Friday, December 31, 2010

Education on Drugs is Important & Other Notes

The DRF speaks today about how hard it is for trainers to not get nabbed with tiny infractions at times. Horse racing drug use is highly regulated - not unlike the Olympics is - in terms of drug use. A good deal of normal everyday substances that you and I might have are no-no's, and sometimes these drugs in small amounts can find their way into a horse, because of a cut-off time, mistakes, or other issues the article mentions.

Education is key for this industry, and for too long the customer was not educated on drugs and racing; they were simply ignored. As we all know well: We were a monopoly, so if customers spouted "he's a cheater" for a 0.00001mg overage of grape juice, it was left stand with no response. No one seemed to care because there was nowhere else to bet.

Now that we are not a monopoly, it is vitally important to have informed bettors and fans. In that vein HANA worked with the folks at the RMTC in constructing a database of violations. What they achieved is a great first step. The database, accessible here, shows all violations and allows you to scroll over each drugs name to find out what it is. It is a good first step and we urge players to check it out when they see a suspension.

HANA believes horsepeople are not out to shaft us as bettors, or be bad to their horses en masse. We believe most are hard-working and honest. If the infraction looks small it is probably is small and an error. However, where we have a hard-line as horseplayers is on performance enhancing drugs or drugs which can harm a racehorse (blood builders like Epogen, Aranesp or CERA, painkillers like venom, and any new undetectable drug which is used with intent to injure our horses and sport), as well as horse abuse of any sort. For those violations, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. You should not have the honor to work with animals and once you are exposed, we suggest you find a new line of work.


Tom Lamarra over at the Bloodhorse makes some predictions. He says there will be a triple crown winner this year (I wonder who that would be :)) and that in 2011 the CHRB will move the takeout rates back down in not-so-sunny California. He did title his piece "ridiculous predictions" though!

The Buffalo News gives their top story list here.

Rich Eng tells readers that the California racing situation might get worse and he calls the early drop in betting there 'one of the biggest year end stories'.

Bill Finley, fresh off winning an Eclipse award, does not hold back in his most recent column.

A lot of people do not know how, in the long run, takeout works. Trackmaster shows you here in a comprehensive piece.

In addition, Jeff Platt shows you the takeout increase that happens tomorrow with some math (via Bill, another board member here, tells you it in terms of tax (he's an engineer so they talk a little funny, but even I understood his "heady" point, so I imagine for you smart reader, it will be easy.) In a nutshell, like the trackmaster piece showed, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see this hurts handle and shrinks the sports customer base (just like the Los Al empirical numbers showed here in easy to see pics)

Funniest new name I have seen on a chat board? "I-do-not-like-ham." I think that poster is a youtube watcher!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Davidowitz on California

"History says unequivocally, that rising takeout percentages never do compensate for declining handles. Higher takeouts, by themselves, without boycotts, precipitate declines in handles...... Indeed, early signs at the pari mutuel windows suggest that purses might have to be cut in a few weeks rather than raised; if this does occur as the trends suggest, the purse reductions will be a direct result of the CHRB and (horsemen approved) takeout increases"

The betting public is smarter than the CHRB appreciates. This has been true for many years and will remain true until the Board begins to really understand the dynamics of the racetrack gambling game---the best game man has ever invented---a game nonetheless under siege more from the decisions made on its behalf than from any outside influence."

Read more at Grade 1 racing.......

A Good Point on a Bad Bet

The Big Event blog looks at tri rules which were in place in a three horse race at Santa Anita yesterday (yes, allowing tris on a three horse race if you can believe it).

Getting the extra juice on the $14,039 bet into the trifecta pool that otherwise may have gone in either the win and/or exacta pools is negligent at best and unethical at worse.

read more.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Horseplayers Association wins USHWA President's Award

Harrisburg, PA --- Jason Settlemoir, president of the United States Harness Writers Association, has announced that H.A.N.A., the Horseplayers Association of North America, and driver Yannick Gingras will receive President’s Awards at USHWA’s “Night Of Stars,” the annual awards banquet, on Sunday, February 27, at the Marriott North in Fort Lauderdale Fla.

Today’s release will look at H.A.N.A.; a release tomorrow will focus on Gingras.

