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Friday, October 30, 2009

Are Racing Execs Ready For Change?

John Berry the Publicity Director at Pompano Park in Florida penned a column recently, where he sounds not like an industry insider, but like a horseplayer, or wagering economist.

Like one of our members when he was the Kentucky Racing Czar for a day, John asks the question we have been asking for years - why in heavens name are we not using slot money to lower takeout? He is calling for an 8% win takeout.

I believe that just a tinge of the money that has gone for higher purses could be used to put racing on a competitive field for the bettors.

The “New Deal” begins with the thought that racing would be well served to lower the take-out to roughly the same as slots. That would mean a 92 percent payback


This article is a must read for everyone in racing. Mr. Berry has the math right and shows he has a good grasp on churn, takeouts and what our business needs to do to survive and grow.

Hat tip to View from the Grandstand.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Betfair & the Breeders Cup - Interview with Betfair's US Head, and UK Horseplayers

We recently contacted Betfair, and a couple of their customers about the concluded deal between the Breeders Cup and the UK betting giant. We wanted some perspective and details about the deal from them as well from their players.

Betfair's betting exchange has changed the horse race betting landscape since its inception in 2001. It is no secret to players (and the business of racing itself is learning this as we speak) that high takeout in horse racing has stifled its growth. In fact, since 1998 pari-mutuel betting in the US alone is off a staggering amount. If we simply held the rate of inflation, handles would be upwards of $20B this year. Instead they will be around $12B. Betfair, by offering low takeout and a unique way to play racing has revolutionized the betting product and players who were simply not interested in racing at large takeouts began to flock back to play the sport.

As most know, betfair players get better odds and can both "back" and "lay" horses. This creates a peer to peer market. Someone in Australia might have liked Curlin in last years BC at 3-1 and wanted to bet, but someone from Glasgow might have thought he was a great bet against at those odds. Presto, you have a market, with two happy punters with locked in bets at a price that they wanted. In the US and Canada we are at mercy of late odds drops and in some cases past posting (as documented by HANA Vice President Mike Maloney at the Arizona Symposium a couple of years ago). This is fixed odds betting. Bet a horse at 3-1, you get 3-1.

Recently in Australia, Betfair began offering their customers a chance at betting into the "tote" (i.e. the pools) for their racing. This gave them the chance to partake in some of the copious exotics pools offered in that country, as well as the exchange. So far this has been successful. The same thing this year will be happening in the Breeders Cup.

What are the betfair players saying about this? When scanning their chat board it seems it is being fairly well received. The big draw seems to be a chance to play into the exotic pools, and to also continue to look for tote bargains on overseas runners. In addition, one poster mentioned bridgejumper pools and now having the ability to bet against them if he so wishes.

Will this be a success; will it be good for players here across the pond? What does it mean for racing? We contacted Mark Davies, Managing Director of Betfair and he was gracious to pass us along to Gerard Cunningham, President of Betfair US. Mr. Cunnigham took some time to answer some questions.

First, we asked about the effect on his customers being able to directly play into the pools. With the pick 6 and other exotics being offered, we wondered if this would juice the pools even more. As players we all of course love bigger pools. Mr Cunnigham was non-committal on exact estimates, however he was confident his players would be partaking in some way.

"We wouldn’t want to make bold predictions, but it is certainly true that every market that we have got involved with [by adding a pari-mutuel option] has seen a boost to its numbers, and experience shows that our exchange product exists very well alongside the tote and contributes to a boost for both." he said.

"We believe that our customers will play directly into the pools because they understand that when they bet into pools they can still find value there and it also gives them the ability to play exotics like Pick 4 and Pick 6."

Some might say that competition on his platform, and offering even more choice might water down things (and hurt both the product and the punter). Often, like on Alex Waldrop's blog about exchanges recently, it was surmised if a betting exchange coexisted alongside pari-mutuel it may hurt the pools: "Or would cannibalization of existing pari-mutuel wagering -- coupled with razor thin commission revenues -- cause us to move backward as an industry by diminishing revenues for the purses, operating expenses, marketing initiatives and capital improvements needed for the industry to stay competitive?", wrote Mr. Waldrop.

Mr. Cunningham answered that competition and choice is a good thing. "It’s worth noting, in fact, that the money that goes to horseracing in Britain is almost twice as much, a decade on, from when Betfair launched, and while we obviously can’t claim the credit for all of that, there is no doubt that competition in wagering product has been a major contributor to it."

