the racing office truly fill the fields for competitive racing or do they just write races for the horsemen to win purses? Field size (based on the last calendar year of racing - 2008 calendar year for the initial release ) will be sorted into quintiles and rated accordingly as follows:

9.5 and up - A

8.8 – 9.4 – B

8.1 – 8.7 – C

7.4 – 8.0 – D

Below 7.4 - F

Composite Rating

The composite rating will be comprised of a weighted sum of each of the individual ratings. Initial grading will be comprised of the takeout being weighted 5x, the field size 3x and the wager variety 1x. The range of numeric value possible under this rating system is 0 through 4.

Grades will be assigned as follows:

3.85 - 4 = A

3.51 - 3.84 = A-

3.16 - 3.50 = B+

2.85 - 3.15 = B

2.51 - 2.84 = B-

2.16 - 2.50 = C+

1.85 - 2.15 = C

1.51 - 1.84 = C-

1.16 - 1.50 = D+

0.85 - 1.15 = D

0.51 - 0.84 = D-

< 0.51 = F

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NTRA Making Progress on Withholding

According to an update from the NTRA Players Coalition:

The PACE Act would eliminate the automatic federal withholding on winnings of $5,000 or more. The bill was introduced in the last Congress by Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA), whose district includes two racetracks.

We will be placing up email addresses and contact information for when the push is on. Many players, big and small, shoot for a jackpot bet now and again. Withholding is not only hurting our bankrolls, but in the big picture - hurting handles and purses.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fraser Rawlinson: Part II on Racing

Part two in a series by Fraser Rawlinson

The customer is always wrong; an address to track management

Empty wallets, empty grandstands

This is segment two of a series of articles by a "core customer." It is constructive criticism of the racing racing industry. The plan is to supply you with some examples of the "travels and travails" of this racing handicapper as a possible perspective from which industry execs might see if my complaints fit their track and then hopefully makesome adjustments. Additionally I want to talk about some examples of serious mistakes I see the racing industry making, and also great opportunities I see them fail to take advantage of every time the opportunity presents itself.

I promise I will get to those very shortly but first... Where's Yogi Berra when I need him?

Wasn't it "The Yog" who said, "It looks like deja vu all over again?" A scant week or so ago, movers and shakers in the racing got together in Orlando. The conference gave birth to the fledgling North American Standardbred Owners and Breeders Alliance. I hope the handicappers attending got cigars, as it appears likely to be a while before they get much else.

I wasn't there so I don't know what exactly was said. But these sorts of things often are launched by someone saying in effect, if not in fact, "We have a new name, a new look and a new attitude." Sometimes they substitute ‘purpose’ for ‘attitude.’ No matter the words, the net effect for handicappers remains the same.

Frenchmen have a saying that translates to "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Handicappers want to believe the industry will change, but we've all been seduced by this siren song before. That's why we're handicappers: we go by past performances. Never bet a horse to do something this time he has failed to do many times before. Same goes for anagram organizations. Listen everyone, I wanna believe! But I can't. Not yet.

Missing in action
To a man, the executive panel of Alliance is impressive. They're all smart folks, committed and well meaning. They come from every sector of the industry. Well almost every sector. Guess who's missing? Those responding "the customer!" all get an A. Did I miss something? Is there a bad echo in here or what? Where the hell are the customers? Ostensibly that will be one of the first mysteries to be solved by Alliance. Currently it must stand for "Not A Single Obligatory Bettor Aboard."

In the first installment of this series I mentioned the NTRA. They're the T-bred counterpart to Alliance. I sent a copy of the original article to a person I consider a good friend. I have the utmost respect for her judgment. She is Moira Sullivan Fanning, director of publicity and event operations for the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown. Moira told me I was too harsh on NTRA and my statement that they didn't have a customer on their board was no longer true. I thanked her very much and changed part of the article. As you probably know, their early ad campaign bombed, big time. That's not what they're saying, but it is the truth. Maybe adding a handicapper or customer to the NTRA board was what led to them dropping the ad campaign.

So while the NTRA has made the mistake already, and it was very costly, why didn't anyone at Alliance say, "Guys, we're getting into a situation here." The whole point of learning from history is to learn from some else's history, not re-invent the wheel. Given that these committees usually have most of their meetings via conference calls, maybe I should give them my phone number. I don't want a full vote, just to get to offer input.

The third segment in this series will be about racing customer surveys and market research. I'll be talking about the major reason most tracks should throw out their customer-satisfaction surveys and comment cards. It's called construct validity, and while I don't want to ruin the suspense of the next issue, I will give you a brief definition now, because it bears directly on what we've just been talking about.

Your "construct" is the "reality" or perception you have constructed about a particular subject, or even a person. It's sort of like rose-colored glasses. Your construct "colors" how you view certain objects or subjects. Racing and t-bred racing both suffer from decisions being made by people with an invalid construct. So the next part of this series will have examples taken from existing research.