Horseplayers, both Standardbred and Thoroughbred, have long been the lifeblood of the equine racing sports, but they and their concerns/suggestions have usually received short shrift from the sports’ organizations and racing officials. The self-formed H.A.N.A. is trying to change that: “H.A.N.A. is committed to giving horseplayers a voice” reads the very first sentence of its mission statement.

Among the areas where H.A.N.A. thinks that racing could present a more attractive product to potential customers/bettors are: universal signal availability to all outlets at all times, without exception; the long-awaited and long-debated lowering of takeout rates -- H.A.N.A.’s ideal figure would be in the 10 percent range, a number not far off from “optimilization of handle” studies by university economists; a severe hard-line stand against drug misusage in racehorses; “pool integrity,” which they define as a secure tote system which displays correct and final odds as soon as the gate springs; and large, competitive race fields.

Read more at link

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Effect of the 2010 Los Alamitos Takeout Increase, In Pictures

We'll let these pictures speak for themselves. We sincerely hope the CHRB rethinks their positions. Handle, customers and racing opportunities for our participants are at stake.

Note: A comment below by Ms. Betts as an addendum.

So the interesting thing to me was to see how the signal of a policy change in 2009 was correlated with a change in trend. I don't think summary stats for 2010 over 2009 capture that, which you can see in the full time-series, but in any case here they are.

From the week of the actual takeout increase - fourth week in January - and through the end of November: cumulative 2010 handle relative to 2009:

On-Track: down 24%
Inter-Track: down 22%
Inter-State: down 10%
All Sources: down 15%
Number of Races: down 23.5%

A note: the crazy looking observations for the second in December 2010 look that way because Los Al/Equibase fail to report handle data for 2/3 of the races that Los Al claims it ran that week. I've reported the number of races for which handle was reported, as a result, so that implied handle per race is not distorted. In the third week of December 2010, inclement weather prevented racing on Sunday Dec 19.

Players Boycott Notes & Gear has created some gear. T shirts are now on sale here. Your votes wanted that message, so you got it.

In addition, we have been informed that they are close to completing web banner ads in numerous formats. If you are a horseplayer with a blog, or a person who cares about Cali-racings future and wants to run one, please email

Last up, money is currently being raised for some "boots on the ground" marketing that California racetracks will see in the New Year. Please email the address above and they will take your donation.

Thanks for your help and support!
Bettors today acting for a better tomorrow

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sit By the Fire, Curl Up.... and Bet!

Michael writes a horseplayer editorial on his site if you will ever read one. He goes through the tracks he will be playing over the next few weeks. He highlights the stakes sked, as well as the juice on some bets.

So what is a horseplayer to do?

To see what Michael and his crew are looking at for their winter racing fix, please read more here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Memo to the Press

There is a poll up on the Paulick Report asking "Do you support the proposed boycott by horseplayer groups of Santa Anita over the increased takeout in California?"

A HANA member took issue with that question and emailed Ray this:

"I believe your poll asks the wrong question. It should read "Do you support raising takeout as being a smart business move for the sport of horseracing". It's not about a boycott, it's about pointing out to the industry that raising takeout is driving the business into the ground. If the industry doesn't wake up they will be back in another 3 or 4 years wanting to raise takeout again due to falling handle from an ever shrinking customer base. We saw an example of this with the Los Alamitos "experiment" earlier this year. Higher pricing is no substitute for competent management. If it were, all the failing businesses in this country could simply raise their prices and everything would be rosy."

We hope that message makes it through - because that is what this is about.

As blog readers and members know. HANA is filled with members from every walk of life in racing - bettors, trainers, owners, grooms, industry watchers - and it includes many California horse owners.

HANA is after one thing and one thing only with this: For our business - one we love and support - to start moving towards pricing that grows the sport of horse racing.

An "Optimal Price Point" is not fancy language: Optimal takeout is simply the price that racing makes the most money - the most handle, the most purses and the most revenue for horse owners, grooms and everyone in this business.

Caroline on the Paulick Report said it best: 'I have done searches on google scholar and not one economic journal says the optimal price racing should charge is higher than it currently is.' That means that when we move pricing away from optimal (i.e. "up" like the CHRB did) we all lose.