We asked Betfair about the promotion of the BC to its customers, and if they have plans to help grow the brand, in some instances to many who have never been able to bet it before.

"We have a three-year sponsorship deal in place with the Breeders’ Cup, so it is very important to us to help the Breeders’ Cup raise their profile around the world. As more international horses participate in the Breeders’ Cup, the overseas interest in the event grows. We’ll be heavily promoting the Breeders’ Cup to our international players to make them aware of the ability to not only play into the pools, but also watch live video streams of the races on the Betfair site."

At HANA we have several followers from the UK. One, Scott Ferguson is a die-hard bettor who used to work for betfair at one time, and is now an influential blogger. He filled us in on his take, and gave us a brief education on what overseas punters will see come BC day, now being able to bet directly into the pools.

"For UK and Austrailian users, it's in the standard format we are used to, and very similar to the other betfair tote products."

He believes that now that it is offered, for him at least, it gets him more interested in North American racing.

"I'm looking forward to it, the most important part for me is to be able to see pool sizes as well so I know that it's worth the trouble of doing the form for a superfecta at Woodbine or Pick 6 at Keeneland."

He qualifies the comment with the following, showing that our game needs to be explained better to UK punters.

"I'm not the common player though. UK punters can be very parochial, but there are more people warming to the idea of global racing, or US racing in the evening because the time suits their lifestyle."

Professional horseplayer James Erickson agrees that adding access to the tote for the Breeders Cup should help.

"I often can not get a match on some races at Betfair, so I have opened another account where I can play into the pools, and I use it. I can honestly say that without access to betfair I would bet nothing on horse racing into the pools; I would not play it at all because of the wickedly high takeouts. I think others will follow, now that they have pool access."

HANA believes that offering us more choice as bettors only helps the game. Wager variety, for example, was one of the key metrics on our HANA track ratings that were released this past spring. Scott, as a UK player, echoes our feelings and adds that racing is generational and we need things like this to keep people interested in our game.

"Totes are great - but they are just part of the whole wagering pie. There must be a range of options to appeal to all different types of consumers, not just the person who has racing in his blood - that generation is fast fading away....."

During the announcement of the Betfair/BC deal we followed several articles and the comments that they spawned. Many of them had to do with money - will betfair give back to racing? Will lower takeouts destroy racing? A good deal of those comments said yes. In fact, one pointed comment on Alex Waldrop's blog really let them have it.

"But then Betfair have a storied history of paying nothing to the person putting on the show and when they finally do pay they tell you what they want to pay. .....They will dictate to the industry at large what they will pay for the product and they will do it all under the guise of bringing in “new revenue” to the industry. The truth will be that this is a complete fallacy."

It was similar by some posters at the Paulick Report. One such poster wants racing to be controlled, with tracks and purses getting most of the money, and not letting businesses like Betfair or other ADW's in as resellers to their customers at low takeouts.

"I guess this will be the beginning of the end. Who would have thought that racing would find an even quicker way to the end by entering into agreements with the only organization guaranteed to reduce the amount of money returned to the industry. We get 10% of their profit? As in an effective 1% of the amount wagered?
I will only say it one more time. Until the industry controls the takeout split in a rational, fair manner, as in the tracks and horsemen getting the lions share of the takeout and not the ADWs, horse racing is on the fast track to oblivion."

We purposely asked Mr. Cunningham to respond to many of those criticisms, and we will share them with you in their entirety.

"There are obviously some sections of the racing industry that have yet to be convinced by Betfair, despite the fact that the empirical evidence worldwide shows that we are a boost for the sport. We’ve had some well-documented run-ins over the years, but we have found that all those in the racing industry who have been kind enough to take the time to look at and discuss our model in depth see the benefits that arise from it."

For the people who he believes have not taken the time to look at their past, he thinks that dialogue is important.

"There are some who continue to believe things about us that sound plausible but that closer inspection shows are simply not true. We are always happy to try to explain the facts behind the fiction, and it’s been great that many racing executives around the world have become more receptive to Betfair once they have come to see that we’re operating with the sport’s best interests in mind, so that we can now count many friends around the world. Through race sponsorships, revenue sharing and charitable efforts, Betfair has consistently demonstrated its desire to improve racing by giving back to the sport. In markets like the UK and Ireland we even voluntarily make payments above the levy [what is required they pay by racing] to support racing."

He thinks, as well, that the acquisition of TVG will help them as a business, as well as with education.