As this point it may be appropriate to tell you what the final segment will be about. I will make a case, convincing I hope, that racing racing needs to do what many other industries do, and that is to "model" a successful racetrack. Mathematical modeling has made enormous strides, in virtual lock-step with the enormous strides made in the speed, power and capacity of personal computers. Over the next few parts in this series we will build a case slowly with each issue, showing how this could be done. There will be virtually no math for you the reader, other than perhaps the odd example of daily handle divided by attendance or other basic racing industry benchmarks.

The theory behind modeling and applying it to a mythical racing track will hopefully be interesting and thought provoking. (Word provoking too, if you would care to email me here at this magazine; I promise to answer all questions put to me. If you want your question answered publicly, I'll do that too.)

As mentioned previously the following is meant to result in constructive action being taken by the industry to offer the customers redress for being so long-suffering. This is not meant to point fingers or about assigning blame. It is meant to show tracks that they don't understand their customers as well as they should, or could. If put into effect, I am very confident we might be able to slow and then reverse the current downward trend of the on-track handle and attendance at live racing events.

Tracking business
Let's name our mythical track this issue. Because I want it to be successful in saving this game and sport we all love so much, consider this as the ground-breaking ceremony and I'm christening the new track NASOBA Downs (after the Alliance). NASOBA's crack management team is totally devoted to achieving the following: Salvaging,developing and upgrading the per-capita handle of the current players comes first. By far the cheapest customer maintenance costs are for existing customers. An example follows.

The data is very real. The two days are back to back. Saturday is a normal race day. The weather was OK. It had rained between 6 and 8 a.m... Cloudy, coolish for the 16th of June, but not bad. The following day, Sunday, the weather was slightly warmer and no rain. Sunday was also the third annual "Wallet Day."

For $3.50 admission the first 15,000 fans would be given a cheap, tacky, nylon wallet with a poorly silk-screened track logo. Inside were vouchers for cash prizes of varying size. The jackpot was a $10,000 voucher. The total vouchers amounted to $12,500.

Here's the analysis: Management paid a fortune to run what amounts to a $ 3.50 a ticket Scratch & Win Ticket. The only motivation you have to have is the desire for an almost free $10,000. I went early to observe people arriving. A very substantial number paid the admission, checked the inside of the wallet then turned right around and left immediately. Hundreds were so thrilled with the wallet they dropped it on the ground!

Brilliantly the track management didn't open the Early Bird tote windows until two hours after the gates opened. There was simulcasting upstairs but a newcomer would never know that, or how to get there if he did? And the unionized program sellers didn't show up 'til about 90 minutes before the first race.

The lineups were horrible for food and coffee, and unbelievable for the women's washrooms in the grandstand. The few newcomers who do bet, do so at such a slow rate (while they ask innumerable questions, i.e. what's a quinella,etc.) that they contribute to significantly lower handle. Regulars are shut out far more frequently than normal, or they are forced to bet far more early than they might like. The earlier I was forced to bet, the less I'd bet because the less relevance the current odds might have to the closing odds. I talked to regulars who were leaving around the fourth race because they were just fed-up.

....On-Track....|.Off-Track.|.Attend.|.Net On-Track.|.Per Capita

Sat..$1,212,041....$252,767.......4572......$ 960,274........$210.03
Diff..$ 323,504.....$ 20,336........6394......$ 303,480........$ 47.27

The Saturday on-track handle is normal so the Wallet Day folks therefore wagered the difference, on-track between the two days. This is $302,259. The per capita bet of the wallet-wanters is $47.27. That frankly is pathetic. These are the folks we are trying to get to attend regularly??? The normal (Saturday) customer bet $210.03, the lottery players on wallet day, $47.27. Our regular customer is worth $ 210.03 / $ 47.27 = 4.44 times as much as the walletday customer. Plus he would have come anyway, wallets and vouchers notwithstanding.

Track managers with good records or skills in other industries flop at managing a racetrack. It's not like selling shoes or selling cars, it's gambling.

Gambling is not an industry… it’s is a psychological process.
Gambling is not a conventional business… it’s a state of mind.

Racetrack managers like to say they've got "X" years of experience. Horseplayers would say and the results strongly suggest that putting in time doing something doesn't necessarily equal experience.

Having talked to dozens of track managers and executives at assorted industry conferences leads me to believe track managements want to make tracks more successful. But I don’t see them taking risks. They all try slightly new variations of very old ideas that didn’t work well or even work at all. Not even when the ideas were fresh.

Racing needs to act on the following fundamental truth:

1. The quality of life in the racing industry in the future, if it even survives, depends ENTIRELY on the quality of it's thinking now.

2. What happens to an organism (organization) that evolves characteristics that make further evolution impossible? This is my assessment of where the industry is now. It has no momentum, no internal, self- contained force. The industry does have lots of energy, but it's my sense that it doesn't know where to apply it.

3. While the destination matters, what matters a lot more is deciding on the very next step that needs to be taken.

4. Can we afford to rely upon the evolution through drift and crisis management or through the use of general "compass" directions? It's the opinion of several respected industry voices that this rudderless, drift course is how the industry evolved (?) to it's current stage.