Choosing to support or not support a boycott is a personal decision and we all respect that. However, know that you are not boycotting California racing to hurt it, you are boycotting it to save it.

Reference journals on takeout and takeout elasticity, including real world case studies are here, if interested. For further questions on takeout and optimal takeout please email us at, and we will forward them to our Special Advisor on Takeout and Wagering Economics, Cal MacWilliam, Phd, World Bank Economist and horse bettor and owner.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Australia Racing Leads the Way for Bettors

Australian racing is at it again. The country, which has GDP about one-fifteenth the size of the US, brings in close to a similar amount in wagering, and there are numerous reasons why, but one big one is their respect for the bettor, by introducing common-sense items to make the betting game better.

Recently they have employed a bettor to overhaul a few things in the system. One of which, is the reporting of vet work etc done on horses before races. This "database of treatments" will have to be reported to bettors.

Trainers will soon have to report all relevant procedures administered to a horse. At present, wind operations, bone-chip removals, etc, do not have to be reported, although there is a rule where a trainer has to report to stipes anything that may affect a horse's performance in the week before a race. ''The rule currently is in relation to what's happened in the lead-up to a race,'' Murrihy said. ''Stewards believe it should be mandatory to report things like wind operations and this will be made public.''

Reversals of form, whereby a horse who gets beat by an interstate last time comes back to win, is one of the worst pieces of public relations our sport has. For 100 years it has been something that the industry did not have to address because if a bettor did not like a reversal, what else was he going to bet. In today's society where one person can scream "fix!" on a chat board and be heard (while quickly running to get $50 on the Pats minus 4), things like this are very important. Ask any player of Hong Kong racing and they will tell you their vet database is a used tool. Australia now offers something similar.

There are a few other issues that leading betting expert Scott looks at on his blog.

Australia has instituted many things the past ten years or so for their racing. They have fixed odds wagering through bookmakers and Betfair. They have several promos every year with zero or very low takeout bets. Their effective takeout rate has gone down with this, from around 17% in the early part of the decade (here it is around 22%). They have televised objections, and employed bettors to make things better.

It has not been easy (it took court fights to allow low takeout betfair in 2007/08 for example) as the old-time power base in racing would not let some of it happen without fighting it to protect their slice, but it has happened.

In a world-wide betting recession and with all these changes, Australian racing has been holding its own, and doing some growing. "Betting on thoroughbreds topped $15 billion for the first time in 2009-10. With the $5.074 billion wagered on harness and greyhounds betting on the three codes burst through the $20 billion barrier (up from $19.369 billion) [and ] was up 4.4% last year". That is in the pools, and does not include the growth of betfair betting (and other low takeout fixed odds wagering) which was up 35% last season.

It's amazing what good can happen when your customers are put first. And the question must be asked, especially in light of the takeout hike by the CHRB: If they can make customer-positive changes, why can't we?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Amazing Quotes

Santa Anita President George Haines in the Daily Racing Form, on takeout increases:

“Maybe the top point-one percent of the handicapping world has that in their equation – what the takeout is – but for the most part, people are looking at handicapping winners,” he said.

We think Mr. Haines should buy a handicapping book - and fast. Try this one for starters.

I don't know one player who likes catching even money shots 42% of the time. Do you?

Scott Daruty, always good for a quote:

“If somebody is so price-sensitive that they’re not going to bet Santa Anita because the price went up, what are they going to bet instead? New York? Florida? Illinois tracks?” Daruty said.

There are several tracks to bet, of course (in fact, one Florida track that Mr. Daruty should know just made a new low rake bet for players - Gulfstream). However in the bigger picture: Mr. Daruty should pay more attention to this chart. A lot of price sensitive players have left racing forever, because horse racing takeout is too high, not too low. The problem is that not enough people are betting horse racing, and this takeout hike chases more of them away. That's what happens when you raise prices, whether it is on baseballs, lawn chairs, widgets, or exotic wagers at a race track.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Press & You

We are very encouraged about the racing press here at HANA of late. Often times, horseplayer issues - especially those which might bring up some skeletons in racings closet - are put on the backburner. However, not this time.

