Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tampa Bay Downs - Lowering Take, Trying to Build Their Business

HANA had a phone chat with Tampa Bay Downs' Peter Berube about everything Tampa

A track lowering takeout? A track catering with on-track rewards programs? A track where the customer feels like he is wanted? These appear to be all things being tried at the Florida oval that is Tampa bay Downs.

Reaching Peter Berube by phone was not at all difficult. He is a player, and wants to talk racing. It is no secret that thoroughbred racing is going through tough times. If we had only held inflation since 1998 our overall handle would be approaching $19B. Instead, we are approaching $12B in 2009.

"We like many have lost the bigger player and they are tough to get back", says Berube.

At HANA this is no secret as our players have said they are playing less, or not playing much at all as compared to yesteryear. Bankroll growth, and interest in the game from the serious players perspective has lessened.

Despite this loss, Tampa is holding their own, and are doing so with good old fashioned price cutting and customer service. This year they have lowered takeout yet again. Only five years ago their takeout was almost 26% blended on exotics and close to 19% in WPS. This year, takeout on WPS pools is 17.5%, doubles 18%, horizontals 19%, exactas 20.5% and tris and supers 25.9%.

"I'm a player so I know about churn and takeout. Right now we are not seeing any major change in revenues, so if we can we will keep lowering it to find the right spot." says Peter.

In addition Tampa has added 50 cent pick 4's and tris, which as part of the HANA track ratings system was welcomed by horseplayers.

"I know that is something you [HANA] have asked for. I measure this and have for years, so we should be able to see if those bets help us", said Peter.

It does not stop there. Tampa has an ontrack player rewards program which is excellent. If you bet $8000 over the meet, for example, expect a 1.25% rebate. This places their effective takeout with the best overall tracks to play in North America in terms of price.

The exotics (pick 3 and pick 4) make for an interesting case study, and HANA believes that horseplayers should be well aware of how these lower prices can help him/her.

Let's do a simulation:

Player A plays $24 pick 3's at Tampa. He is a losing player and gets $110 back for each $120 bet in the pick 3's.

Player B plays at a track those same pick 3's in $24 bets, but at this track, the pick 3's have a 25% takeout.

What happens?

Player "A" at Tampa with the local rebate and lower takeout bets $118.50 for a return of $110, therefore experiencing bankroll shrinkage of $8.50 for each 5 bet sequence. Player "B" bets a full $120 for a return of $101.85 @ a 25% rake therefore loses $18.15 for each 5 bet sequence.

The Tampa player can churn $2808 (118 bets) before hitting ruin. Player "B" at the high takeout track will churn $1320 (55 bets) before going broke. The track nets $491.40 from player "A" (17.5% of $2808) and $330.00 from player "B" (25% of 1320).

In effect, you can play twice as long at Tampa with your bankroll as you can at the high takeout track!

This is not lost on players. It is a long held customer service contention that if you can turn your most ardent critics, you are doing something right. Rich Bauer is a player who takes his game very seriously. He after all, is the creator of, a website which informs players that racetracks are not doing what needs to be done for their customers. He is very dedicated to playing tracks that only he feels respect him, as we all should. When contacted, this often times vocal critic had this to say about Tampa:

"I've been going to Tampa since the winter of 2004. This year I will be there for all of January. It's about a 12-hour drive from where I live which can be done in a day although I usually break the trip into 2 days. I never really considered South Florida or SoCal for a racing vacation since I retired in 2004. Although we now stay on the Gulf, so it's about a 35-minute drive to the track, there are plenty of reasonable motel/hotel accommodations within a mile or two of the track. The place is clean and well kept. The employees are exceptionally friendly. The racing has improved every year and the turf course is as good as it gets. Valet parking is two bucks. So, what's not to like?

Tampa has been reducing takeout selectively and permanently for what I believe is now four years. Can you point to ANY OTHER RACETRACK that has done that? They do not have the luxury of being part of a major circuit. They do not have the luxury of significant purse supplements from alternative gaming. The management has a record of making measured changes in the betting platform as well as takeout and then monitoring how those changes affect their business. From a business perspective, it's hard to argue with their approach or their results."

In our recently conducted HANA survey, 59.6% of you said you would move a good portion of your play to a track that caters to your takeout needs. Tampa appears to be that track, so we encourage members to give this place a look. Nice weather, pretty deep fields, low takeout as compared to others where you will keep more in your pocket.

As Rich said "What's not to like?"

To sign up for HANA please click this link. We need your help. Please keep following the blog for more Tampa news as we hope to have some blog pieces up about playing the Florida track, from players who do.

To visit Tampa Bay's website you can here.


Anonymous said...

Nice write up. I think it's time for players to wake up and start supporting independent tracks like Tampa, Hawthorne, and Keeneland that do things like distributing their signals without asking for price increases and offering on track player rewards programs- things that say they WANT us players as customers.

I think it's also time for players to completely stop supporting CDI/Tracknet tracks that through their actions say upper track management could really give a $hit about the player.

Chuck J
La Jolla, CA

Anonymous said...

Chuck J, I hear you loud and clear. I live in Hawaii now but I plan to move back to the mainland in '10. The number one factor in choosing a state to live in is whether or not I can open an online accounts at TVG and YouBet, and whether there is a well run racing circuit near my city of choice. I grew up in SoCal, but after reading this fine article, I may have to give serious thought to moving to Florida. Florida has never, ever been on my radar till now. See what a little customer service can do to a person? Good luck with all your wagers!

Mike M
Honolulu, HI

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

Okay, I'll be honest, I didn't understand most of this post. But I love Tampa and I love playing the horses that race there. There is a great atmosphere, the paddock is convenient so you're not running back and forth as badly as at some larger tracks, and they have good coffee. All those things should be taken into consideration as well, I think :) But evidently there are other, more mathematically inclined, reasons to play horses there.

To previous poster, Tampa's great, but don't move here on account of that! Everything else in Florida is kind of... not great...