5. What is urgent has always taken precedence over what is important. More important than anything else, is the final point: NASOBA needs to be specific about providing mechanisms for change and they need to be designed in now!

Next part, as an added bonus, I'll throw in my own personal choice for a way tracks can show gratitude to their best customers, and use the customers own money to pay them compound interest. Undoubtedly you're tired of hearing all this stuff about customers, but believe me, the customer is always wrong in this sport. It's incredible that an industry over 125 years old doesn't know who it's customers are, what it is that they need, how to find that out, or how to deliver it to them.

So the next part of this series may well be the most interesting for many people. I'll take a look at how to avoid the customers you can't afford, and get the ones we all deserve.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Customer is Always Wrong!

This article, from a series, was originally written for "Time In Harness" -- a twice monthly publication from Harrisburg, PA starting in March of 1998. When the first one was posted, the average stay on the site went from just over 6 minutes to just under 18. They also went over 1 million hits for the first time ever. The series made the list of highlights on the 10th anniversary of the magazine.


Part one in a series
The customer is always wrong!
An address to track management on betting on horse races in North America
by Fraser Rawlinson

Fraser Rawlinson, 54, has been handicapping horses for more than half of his life and gambling at a serious level since 1979, mostly in Vancouver, B.C. Fraser consults for various clients in areas of applied mathematics, dealing in decision science, risk analysis and assessment, and systems theory. He develops computer applications in the artificial-intelligence areas of expert systems and neural networks (the latter field is breakthrough technology in the fields of prediction and forecasting).

Rawlinson spent seven years working in the gaming business in Nevada and the Caribbean in the late '60s and early 70s. In 1996 he was the only serious horseplayer to be invited to the Race Tracks of Canada conference, which elected him to its marketing committee.

The opinions of Rawlinson in this series are not necessarily those of the magazine, its editors or sponsors. We invite comments, criticisms or questions to expand on various points. --Editor

Horse racing doesn't understand my needs. What's worse they're unwilling to listen to my complaints. Why am I special? Because I'm what every other industry in North America routinely kills for . . . a daily, repeat, loyal customer! But my needs are ignored by an industry where expert observers report the annual turnover rate in its fan base at 20 percent.

Horse tracks in North America routinely ignore what could pass for the mission statement of any business in the world--"The customer is always right."

By the beginning of the 1980s North American horse racing fans saw conditions deteriorating visibly. Back then, horseplayers weren't all that worried. The track owners were businessmen and weren't stupid, right? Surely they could see the major, fundamental changes required. Today, two decades later, the industry's best customers give virtually every track in North America a failing grade. Many big bettors, professional handicappers and serious amateurs in Canada and the USA, myself included, are increasingly critical, if not downright angry.

Like me, they don't want to tear down the industry. Like me, virtually every serious player has complaints that are nearly identical. Like me, most have offered constructive criticism to their local track manager. Like me, we've all felt, and may as well have been, invisible. Constructive criticism from both track employees and repeat customers has been treated the same. Both have been reviled for merely explaining things from their perspective. Punishing your employees when almost all work directly and completely with customers is counter-productive. Punishing your best customers is insane and suicidal.

For years the racetracks had a monopoly on gambling revenue, and therefore never felt the need to learn anything. They were the only game in town. Consequently they never identified their core customers or what they wanted. Horse racing's best customers feel the only thing track managements have successfully managed is to remain adamantly deaf to our complaints. The monopoly is long dead and today people wanting to gamble have choices. Increasingly, horse racing's frustrated fans make that choice by voting with their feet and marching away in droves to play other games.

So my impression is that track managers seem genuinely puzzled by cause and effect. They seemingly don't grasp that status-quo approaches can only lead to status quo results. To compound racing's problems, today state and provincial governments are in effect, bookmakers and casino part owners. Governments are our direct competitors and in the ultimate indignity, they regulate us. The industry has managed to put itself in the unenviable position of a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

Horse racing has long coveted young techno-wise men and women as customers, yet has no idea about how to attract and win these people. Based on my personal experience and observation, the industry lacks the ability to solve its problems. Horse racing has a long tradition of treating symptoms and not causes. Predictably the disease afflicting us has spread ominously. Symptoms are more plentiful and severe.

Horse racing's attempts to evolve are encouraging because they represent willingness to change. Yet, from my perspective, industry leaders don't know where, or how to start. Attempts at change certainly lead me to conclude they think they are just barely missing with the shots they fire in the gambling marketing wars. Horse racing's promotional campaigns give me the impression marketing directors feel they just need to correct their aim a bit. I've reached this conclusion because each new industry attempt varies so slightly from the last. Clearly they feel their mission is roughly equal to lobbing an artillery shell at a stationary, visible target. The horse industry's aim is so bad they may as well be using legally blind gunners firing straight up on a cloudy, moonless night, during a hurricane. No, I don't find it funny.