Bill Finley was a no brainer. He has been a champion for this business for a long time. He wants to see takeout move closer to optimal so purses are maximized and handle is maximized. It was nice to have him aboard.

John Pricci was another who we expected support. He is an advisory board member and has offered us sound advice and help when we need it.

For today:

Bill Christine writes an article. "In honor of flagging business, Santa Anita will raise its prices, something that they couldn't have learned in Business 101."

Equidaily has the items front and center - both the pro and the con, linking people with ideas. We want to hear all ideas, from everyone who wants handle to grow in the long term.

Ray Paulick, although it appears he wanted to write a "pro high takeout" article showing this takeout hike is good from more than CA horse owners, added to the discussion here, and it did not turn out this way. The comments section reveals some of racings dirty little secrets.

It seems that some ADW's will not be paying full price for the Cali takeout increase - why would they need special deals if this takeout hike is so "wonderful for everyone"? And there are some rumors that some areas aren't paying anything at all. Why would they pay less than what players are paying? Who's in charge, customers or Bob Evans and the CHRB? If it's the latter, it might explain why our business ain't doing so hot.

After all, Sam Walton said: "There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

I am pretty sure he did not mention the CHRB being in charge, although I guess it is up to horseplayers to prove Mr. Walton right or wrong.

Last up: Your comments. We have been receiving them via email, and on chat boards. We have seen your signups on our database. We have also seen you add your name to our email list via that medium. We will be tabulating all emails, names and addresses and we will be contacting everyone before January 1st. If you want to help, or lend your name, please do so on by signing up (its confidential!). Or send an email to

John Pricci, in a comment on Bill's piece said things quite well:

And the industry types will sit around and blame it on all the negative publicity the sport has gotten, never looking in the mirror.

We, the players, have the game’s best interests at heart, not those that draw a paycheck from it.

I’m waiting to read a piece from Alex Waldrop on the pros and cons of a boycott so that this takeout-rise madness will stop and, indeed, lower takeout becomes the rule and not just a promotional tool. In the meantime, players must support those tracks that show they have our best interests in mind.

We appreciate and respect each and every one of you who have offered support!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Finley at - 22.68 Reasons....

"With these boobs in charge, it needs all the help it can get."

Bill Finley does not mince words.

Some snippets in today's column:

Perhaps the single dumbest thing uttered by anyone in the horse racing industry in 2010 was the statement made by David Israel, the vice chairman of the CHRB, defending the takeout increase.

"People often say we're competing with the casinos," Israel said. "I think that's shortsighted and wrong. We're not competing with casinos. We're in the entertainment business. We're competing with the Dodgers and the Giants and the Angels and the Lakers, and we're putting on a show."

Apparently, the man was not joking.


No one is more deserving of a break than the people who bet on horses. They are what make everything in this sport go and they have had to put up with nothing but abuse, starting with takeout levels that make the game all but impossible to beat. Now they want to take even more money out of the Average Joe's pocket. This is criminal.

A broke horseplayer is not much of a customer. Racing needs help and it needs visionaries and people willing to do the right thing. In California, they're getting people who are falling back on the oldest trick in the book, a trick that never works.

More at 22.68 Reasons to Boycott California

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pricci, Eng & Paulick

John Pricci:

"Platt, a serious player, will support the boycott. He also received commitments from several batch-wagering computer syndicates to not only support the boycott but take proactive measures as well, taking out ads in trade journals, the Los Angeles Times, etc.

Some computer bettors would sacrifice short term gains for long term profits. “We believe in lower takeouts for everyone,” said one syndicate manager. “If takeout was lowered to acceptable levels, we wouldn’t need rebates.”

Only after polling its membership did HANA openly lend its support to the upcoming boycott. Computer syndicates cannot take this tack, however."

Rich Eng:

"The CHRB cannot sugarcoat the fact that it is fleecing the betting public in the name of saving California horse racing. It intends to add the increased revenue into purses. I, for one, am not in favor of a boycott. "

Last up, Ray Paulick. After some chatter in some ports in the storm (e.g. here) wondering if the Paulick Report would link anything regarding the horseplayers and Cali racing (due to ads run on Ray's site supporting purses in CA), the question was answered. And we have html evidence.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pace Tournies, Horrid CA Handle Charts & More

Last call for HANA members (well, really a first call since we've been busy): There is a neat handicapping tournament on the PAIHL:


· Each team consists of three individual players.
· Each player must be a registered member of
· Teams may represent other handicapping forums; handicapping products; race tracks; or simply be a group of three individual handicappers.