"The acquisition of TVG was extremely important to get a foot into the U.S. market and demonstrate our core values with the North American racing industry. The owners, horsemen and tracks have been very receptive and we’ve been able to show our commitment to the North American racing industry through efforts we’ve already made in the market."

Race sponsorships have been a part of their business plan overseas and it looks like that will continue in North America.

"Whether through race sponsorships like the Claiming Crown, Breeders’ Cup or Hollywood Gold Cup; reaching new wagering agreements with a number of North American tracks; or through the latest efforts to offer our international bettors the ability to bet into pari-mutuel pools as well as sharing revenue from the exchange with tracks; it’s clear that Betfair is going above and beyond in its efforts to give back to racing."

What will the Breeders Cup this year bring? Will it be any different? Time will tell, but in terms of offering a new source of revenue and offering world wide bettors more choice for the Breeders Cup it looks like it is a step in the right direction.

As for opinions, everyone has one. We ask players to do their due diligence and let us know what they think. The future might be closer than any of us realize.

If you'd like to join us at HANA please do here. It's free and you can stand up and be counted. Several HANA members including Treasurer Theresia Muller and Advisory Board member Cary Fotias will be at this years Breeders Cup. Want to say hi? Please send us an email to let us know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

California Takeout Chatter

Recently it was announced that the California governor signed a new law whereby takeout can be set by the racetracks.

The comments on the article are worth reading as most have stood up to be heard. As well at Paceadvantage.com the thread regarding this has been well commented on. Horseplayers are saying one thing, and saying it loud and clear - they do not want a takeout increase.

"Cangamble" on his blog has written a well-thought out synopsis. It was recently highlighted by the Paulick Report and it explains things quite well. Horseplayers, please give it a read.

HANA President Jeff Platt has been discussing this issue with some in California and we hope to have some thoughts up soon. We are watching all the horseplayer feedback on this issue, via chatboards, blogs and our own email, so please keep the comments coming!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Crist Weighs-in on 0 MTP in Kentucky

Steve Crist of the DRF let his thoughts be known on the closing of the pools proposal currently being look at in Kentucky.

This is a maddeningly frustrating issue, because there's a clear path to a palatable solution, but it requires the one commodity that the racing industry is least able to muster: cooperation. If every major track would agree to close betting earlier, there would be no negative business impact after a week or two of customers getting used to the new deadline.

For a professional players thoughts on this, click here to read the post directly below.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kentucky Racing Commission Considers "0MTP" Option

On October 19th the Kentucky Wagering Integrity Working Group forwarded recommendations to the Kentucky Racing Commission, in response to wagering integrity issues. One of the recommendations was the closing of the wagering pools at zero minutes till post.

Closing the wagering at zero minutes is not a perfect solution. It doesn't allow bettors to adjust for gate scratches, a legitimate concern. As well, those who are short of time to wager and are constructing complicated vertical or horizontal wagers will have to change their behavior to ensure they get their bets in. It would much preferred if the industry invested in tote technology which would process wagers in or near real-time - something similar to the online stock trading sites that many of us use. Unfortunately, while racing spends millions to develop impressive online wagering platforms to bring in new bets, when it comes to fixing the tote system the cupboard is always bare. So closing at zero minutes becomes a logical temporary measure until the tote investment is made.

Published reports stated the recommendation was made to deal with late odds changes. But there are other benefits to closing wagering at zero minutes.

As a professional horseplayer, I fully understand that batched wagers will still be sent in at the end of the wagering cycle. But there will be fewer wagers merged into the host pool after the race has begun. The win odds will still drop on some horses after betting has closed. But in many races, all pools will be merged and final BEFORE the gate opens.

The result of this is good for horseplayers. Instead of the leader's odds changing from 3-1 to 2-1 at the quarter pole, picture horses breaking from the gate and the exact potential win prices being shown on the video feed (horse #1 will pay 16.80, #2 will pay 21.20, etc.). This can be done if all pools are merged and closed. This will restore the player's confidence in the wagering pools much more effectively than industry leaders telling us it's just a perception problem while trying to hide many of the wagering security problems that occur (several past posting incidents were only made public when discovered by players or the press). Many players for years have asked for some sort of fixed odds wagering system. This is not that, but at the very least you will have a fairly accurate idea of what your horse will pay, should he/she be fortunate enough to win the race.