You want the aiming point? The industry is making almost all it's decisions for the wrong reasons. Horse racing in North America is not even close to being reality-based and results oriented. The litmus test is very easy to apply. Just head for the executive suite at almost any horse track, on either side of the 49th Parallel. When you get there, stop the first person you see (managers, just go straight to the washroom and look in the mirror) then ask, "Have you bet, more than $10 more than 10 times in less than 10 years?" If the answer isn't a quick, resounding, emphatic "yes" then you've never consumed the product you're selling. If that's true, it's odds-on you don't know what you're talking about. It's that simple. Very few horse management types have ever consumed the product they sell. If you can't share the customer's perspective, how can you serve him? I've met dozens of track execs who have never placed a bet and many can't even read a horse program.

Discuss handicapping with a track manager and you may be told "Hey whatcha talking about, we're wheel-chair accessible!" Yes, it's damn near that bad. So before you say these are merely subjective opinions, let’s examine the industry's numbers.

Fatal attraction Since the 1970s attendance, horse ownership, foal registrations, and daily handle on track have all been declining. But there is a ray of hope. Guess what's been the only number rising steadily while the aforementioned factors were declining? Per capita handle.

The average daily amount bet per person advanced steadily. If this was increasing while total attendance was shrinking like an ice-cube at Pompano, what should this have told the industry? For 20-odd years handle has been driven by an ever-increasing percentage of a continually smaller number of attendees. So clearly we can assume these players knew what they were doing.

Unlike casinos where the odds are set by mathematicians or steely-eyed professional gamblers, at racetracks the customers set the odds. They do this by the way their bets are distributed among the horses in a given race. A casino knows the correct odds for all their bets and pays off at less than correct odds. It doesn't matter how smart their customers are, if casino patrons play long enough, everyone loses.

Racetrack customers have varying levels of skill and understanding of the art of handicapping. The greater the number of amateur bettors or the greater the amount of money they bet on a particular race, the more likely they've made a mistake in the odds their bets have created. The payoffs will be skewed. Since the track and the state act as brokers extracting a fee and collect the same amount on a race regardless of who wins, tracks don't care who wins or what any horse's odds might be, or should be. Track managers do tend to cheer for favorites, because the more winning favorites there are, the more the fans re-bet their own money and create "churn." Just ask stock brokers about churn.

So while customer success hurts casinos, customer success at playing the horses greatly helps the tracks. And it helps them even if the success of their less knowledgeable customers is entirely due to luck. On nights when favorites are doing well pros will be in the exotic pools, or serial pools, but will find a way to win. If favorites aren't doing well, beginners will either need beginners luck or to find someone else's wallet in order to come out ahead. Undeniably then, success at laying the game is good for both the track and the customers.

Market focus
The Stock Market has been a "bull market" for the last several years and is directly analogous to horse racing. On Wall Street brokers and customers are doing very well, because both brokers and customers are doing very well. Horse racing should function the same way, but they don't because the industry doesn't appear to grasp this rudimentary fact.

So where should tracks focus their marketing efforts and budgets? I would certainly stop trying to sell entertainment. Handicapping at any worthwhile level, is about gambling. Gambling is about ego and money. If you think gambling is about entertainment, find a fan down $100 and ask how he's enjoying the show.

Someone whose net “entertainment account” balance is minus $500 won't be as entertained and is far less likely to return for more entertainment.

Someone who is down $50 or dead even is also a possible repeat customer. Anyone winning $50 or up is much more capable of returning, to say nothing of how much more entertained they no doubt are.

Since this is about gambling and not entertainment, stop calling us "fans." I hate that word. I'm not a couch potato and this "ain't no spectator sport." You don't watch this game, you play it! So market playing the game, not watching it! Market the possibility of winning money, not the possibility of being entertained while losing money. This often doesn't happen because, surprisingly, many tracks are sort of embarrassed to be in the gambling business. A significant number of track managements look down on gambling and gamblers. It's sort of like a cocktail lounge owned by a teetotaler who considers all his patrons, no matter how much or how little they drink, to be winos.

Your repeat customers come because they've learned to play the game profitably or at least break even. Given this, what conclusions have been drawn by horse marketing executives? Clearly not the correct ones. They're all still searching for that miracle promotion that's going to turn it all around. Forget searching for "Magic Bullet" promotions. Stop the goofy Wallet Days, Umbrella Days or French Fried Ice
Cream Days.

Watching Horse tracks chasing customers is like watching dogs chasing cars. Neither would know what to do if they caught what they were chasing. This isn't about attracting butts to fill the seats, it's about attracting bets to fill the tote board.

Repeated success at gambling is seen as ego boosting by men and women I've taught to handicap successfully. Several have said their friends think it's sexy. A large number now attend daily and others would if work schedules permitted. Women make better pupils because they are better at thinking intuitively or laterally. Because handicapping can be a profitable, tax-free hobby, women still often paid less then men, really take to handicapping. Handicapping is a competitive sport women play on
completely even terms with men.