We need some HANA teams. If you are a member at Pace, and a member here, we have a couple HANA folks ready for more teammates. Just pop on the thread and sign up as a HANA member. The prize money keeps going up, and it looks like a lot of fun!

Jeff Gural owns Tioga Downs and now he might be looking to buy the Meadowlands. HANA worked with Tioga about their takeout decrease this past season (which upped handle, so thanks to everyone who supported it) and we don't have enough good to say about them. If Jeff has a shot at this track, expect some horseplayer, customer friendly things to happen at that wonderful track.

Remington handle is up by about 50%. We will have a feature article on this in the coming days.

Flipside. HANA's Roger, our Cali Rep, has a summary of this weeks CHRB meeting. Newsflash - they came to their senses, saw handle was down like this chart shows, and are now lowering takeout and implementing new customer friendly policy. They have also hired gambling experts to make gambling decisions.

We kid! Actually it is more of the same, but it looks like there might be more fighting over table scraps with Twinspires “discussing” whether to dedicate all additional revenue earned from the soon to be enacted takeout increase on exotic wagers on California races toward purses in the state", according to a VP. Just more short sighted racing stuff, is all.

For a snapshot of handle life in California since 1990, by the way, check the chart below for inflation adjusted handle.

With a chart like that we wonder what in the hell you have to do in the halls of California racing management to get canned. If I did not know better, it's almost like someone there thinks horse racing betting is like watching the Lakers and the Giants.

Jeff needs help: There are still positions open on Jeff is looking for help with Facebook, Twitter, on track marketing and much more. He is also looking for volunteers to the steering committee. Do you care about California racing? Do you have some time to give? Please email at Or alternatively, you can sign up and have your name added on the site. Donations for some marketing are also appreciated.

"Horseplayer X" is cutting edge. Boycott talk, before boycotts. "Horseplayers rarely get organized. They just tend to yell at each other on chatboards" :)

Horseplayer Commentary on Cali via the 'PB'.

"By discouraging existing and potential customers with higher takeout and disingenuous rhetoric, the CHRB is dooming its scheme to create a “promised land” overflowing with purse money for thoroughbred horse owners at the direct expense of horseplayers. Thanks to Mr. Israel, horseplayers of all ages and geographic areas are beginning to realize just how little respect they are accorded from most horsemen, track operators, and state government representatives."

More at link

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tampa Talk

Peter Berube, via the Paulick Report:

"The business of horse racing is very expensive to produce. Studies have concluded that the optimal price is between 8-12%. However, at that level, handle would have to nearly double to break even with current takeouts. I just don't believe that is realistic to assume, but I do feel tracks will continue to experiment with gradual reductions."

More on the meet here. No mention of the Twinspires dispute, though.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Today's Paradox

Yesterday a press release was issued by, announcing an organized boycott of California racing. A horseplayer wrote: "Good luck getting someone in the media to run the release, because the mainstream racing press is paid for by past performance downloads and ads from California racing"

So far he is right on the mark. No links.

But isn't it a paradox? Racing sites get their revenue from California racing, so they cater to California racing. Racing gets all its revenue from us - the horseplayer - so why is the horseplayer ignored so often in this sport? is looking for a few good men and women - for flyers, facebook management, twitter account management, article writing and more. If interested please email

Note: Jennie Rees has linked it. And so has Equidaily so far today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Concerned Bettors Launch

It's been called - a press release from asks for help in their quest to grow California racing, by addressing, what they think, must be done. Full release is below.

Organized Horseplayer Boycott of California Thoroughbred Racing is Launched

(San Diego CA – December 13, 2010) – Today a National Horseplayers Boycott website ( was launched asking players to boycott California Thoroughbred racing. The website is calling for all concerned horseplayers to support the endeavor. wants to emphasize that the purpose of the Players’ Boycott isn’t to punish or destroy racing in California. In fact, the opposite is true.