The recommendation to close at zero minutes will go before the Kentucky Racing Commission on October 27. If approved and implemented, handle on Kentucky racing will most likely decrease in the near-term. But with proper promotion to let the bettors know what is coming before hand and a countdown clock on screen to ease the transition, soon bettors will begin to adjust to the early close. And as bettors see that Kentucky pools are closing properly and FINAL odds are often posted before the gate opens, handle will begin to grow. More of the hundreds of millions of dollars bet by frustrated players looking for secure pools will go to Kentucky.

Hopefully that growth will make up the near-term decrease and more. Then Kentucky will have grown handle with a seldom used strategy in racing - by improving the product.

This opinion piece was sent in by a HANA member. HANA would like member feedback on this issue, so please email us and let us know what you think! For another opinion on this issue, HANA Advisory Board member John Pricci has posted some thoughts on his site and that can be accessed here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

In the Takeout Does Matter File....

Read comments on commentary pieces at many industry websites and blogs and you will no doubt see a bevy of them which say "takeout does not matter." We as horseplayers know it does; getting paid $12 for a winner rather than $10 can be a make or break for us. Yesterday it was announced that Betfair and the Breeders Cup signed a deal, and for the first time betfair punters can bet right into the pari-mutuel pools.

However, takeout makes a difference:

The heavy deductions from the win and place pools in the American PMU – its equivalent of the Tote in Britain – mean that these are unlikely to appeal to many Betfair punters

Betfair has a different mindset - grow the handle by not killing off your customers with 22% takes, but by offering them value, so they do not run for the exits, they run to bet more races. From their annual report:

But shouldn’t we want customers to lose money as quickly as possible?

Slot machine operators around the world routinely return a higher percentage to punters than they are required to under regulation. Altruism, or commercial nous?

Racing knows that customers who go racing, and a) feel they had no value for money at the racecourse, and b) don’t win a single bet all day, don’t have much fun. They may not come back. In just the same way, we know that the least valuable customers to Betfair are the ones who lose all their money quickly. They go away and never come back. So, we are happy to take less off our customers per bet.

Business is all about offering your customer the product he wants at the price he wants. If you can do that, he’ll spend his money with you.


That mindset has grown them from a meagre 20,000 customers in 2001, to over 2 million today. They are the fourth largest internet start-up in the world, and have won innovation awards world wide.

The UK article is correct. Price sensitive customers care very much about takeout. In the UK there is a home for them, in the US and in North America there is not. We as an industry seem to choose to send them to play low takeout poker instead.

h/t to Equidaily.

Related: Low Takeout is Our Friend

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NYRA and Keeneland Tweak Post Times

In a good bit of working together, Jim Goodman of Keeneland reported to a HANA member today that they and NYRA have worked to schedule their post times better. Instead of 32 and 30 minutes between races respectively, they are now at a hard 31 minutes. With the 1:00 post at Belmont and the 1:05 at Keeneland, this keeps them (for awhile at least) spaced out. Punters have more time to scan both quality tracks for their plays.

At a recent impromptu HANA meeting at Keeneland the off times and the apparent lack of scheduling in North America popped up. A HANA member spoke of how good they do it in the UK, where he plays. "For the main set of tracks about every ten minutes there is a race, and they try and keep to that there", he told us.

Any way you slice it, NYRA and Keeneland trying to give more time and more choice to their bettors is a good thing. Let's see if this makes a difference.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I think Jay is a Horseplayer

Jay Cronley is a favorite in HANA Land. Most of you read him and we get sent his links often from members. He usually writes a gem and is as funny as heck. This column is no exception.

Nobody said that this game would play downwind or downhill. But we're horse players. We have experience with being confused on a daily basis, with being robbed almost hourly, with being incorrect consistently. We are treated like deadbeats, it's as though the race track is doing us a favor by taking our money.

More here.

Some kudos to Youbet here on Paceadvantage. Good on you, youbet!

Props from us to Dan Illman of the DRF. Dan mentioned our group when asked by someone on his blog about horseplayer groups. Thank you Dan for thinking of us.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Betting Across State Lines. Someone is Doing it.

News today comes from the lotteries that some of their largest have deals to go national.

Just what racing needs: more competition. There is no other way to regard the announcement that the two 'marquee games' in American lotteries, Mega Millions and Powerball, have reached an agreement in principle to cross-sell their products in all United Sates jurisdictions.