I tell smart people, "Stop staying home and playing Jeopardy and beating the TV contestants for make believe money. Come to the track where being smart wins you real money!" Your overriding message must be "Come and learn to play a game smart people can beat." Thousands do it daily. Several hundred win substantial sums. Handicappers can and do make a living at this.

Racetrack managers, who never gamble and therefore don't know what they are really selling, hire ad agencies. The agency people believe what the tracks tell them. It's hardly surprising their campaigns completely miss the mark. Whatever you do, don't copy the thoroughbred industry! The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) was launched with much enthusiasm, even more hoopla and still more money. Did they have a nationally recognized handicapper on their start-up board? Originally every sector in the industry except the customer was represented. The oversight has been
corrected and now the question I have is, "Will he be heard or merely listened to?"

The NTRA's "Go Baby Go!" campaign has had mixed reviews. For me, the issue about the young woman's appearance and arguments about her eye color or makeup are irrelevant. The premise behind the campaign was very much off the mark. The young woman has been replaced; better to have sent a more targeted message in the first place. NTRA's initial purpose was right on the money. Horse racing needs to develop a twin. Hopefully the marriage of Axcis and the USTA will start us in the right direction. Without the input and constant advice of our most important shareholders, any new plan will also quickly unravel. Systems only work when feedback loops are taken seriously and corrections or adjustments are made quickly. A perception from outside the industry inner circle is desperately needed.

Albert Einstein, discussing nuclear proliferation and how to slow the arms race, said, "We can't use the same kind of thinking that got us into this mess, to get us out of it." While true in many North American industries, nowhere is this truer than horse racing. Back when I mentioned attendance I can guarantee several track managers said, "Live attendance is down but simulcasting has replaced that." Even if this is true, why shouldn't both be increasing? Population is increasing and we've had almost a decade of both substantial and sustained economic growth.

Managers in Delaware, West Virginia and most recently Ontario are rubbing their hands gleefully about their slots business. Indiana collects a "head tax" on riverboat casino admissions, which flows directly to the Indiana horse industry. Others locales have, or shortly will have, slots or casinos. This will almost
certainly lull some into resuming the "ostrich mentality" of recent years. If you do, and ignore the serious structural weaknesses in this industry, "outside gambling" funding sources will turn on you and consume you. If racetracks even wobble once slots are established there, look out. You want to bet on a lock? Bet that politicians can do gambling math.

Do you see slots or casino revenues as the Golden Goose? How about simulcasting? If so, stick around for the next few installments in this series. Given current industry beliefs I will describe in gory detail several possible scenarios which will turn your Golden Goose into a Trojan Horse.

Future parts of this series will contain several ideas for racetrack boardroom discussion and debate.

Among the things I'll talk about:

-- How do I sell this game to newcomers?
-- Why you'll win by wooing women (to handicapping).
-- How "construct validity" invalidates all your existing research.
--Why it's fatal to try and look like a lottery.
--How to model the evolution of a successful horse handicapper.
--What one thing the entire industry should make their goal.
--How a 10-percent increase in win percentage can triple a
handicapper's profits.

This industry is not reality based or results oriented. After this series you'll have no more excuses. You think I'm arrogant? Not at all. Weighing the evidence of the last 20 plus years, customers are the targets of arrogance, not its source. So, on the off chance it might be valuable, look at your industry from my perspective. Alternatively, at least consider the message in the final paragraph.

Right now you think I couldn't possibly prove I'm right. Maybe not. But horse racing's sorry performance and singular lack of success for the last 25 years does shout one thing from the top of grandstands. The ghosts of the tens of thousands of "gone-forever" horse fans definitely prove you're wrong.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Interesting Winning Bettors - At Racing!

Recently at the Paulick Report, Ray spoke about betfair and its reach to the US someday. We of course concur that bringing something new and exciting to the gambling market is a good thing, and we have spoken of that many times. Unfortunately the fingers-in-the-pie economics and the resulting probable 15% takeout on a betting exchange would kill it before it starts here, but I hope the lesson of the following is not lost on us.

On the Pull the Pocket blog, he has been looking at what has been happening in the UK with bettors and he speaks about them. First up, a 23 year old kid who just learned racing is blogging about his experience. He wants to make GBP150,000 in 2009. Yep, you read that right. Hey, he's a kid. He will never do it, after all over here it is well documented that only 2% of the entire population that plays racing wins. So this kid is showing bravado, correct?

Well maybe not. Pull the Pocket found another blog. This one from a horse race bettor who succeeded in making GBP100,000 in 2008 on the low takeout exchange.

Examples such as this tell us that racing is a good bet, if done right - after all Adam is not playing racing through bookies or betting the Tote - he is playing at an exchange. It clearly is not done right here in North America. Unless we change, we will never see this type of blog here across the pond. People do not think they can win at racing, and this is probably our biggest hurdle in attracting people like Adam. The point is not if he wins $300k, but that he thinks he can make $300k.

In the UK whose GDP is about 2.2 trillion, horse bettors like this are still drawn to racing, and bringing new blood with them to enjoy the game. In Canada and the US our GDP is about 15 trillion, so there is no reason we should not be able to blow away the UK numbers.