The organization is boycotting to create a better tomorrow and believes the actions of racing’s decision makers have been destroying racing in California, and elsewhere, for years.

If you take all sources handle today in 2010, and adjust it for inflation, and then compare it to all sources handle in 2003, you will notice that handle today is approximately half of what it was just seven years ago.

By supporting The National Players' Boycott Of California Racing effort, you can help us put a stop to this trend. We ask you to consider carefully the idea that every handle dollar spent on California racing is a vote in support of higher takeout and a vote to support the mistaken belief expressed by the CHRB and the TOC that the customer is irrelevant.

You have a choice when it comes to where you spend your money.

Every handle dollar not bet on the California racing product is a vote for change and a vote to send a very clear message to the CHRB and the TOC: The customer DOES in fact matter.

The organization is looking for numerous volunteers and some positions needed are listed on the website. All and any help is appreciated.

If you are interested, you can contact us at We thank you in advance for your help and support.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bill Christine on David Israel and Racing

"The average racegoer, and especially the newcomer, doesn't look upon a 10-horse field as a beauty contest. All they want to do is cash enough tickets to go home with at least as much if not more than what they started with. "

More at link.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Roger Way on the CHRB

Hana's California Rep Roger Way discusses the CHRB on the Paulick Report.

Roger has been a long time player and industry watcher in the Golden State and he shares his honest opinion on what needs to be done in that great horse racing state. If interested, give it a read and let them know what you think via Ray's site.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tampa Bay Downs Lowers Takeout Again

Since 2001, Tampa Bay Downs has been quietly lowering takeout each season or thereabouts (see: HANA 2009 Tampa Report here with Peter Berube interview). This meet they have struck again - takeout has been lowered on several vertical and horizontal wagers.

In 2001 handle per day at Tampa was below $2.0M per day. For the 2009/2010 Meet, Tampa set a per day handle record of almost $4.2M per day, proving that pricing, foresight and customer respect trumps a bad economy any day of the week.

HANA encourages all players to support this track due to their respect for you- their customer.



OLDSMAR, Fla. (December 3, 2010) Tampa Bay Downs is pleased to welcome fans and horsemen back for another great year of racing excitement at the Oldsmar oval on December 11’s Opening Day with reduced takeouts and two upgraded stakes races.

The 2010-2011 race meeting will see a decrease in takeout for Pick 3, Pick 4, Super Hi-5 and Pick Six wagering to 18% from last year’s 19% rate. The decrease in takeout has been an ongoing trend at Tampa Bay Downs for the past several years as the Oldsmar oval continues to reward the players that that support the Tampa Bay Downs product. Also new this year is a 50 cent Pick Three wager, which along with 50 cent Pick Fours, 50 cent Trifectas, and 10 cent Superfectas make Tampa Bay Downs a favorite handicapping destination for horseplayers. Tampa Bay Downs will build upon large field sizes, with goals to increase upon last season’s average field size of 8.95 horses per race, once again enhancing the horseplayers’ experience.

Quality has not been forgotten at the Oldsmar oval as a strong lineup of stakes races enhances the 91-day Tampa meet. The stakes program is headlined by the biggest race day of the year on March 12, 2011 with the 31st renewal of Festival Day. The Bay Area’s premiere race day features the Tampa Bay Derby, which was awarded a Grade II status as well as a purse boost to $350,000 for its 2011 edition. The Tampa Bay Derby has become a major stop on the Triple Crown trail, with two of its participants winning the Grade I Kentucky Derby in the last four years. Also on the Festival Day card are the Grade III $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes and the $75,000 Suncoast Stakes for three-year-old fillies. Well over $575,000 is up for grabs, and some of horseracing’s best will battle it out to the wire.

The $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, formerly the Tampa Bay Breeders’ Cup, was given a Grade III status for the first time for 2011, following last season’s epic stretch battle between Grade I winner Karelian and dual Eclipse Award champion Gio Ponti.

Racing Secretary Allison DeLuca says of the upgrades to the Tampa Bay Downs stakes program, “We’ve worked hard to make the stakes program here as competitive and exciting as possible, and it is gratifying to see Tampa Bay Downs continue to become a major destination for the country’s finest horses and horsemen. We’re looking forward to another thrilling season.”