If all existing jurisdictions agree, the combined pair could in effect become national lotteries. In the wings, according to Tom Shaheen, president of Powerball, a new “super lottery,” selling for $2 up to $5 -- the price not yet determined -- is being prepared for introduction by next fall.

A national lottery. Millions of dollars, across state lines. Buzz, ease and customers.

It is nice to see that the lotteries realize that getting state regulations, and taxes together, so that they can grow their markets is on their mind. But it is not on ours in racing.

Here is a major ADW, trying to get their foot in the door. Click this to look at residency requirements to bet a horse race. If you can figure out that maze, I think you should get some cheese.

In addition we have state rules where players are even unsure if they travel they will not be prosecuted for betting a horse race.

I have a ADW account in a state that is legal for online wagering. I am moving to a state (MO for three months) that does not allow online wagering, is it okay for me to continue using my account?

We have a legal monopoly on online wagering. Is it not time we got it right? For gosh sakes, heavily regulated lotteries appear to have. If they can get through a regulatory morass to get things right, how can we keep using it as an excuse?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quick Like a Bunny

A comment we just received from a HANA member which adds some credence to the work Equibase has done with the scratches via RSS feed:

Race #5 at Keeneland the 2 scratched at the gate. As soon as Becker announced it, I went to the Equibase site and it was up! Now that's real time!!!

Little things like the above give us some confidence that someone is minding the store with our betting money. That has to be a positive thing!

When The Sink Backs Up, Call a Plumber

There has been much chatter on takeout. At HANA we are happy about that, because it is a main platform plank, and we believe that it is vitally important. But as with much in racing, and its nebulous leadership, opinions come from pretty much everywhere. The morass of opinion seems to muddy the waters, not clear them.

Here at HANA we have not been nebulous in our looks at takeout, we have formed opinions based on one thing: Listening to gambling experts, whether they be consultants, gamblers or published study authors. We have tried to ignore the tangential opinion that is presented without fact.

One such person we have learned from is Wil Cummings. When Mr. Cummings was with Christiansen Associates he authored a comprehensive paper that we link quite often. In fact, you can read it too, here. If you are interested in learning about takeout, what it does, and how high prices have hurt racing, it is a must read.

Eugene Christiansen is one of those experts. He has over 30 years of experience as a consultant to many gambling businesses, or enterprises. He recently presented at the TRA conference. John Pricci, who was there, reported on that today. “Racing as an industry is more resistant to change than anything we’ve ever dealt with,” said Christiansen.

And that change is most resistant in pricing, something that Mr. Christiansen believes is far too high in our sport. “The fundamental problem is consumer pricing. The amount of money taken from bettors is not sustainable.” he said.

The comments on articles like the above are numerous, and sometimes troll bait. But invariably there will be some from a trainer or owner, or track exec. Someone who might train a horse, own a horse - someone who does not bet the game, and that comment will often times say "Mr. Christiansen is nuts. Takeout does not matter!"

Mr. Christansen, I am sure, if he needed advice on where to enter a maiden two year old, or what type of equipment change a horse needed, or if his colt should try the turf, will ask his trainer's advice. Because after all, his trainer is an expert on horse training and he is not. I guess my question is, why do some people (who know very little about gambling) not take his advice as a gambling expert the exact same way?

When my sink backs up I call a plumber. I do not call an electrician. Right now in racing we seem to have too many electricians trying to fix the toilets.

Racings pricing is too high. It is not even debatable any longer. The question now is, how low is too low. It is something, with people like Mr. Christiansen's help, we hope to find out. We just have to listen to people who know. They are standing right in front of us.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Voices

We were extremely happy when John Pricci decided to help out HANA by being on our Advisory Board. John participated at the TRA Conference this week, as reported by the Bloodhorse's Tom LaMarra:

“Every time there was a lower takeout experiment in New York, handle went up,” Pricci said. “Small-minded bet-takers say they understand churn, but they don’t understand churn. This industry has a vested interest in keeping the player liquid.”


Full article here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

If Customers are Not Brought Back......

..... Racing will die.

So goes the sobering panel at today's Simulcast Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Quotes:

“Participants in the horse industry don’t get it but they’ll learn soon,” said Gural. “The horse industry doesn’t want to do anything to help themselves. The horse industry is very happy to be a welfare recipient. They believe somehow that they are entitled.”

Eugene Christiansen, the Chairman, Christiansen Capital Advisors,, echoed these comments.

"The chances of change are slim to none,” said Christiansen. “Racing as an industry is more resistant to change than anything we’ve ever dealt with. If the fan base can’t be brought back, the sport will die.”