We at HANA could not agree more. There is a whole world out there that we have to keep our minds open to, and execute ways in which to exploit.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Henry Kissinger Can Help Racing

Any system produces winners and losers. If the gap between them gets too great, the losers will organize themselves politically and seek to recast the existing system... -- Henry Kissinger, in The Economist

When you think about it, this quote by Henry Kissinger seems to apply to the racing industry.

The industry today consists of systems where too many parties are losing and too few are winning. The many parties who are falling behind are attempting to organize and recast the existing system in order to increase their revenues. While this could be at the expense of other parties, advertently or inadvertently, the challenge for all parties is that handle is down. So it seems like a dubious notion that grabbing a larger share of a shrinking pie is the path to salvation for the industry.

It also seems unlikely that losing parties could become winners and remain winners by trying to organize and recast the system at the expense of other troubled parties.

A better strategy would be to strive to devise a Win-Win strategy whereby all parties cooperate to formulate solutions that can be employed to fight against the external forces that are negatively affecting the industry. Symbiosis has benefits to all concerned.

HANA formed because Horseplayers did not have a unified voice. One of HANA's goals is to find ways to grow handle. Handle growth will benefit all parties in the industry. Growing handle requires cooperation among everyone. If handle is not growing then it is shrinking. If it is shrinking then the industry is dying and all the organizing in the world and recasting of systems among losing parties will not be enough to revive the industry.

Please consider joining Horseplayers Association of North America and help revive the racing industy. It only takes a moment and it is free!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Slots, and a Plea to Keeneland

It appears there is a shot that the bluegrass state will get slots to prop up the industry there. This is of course great news.

I read with interest some of the comments regarding slots in Kentucky, and I completely understand as a horse owner the position Kentucky is in. However, the talk of placing so much of the revenue into only purses is worrisome to some who want to see the game grow on the demand side. The bulk of the revenue in Ontario, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere has been placed into purses. We all know that handles have been killed in those jurisdictions. It has done little to help grow our sport for the long term. Yes it has attracted a few more feed men, a few more vets, and a few more shippers and that can never be underestimated; but without an accompanying growth in handles, those things will all go away. We all know this.

Kentucky could lead us from the abyss. They are the jewel of racing. Keeneland particularly has been on the cutting edge in helping the player grow, and growing their business for the good of the business. They have been proactive regarding many, many player based issues. I think Keeneland should take a slots-stand: If slots are approved, 5% or 10% of the revenue should be placed in a slush fund with a grand plan to grow handles. Buy an ADW and rebate that money back, lobby for a betting exchange (it seems the Governor of the State wants online betting gone, so piggyback a new form of wagering for horse racing only and take advantage of it), use it to promote the hell out of racing; myriad things to grow demand. Kentucky has a chance to lead us, and we ask them to come up with something should slots be passed.

Chances like this come to us maybe once in a lifetime and we all know that slots are a band-aid. Other jurisdictions have not done a good job with this money. I am optimistic Kentucky will do the right thing for the long-term health of the sport and reinvest some of it on the demand side, so when the bandits are gone, we will still have horseplayers, eager to wager on the wonderful tracks of Kentucky.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Yep, we are. We have not hit you up for anything lately; and I just checked our HANA store and you have responded by not being asked - we got a few more sales of our HANAGear.

So to change things up (every time we ask it usually results in less sales) we are asking again - if you have not bought anything and want to, now is the time. We are trying to get some things off the ground, and since all of our handicapping is not exactly setting the world on fire, you can help.

Seriously, we appreciate each one of you who have bought something. Being a membership driven organization we count on you to succeed.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tipping Point

In Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, his premise is that a certain point is reached where a snowball occurs and it is down, down, down, or up, up, up. From reading the news, especially with the infighting of late, you could count on one hand how many times the customer has been mentioned. Andy Beyer once said that racing takes the rules of modern business and then feels that it does not apply to them. The debate seems to have been "if we put money into purses, we will grow" rather than "if we increase betting purses will grow." I don't know what business ever grew and prospered by only concentrating on the supply, and not demand-side. But racing seems to be one that thinks this is a super-duper policy.

Well perhaps we have reached the tipping point. Nick Kling in his latest piece looks at two members of the industry who are historically focused on the supply issues, finally speaking of demand.

[Chris] Scherf told bloodhorse, “This should be a wakeup call to our industry that ... we need to keep focused on the issues of pari-mutuel wagering and the bettors.”

Scherf added, “The first voice we need to listen to are the bettors. If we are not meeting their needs, and obviously we are not, we need to figure out ways to address those.”

Further (try and find where you have heard this lately, other than on some blogs......)

Scherf told the Paulick Report, “We’ve got to look into pricing (the takeout charge on pari-mutuel bets). We need to make the same kind of concerted effort on handle that is currently being made to improve the safety and welfare issues. The problem is we’ve got tracks and horsemen both saying they need more money in this economy. But the first thing we need is an engaged gambling public, and they should be at the top of the list.”