To celebrate Opening Day on December 11, Tampa Bay Downs will offer free Grandstand admission to all patrons. Additionally, the traditional Opening Day Breakfast will begin at 8 AM in the Backyard. For $6.95, guests can enjoys a hot breakfast buffet, along with a free program for the afternoon’s races, a free handicapping guide for Tampa Bay Downs’s 85th racing season, a handicapping seminar as well as the chance to interact with trainers and jockeys as horses enjoy their morning workouts trackside. For more information or to make reservations, please call 813.855.4401.

Once again this year, Tampa Bay Downs offers free Grandstand admission and parking. Additionally, this year the Oldsmar oval will offer $2 pint domestic draft beer specials from 11 AM—3 PM every weekday during live racing. New additions to the concessions lineup include a rotisserie chicken stand located on the first floor of the Grandstand, new Grandstand seating and new carpeting around the facility Other old favorites include the Sweet Shop, which features fresh, home-made pies, cakes, cream pies and Danishes as well as specialty coffees and ice cream treats; and Brady’s Backyard BBQ continues to tempt taste buds in the Backyard Picnic Area. Mouse the Mascot, a three-year-old Miniature Horse, will once again make appearances on weekends in the Backyard and Grandstand apron to visit with fans young and young at heart.

Irwin & the Seven Year Window

Barry Irwin, today at the Paulick Report, wrote an article asking for post times to be coordinated. It is certainly a noble idea - after all, why would we want so much overlap in post times? For those who play with Twinspires TV, or at any simo-center, seeing 0 MTP on four tracks on your screen is as common as pork ribs in Chattanooga.

In the UK where they have a slightly more coordinated market (pushed for by Betfair about ten years ago, so their players could play more races), races tend to go off at intervals with very little overlap. This is easier there of course because there are fewer tracks running, but it was a concern; one that was corrected.

We at HANA agree with Mr. Irwin. There is one person who funds this sport, and that is not the owner, or the trainer, or the feed man, or the vet, it's the customer. As Henry Ford once said "It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages." Unfortunately they are neglected for the most part, as Mr. Irwin alludes.

We had our own idea here at HANA, through feedback from you the player, about something similar. You asked us a simple question: Why do tracks report prices and probables differently? Why on one screen do we see $1 exacta probables and another $2 probables? Why do we see one screen tell us a 10 cent super and another reports a $2 super? It makes no sense.

Of course it makes no sense. If the NASDAQ was starting a stock market would they let Intel report their share price in quarters and Cisco in pennies? It would be corrected even before it was a problem.

We decided, like Mr. Irwin to go to work on that. How hard could it be to get tracks to do something so common sense? How difficult could it be to get them to report all probables and payoffs the exact same way, so you the customer (and especially the newbie!) could have a more positive customer experience?

We asked a high level racing official (I have not asked him for permission to use his name so we won't) for a meeting and he obliged. It occurred in the spring of 2009.

"There is no chance that will happen" he told us.

"Why" we asked.

"Track X wants to do it their way, and track Y wants to do it their way. They will never agree" he replied.

It is the way racing is. Even something so common sense takes a long time, and in some cases would never get corrected.

We notice that just last week the Ontario Racing Commission is recommending what Mr. Irwin suggests in their interim report for that province's tracks - a coordination of post times. This is a subject which has been brought up since about 2003. It is now 2010 and it is being talked about. It seems there is a seven year window in racing. It takes that long to get even the simplest idea off the ground.

So horseplayers take note: Your concerns about post times and pricing reporting should be good to go - around 2017. I sure hope you are all still customers.