“The fundamental problem is consumer pricing,” he said. “The amount of money taken from bettors is not sustainable."

Eric Johnston, Vice President of Racing, Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, Texas, gave an example of why the business model which gives horsepeople a large percentage of wagering revenues, is counter-productive.

“For years we ran promotions to get people out to the track,” he said. When we analyzed the numbers, we realized we’d have been better off to hand every person a $10 bill at the door and tell them to go home.”

“If the industry fails to reach new customers, 20 years from now, all the lights will go off. This takes wholesale change, competitive pricing, new products and pain for a lot of people, including purse levels that may decrease by 50%.”


Full story at link.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Not Too Sexy, But Progress Generally Isn't


At HANA the idea when we started was all about trying to do some good to grow the game of horse racing. Whether that was done by being a squeaky wheel, or doing some mundane things like the day to day activities with emails, it did not matter. But we always wanted to be proactive. As members know, Equibase answered the call recently to create the "Scratches Today" program on their website, and you all played a part of it. It was not a headline grabbing story. And no, it is not going to change the world, but perhaps it makes our game a little better today than it was yesterday.

Ray Paulick has a story up, penned by HANA President Jeff Platt, that explains how by working together the program came about, how it works, and what we hope it means for the future.

Not sexy. But perhaps a little bit of progress.

Please visit Ray's site here, for the story.

We need your help here at HANA. Every member helps us achieve things to make the game better. Every member is important. Please sign up here, or pass the link along to a horseplayer you know. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pricci to HANA Advisory Board


HORSEPLAYERS ASSOCIATION OF NORTH AMERICA APPOINTS JOHN PRICCI TO THE ADVISORY BOARD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


(Charlottesville, Virginia. October 7th, 2009): The Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) is pleased to announce that John Pricci of Saratoga Springs, New York has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the growing organization.

John is well-known in the racing industry. He spent 18 years at New York Newsday as an award winning journalist. He is currently the executive editor of Horse Race Insider, a popular website. John joins horseplayer's Cary Fotias, Barry Meadow, Dr. William Ziemba and Nick Mordin on the HANA Advisory Board

Mr. Pricci has been a member of HANA since almost its inception in late 2008, and was happy to join the organization in this advisory role: "It's become clear in a very short time that HANA, as a horseplayer's organization, is a serious handicapper's last best hope for their future, and the industry's!"

Jeff Platt, HANA President, added: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome John Pricci to the HANA Advisory Board. John's knowledge and experience with racing from a player's perspective, especially racing in New York, should prove to be an asset to the HANA team and to horseplayers everywhere going forward.”

HANA welcomes John and with his guidance, along with the support of our 1300+ members, we are confident we can help move racing forward in 2009 and beyond.

For a web copy of this release please click here: http://blog.horseplayersassociation.org/2009/10/pricci-to-hana-advisory-board.html

To contact HANA, please email info @ hanaweb.org.

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, wagering integrity, affordable data and customer appreciation, the industry’s handle losses can be reversed. HANA is currently made up of over 1300 horseplayers (both harness and thoroughbred) from almost all states and Canadian provinces. It currently represents over $60,000,000 of yearly racing handle.

Our web address is http://www.horseplayersassociation.org 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, appreciate and ask humbly for your support.


-30-

Friday, October 2, 2009

Are Horseplayers Making Headway?

Alex Waldrop in his Bloodhorse piece today opened some eyes. He was speaking of the most recent NTRA Marketing Summit, and wrote of some things he thinks needs to be done. Those things are not the traditional items that we often hear and have heard for a generation - more TV time, more money for promoting to the masses, and more like that - they were horseplayer centric things that have been ignored for generations.

You have read some of these before of course, but the authors were Beyer, Crist, Maloney, Pricci, HANA, Christiansen, Cummings, Cuscuna and Wolff and others. But those folks are horseplayers or gambling experts. This is coming from an insider, to his audience - other insiders and horsemen.

......We have to recommit ourselves first and foremost to selling our game as a unique, challenging, exciting opportunity to wager on live horse racing. To that end, our primary customers are and must always be horseplayers.

..... Full competitive fields are what horseplayers want, so marketers working in concert with their respective racing departments must sell great racing opportunities to owners and trainers just like they must sell great racing and wagering opportunities to horseplayers.

..... Said another way, do some tracks need to consider a reduction in takeout? From a pure economics perspective, the answer is clearly "yes."