Also, TOC/THG exec Drew Couto joined the chorus.

Couto said, “We have to face two very important realities. First, we have allowed (racing) to basically disappear. It’s no longer a sport, but simply a justification to gamble and wager, and as a wagering proposition we know it’s not the most attractive. (We have to) make some very serious fundamental changes to focus on the sporting aspect of racing. We have left it largely to the tracks to be the stewards of the sport, and they only care about the financial side.”

And, hold onto your socks - someone speaking of a betting exchange!

He went on to say, “Second, we have to adopt new ways our fans can participate. New wagers, betting exchanges. We have to embrace these new ways of playing ... so it’s new and fresh. If we don’t begin to do things differently and find new ways to operate, we are bound to be the definitive example of what Einstein said.”

It has taken quite awhile - all the talk from the bettors and blogs and groups like HANA asking for lower prices, new ways to bet, and so on. But do not misunderstand this: This talk was a foreign thing only one or two years ago. It is not any longer. Your voice is being heard. It appears we have reached a tipping point - the customer matters.

We need you to keep this momentum going. Please join HANA by clicking here. It is confidential, easy and you will be doing some good for the game we all love.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Track Ratings Update

Just a quick note about the HANA track ratings - they will be out soon. We are currently interviewing some of the people who work for the top rated ones, and we are compiling those thoughts.

We hope that this can be a tremendous player resource. Not to mention we find that people involved with the top rated tracks themselves are extremely passionate about growing their fan base. Each time we speak to one, they seem thrilled to tell us their story.

We hope to have track #10 out by sometime next week.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

HANA President Platt on Bloodhorse

With the recent wagering decreases reported in 2008, Jeff Platt was asked for his opinion via a recent Bloodhorse article:

The president of the Horseplayers Association of North America, a grass-roots bettors’ advocacy organization, said he feels some handicappers have just simply chosen to not wager, or have cast their lot with off-shores and bookmakers.

“They are betting less or they are sitting on the sidelines,” said Platt, whose organization includes about 500 members. “And a lot of the bigger bettors are betting offshore, where they are getting a rebate, but not betting in the pools. That is definitely happening.”

But Platt said there were bright spots in 2008, such as resulting increased handle at Monmouth Park, Louisiana Downs, Hawthorne Racetrack, and more recently, Tampa Bay Downs. He feels there is a common thread of dynamics surrounding those tracks, including wide distribution of racing signals, larger field sizes, and, despite his own success handicapping on synthetic surfaces, the presence of dirt tracks.

“I don’t know how to conceptualize it, but the bettors do respond ... it creates a buzz,” he said. “You put a good field out there, put the signal out there, and run it on dirt, and they seem to respond.”

More here.

What Brought You to the Game?

On there is a thread asking "What brought you to the game?"

Several of the responses are what sets us apart from other types of gambling. It takes no skill or thought to pull a lever or bet 7 on a wheel. This is echoed by some who say "I like puzzles" and "I like the mental challenge."

Horseplaying is a wonderful pursuit. If only we could get people to win a few more bucks and grind out a bit more play we might promote it to other gamblers who enjoy the same mental challenge.

Handle Down over $1B in 2008

Ray Paulick has some good articles and statistics on handles for 2008. We won't rehash it here - we know how we feel about industry reaction to handle losses - but in case you have not seen it, check out this link for some numbers.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Reactive versus Proactive

On the Paulick Report a member wrote an op-ed to Pope's piece which we have discussed previously. It has been getting quite a few responses. There are generally two camps, one which is looking at splitting up the existing pie, and one looking at the overall growth of the pie. It is a very good discussion and shows the dichotomy between many in racing. Because we do not have a central office, these issues become a free for all, generally.

Nonetheless, it is a good read. People like Dick Powell from RGS have joined the chatter, as well as several gambling folks.

In a complete 180 from that discussion, here is a post reprinted here with permission. This is a note about what Australia is doing to combat virtually all of the issues that are facing us in 2009. Notice how many times gambling is mentioned compared to Mr. Pope's piece at Paulick's Report. Notice how many times they speak of growing their market through new channels, compared to it. Notice how many times they talk about avoiding protectionist policies compared to it.

There is a massive chasm between the rest of the world and North American racing. It is vast. I personally like what Australia is doing, and hell, at least they knew who their customer was 40 years ago. This is all being implemented right now, as we speak. And they have done far better than us in 2008. It is amazing to see what a racing jurisdiction can do, if given the chance.

Reactive businesses tend to fail. Proactive ones tend to succeed. Will we be proactive in 2009, or simply keep arguing over splitting up our shrinking market share?


In Australian newspaper The Age there is a good piece on racing in Australia and what they plan to do for 2009 and beyond. It is pretty eye-opening compared to what we are doing across the pond here.

In North America we seem to be concentrating on finding ways to split the shrinking pie, or litigating racing in such a way to be protectionist. Also, very little planning seems to be occurring with Internet wagering. Often in fact, we hear the Utopian view that we will attract people back to the track, just like days gone by. Not in Australia. There they have studied their customers and have worked a plan to increase betting participation through 2020 and beyond.

Some of the snippets of the article:

On who the customer is.... "About 40 years ago, officials finally realised that horse racing revolved around gambling" This was achieved by a customer study that showed 95% of patrons were bettors of more than $40 per day. Only 5% were there to watch the horses, and they bet less than $12 per visit. We are debating in 2009, what they knew in 1969 - when a man first landed on the moon.

On where they can expand .... "The international market represents the biggest possibility for growth.... The first will be a shift to attract the enormous Asian betting market. The cornerstone of this thinking is to transfer Moonee Valley's showpiece Cox Plate meeting from day to night, so it can be run at a more palatable time in Asia and Europe." Changing post times for a new market. Would we do this in insular North America?

How will they fund this expansion? Will they fight over who pays for it? "He said the Government was willing to invest $45 million into making Victorian racing a global leader."

Banning whipping, or changing medication rules to make a safer sport. Will it be tackled or will it be a five or six year debate between 37 different acronyms, all with different views? "Racing is becoming more aware of its image. Jumps racing, which is conducted in Victoria and South Australia, looks likely to be restricted to the country venues... Political correctness now prevails, with more charges laid against offenders who have brought racing into disrepute by their actions or words. Changes are also mooted to the way jockeys ride their horses. This week, the Australian Racing Board is expected to announce a change to the whip rules, so that jockeys will only be permitted to whip their mount a certain number of times during a race."

We complain in horse racing in North America about costs for us as horse owners and venues, and too much racing, that waters down the product and dilutes purses. In Australia they address the issue, they don't just talk about it. "The number of training venues in Victoria will be slashed from a currently uneconomic 39 to 16. RVL's vision is of super training centres in strategic regions instead of costly training tracks scattered all over the state. RVL has been quiet on the topic of closing racecourses. But it appears that the current complement of 52 country racetracks and four metropolitan tracks will be deemed unsustainable."

While in North America we often complain or try to take more from people betting at home, instead of encouraging this as a reality, Australia has no problem in embracing and planning with the changing world. "While bums on seats is a good recipe for a successful racing club, authorities have identified that bums on couches can be a handy money-spinner, too. That is not to say that officials have given up luring people to the track. But authorities realise that the golden days of bumper crowds are gone."

Everyone knows the business model must be changed, correct? Over here we tend to fight about it - by protectionist policies, or looking for government subsidy to 'make' people bet racing, or by trying to hike takeouts for revenue shortfalls. In Australia, this attitude is completely different. "Despite fears that corporate bookmakers will kill off racing's revenue stream, RVL chief executive Rob Hines predicts the rise of the corporates will add to the marketplace. He said the move to deregulate advertising by wagering operators was designed to remove the protectionist attitude and encourage people to bet on a wide range of products. "We expect these revenues to add to tote turnover," he said, with the TAB continuing to be the main source of revenue for the industry. "

Also: Hines announced last month that Victorian racing was "open for business" following the release of its "Racing To 2020" blueprint for the future. "The vision provides the platform and framework for industry development over the next 10 to 15 years," he said. "Now, more than ever, it is essential that the entire industry operates with a more collective, innovative and less protectionist approach if we are to succeed and achieve our goals."

When you mention to someone in racing that you think most of our ills are self-inflicted you will get a pass the buck answer from most quarters - we can't lower takeouts, government is against us, offshore pirates are killing us, we can't change racedates or post times because of rules, and on and on. A simple question can be thrown back: If Australia can do it, why can't we?

Image courtesy
Post courtesy here.

One Small Step for the Regular Joe

Magna recently announced that they are offering a 2% daily betting rebate for bets on their stable of tracks, if they are bet with expressbet.

That’s right. Players automatically receive rewards daily and can use them immediately. No more waiting a year to save enough points to order that cool lava lamp.

It is nice to see some of the major companies joining the others who have seen by rebating a portion of wagering back, it is rebet and gives the player a little boost. 2% does not sound like much in a game where about 22% is taken, but the overall business seems to have been reticent to do even something this small in the past for their average players. So this is definitely a good thing.

Friday, January 2, 2009

HANA Track Ratings

We are pleased to announce that HANA is close to releasing its 2009 Track Ratings. We will have more detail on this later, especially regarding some of the criteria and the formula used to rate the tracks, but for now here are a couple tidbits:

65 tracks were rated

Close to 1000 data points were used

A HANA member from Texas was the chief data compiler

It took us three months to finish it

It will be released in a special area of HANAweb, as we want it to be used as a player resource

We will be doing this annually, giving props to tracks that improve year over year

This is not your average track rating, where everyone can guess a top ten based on the type of horses that race there. This track rating is based on value and respect for the betting customer - takeout, field size, breadth of bets and a few others. The tracks that go the extra mile in terms of pricing, customer support and choice will dominate the top of the list.

We hope by next week we will be able to release track number 10, then we will be counting down to number 1. After that, all 65 tracks will be posted on HANAweb.