..... "We love horse racing but at your prices, we are forced to seek other forms of gambling which may not be as exciting but are more profitable for us." "Reduce the takeout and we will wager more money and more often." Why else would rebaters be able to lure our biggest bettors away from the live track? Tracks have tested these waters before with mixed results but it's time to plunge back into the process and find the optimal takeout rate for all parties- tracks, horsemen and players.


That is only a snippet, there is much more.

I remember only three years ago being at a wagering conference and speaking about takeout and other horseplayer centric things, just like Mr. Waldrop is speaking of. The pushback was palpable. The willingness to try new things and make a difference to grow the game, or find a price point was simply not there, and that is an understatement. Much more influential folks like Maury Wolff, Beyer, Maloney and others who sat in the same position felt the same pushback. But now it seems the narrative is beginning to change.

One of our first pieces on our horseplayer blog, just after HANA's inception was "Low Takeout Grows the Game". Horseplayers are not greedy people looking for a bigger slice so they can take home more money and stick it in their sock. Horseplayers love this game and want it to grow, by returning more betting to the game. It is nice to see insiders start to speak of growing the game with us. We're all in it together.

Mr. Waldrop will get pushback from the status-quo folks. That is assured. He is not only showing some guts to write things like this, he is showing vision and leadership. Those are two things this sport desperately needs, and I as a horseplayer applaud him for it.

This piece is contributed by a Canadian HANA member. To join us, please click here. We need your help.

Note: There are some questions about the new Equibase scratch feature (detailed below) and we will be answering those and chatting about it in the coming days.

John Pricci gave HANA a shout-out in his most recent column. Thanks John!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

HANA & Equibase: Real Time Scratches and Changes

A long held bone-of-contention with horseplayers, as witnessed virtually all over the internet and in simulcast centers, is the lack of uniform, timely and completely accurate reporting of scratches and changes. It is not uncommon to hear "I did not know that race was off the turf", or like at this Paceadvantage.com thread, "I know this will never come about, but how about one official change repository for all tracks?"

Well that has happened.

After productive meetings with Equibase at HANA Day at Keeneland this spring, the idea was hatched, and through fine work by Hank and crew, we now have a repository for scratches and changes all in one place. The area is disseminated with an RSS feed, so there is no reason at all this can not be proliferated all over the web with racetracks everywhere. HANA, on behalf of horseplayers, would like to thank racetracks and equibase for helping out their customers, which in turn we hope helps players have a better racing and betting experience.

If we work together we can make a difference.

Here is the Press Release. Please visit Equibase to try out the new feature.



Current day scratches and program changes from racetracks throughout North America are now available throughout the day in a dedicated section of equibase.com, it was announced Oct. 1 by Equibase Company president and COO Hank Zeitlin.

Equibase developed the new service in conjunction with racetracks and with feedback from the Horseplayers Association of North America. Besides having access to the latest scratches, horseplayers can now obtain other critical updates such as when a race has been moved from turf to dirt, distance changes, jockey changes, and amended wagering options on equibase.com. They can also register to receive an RSS feed for each track they are playing, enabling instant delivery of information to desktops and mobile devices.

These scratches and program changes are updated live from the racetrack via eBase®, Equibase’s proprietary Internet-based data collection system. Designated personnel at the live track can now use eBase to enter the day’s scratches and program changes until one hour before post time for the first race, at which time Equibase chartcallers assume responsibility for entering subsequent changes.

“During the Keeneland spring meet where we held our first HANA Day at the Races, Equibase and members of HANA met for a productive meeting at their office,” said HANA President Jeff Platt. “We are very pleased that as a result of that beginning and subsequent discussions, horseplayers will now have access to a centralized, accurate resource for reporting of late-breaking changes.”

“Making it easier for horseplayers to acquire pertinent information such as scratches and program changes is simply good business and the tracks are happy to participate in this new arrangement,” said Chris Scherf, executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America.

The “Today’s Scratches & Program Changes” webpage was deployed Sept. 29 and is accessible via a link on the equibase.com homepage. The current day scratches and program changes are also available for electronic retrieval, which enables value-added resellers, tracks, and other industry organizations to provide timely changes and scratches to their respective customers.

Press Release courtesy Equibase.com.

HANA is continually looking for ways to improve racing and are working on them on a daily basis, but we need your help. Please join us, lend a hand, or silently offer your support. Thank you.