Note: We have heard you on the Hialeah situation. As most know they are offering 12% takeout, but some large ADWs appear to be not taking the signal. We are trying to get a full list of ADWs who are taking it, and those who are not. If you have any feedback on this please leave us a mail at

Monday, November 29, 2010

Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) Adds World Bank Economist & Horse Owner Cal MacWilliam to Advisory Board


(November 29, 2010, Charlottesville, VA) - The Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) is very pleased to welcome Mr. Cal MacWilliam to its advisory board

Cal MacWilliam is a small scale Thoroughbred owner-breeder and recreational horseplayer. He holds a Ph.D in Economics and has taught Economics at Vanderbilt University and Carleton University. Cal lives in Bethesda, Maryland, his horses reside at Ghost Ridge Farms in York, Pennsylvania, and he is currently employed at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. as a Senior Economist. He was a running quarter horse trainer during his college and graduate school years and undertook a variety of academically oriented economic analysis of the racing industry at that time.

Having now returned to the industry after some 25 years away, he is currently investigating alternative takeout approaches and improved industry pricing models in close cooperation and collaboration with HANA. The goal of his efforts, being to return racing to its preeminent position as the natural and favored choice for the consumer's gaming dollar.

“After discussing some of Cal’s pricing ideas, and exploring his obvious love for horse racing we thought this would be a great fit. We believe to have someone like Cal, studying and sharing views on takeout and the economics of wagering, will not only be an asset to HANA but to the industry as a whole” said HANA President Jeff Platt.

HANA looks forward to keeping horseplayers (and the industry) updated on Cal's work via our blog in the coming weeks and months where he will be sharing his thoughts. The blog can be accessed here:

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 1700 horseplayers (both harness and thoroughbred) from almost all states and Canadian provinces. It currently represents over $75,000,000 of yearly racing handle.

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


Friday, November 26, 2010

We Tweeted this but.......

.... it is worth a mention on the blog too. Todd's take on the customer, with a video.

"If you talk to the bulk of the knowledgeable customers (the gamblers for those that haven’t figured that out yet), they are pretty universal in what makes them happy. They also are not shy about telling you what makes them unhappy if you take the time to listen.

1) They think takeout is too high.
2) They question the integrity of the pools.
3) They believe drugs are rampant in the sport.
4) They hate being held hostage to tracks, groups of tracks, or the horsemen. They believe they should be able to wager on whatever track/pool they want to … through their preferred outlet for wagering.

Now there are countless other smaller things they would love to see too, but these are the big four for most knowledgeable players. You know the 80-20 rule? Guess where 80% of the handle is coming from? Yep, the customers that care about the big four.

Racing needs to remember who the customer really is, and get to work on these things first. "

Much more at the link

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Life At Ten Debacle

It's Breeders Cup Friday. Horse racing takes center stage. Life At Ten, a mare that has garnered her share of national attention, appears to be tying up during the post parade and pre-race warm ups.

The mare is so noticeably off that Jerry Bailey, who is working as part of ESPN's broadcast crew, decides to ask jockey John Velazquez if Life At Ten is ok.

Velazquez told a worldwide television audience, not once but twice, that Life At Ten was not ok.

Despite this, the horse wasn't scratched. Instead, she was loaded into the starting gate. And when the gate sprang, Life At Ten showed no interest in running and lagged badly behind the field. Fortunately, Velazquez did not persevere, and Life At Ten was eventually pulled up.

Amazingly, after the press started asking questions about the incident, Chief Steward John Veitch allegedly suggested a gag order be implemented going forward, apparently to prevent jockeys from talking about this type of incident - as if a rider answering questions was somehow the root of the problem.

A number of players and HANA members have told me in no uncertain terms that as HANA's President, I should have immediately called for Veitch's head on a plate.

A number of HANA members and players have also asked why HANA has been silent about the Life At Ten debacle. (And make no mistake: It was a debacle.)

It's a valid question. One that deserves an answer.

Please do not take our silence to mean we approve of what happened or the apparent attempt by Veitch to sweep it under the rug. We are every bit as incensed and bewildered over the events surrounding the Life At Ten incident as you are.

Our mission at HANA is to give horseplayers a voice. As a way of achieving that, we strive to shine a very public spotlight on racing's many debacles (and yes, there are many.)

Almost immediately after the Life At Ten debacle, we looked around and noticed that a very public spotlight was indeed pointing out the events surrounding the Life At Ten incident.

Frankly, once we saw that a spotlight was being pointed at events surrounding this incident, we felt that not only was the job being done, but that is was being done well.

Jeremy Plonk's column at about this incident is an excellent read:

Here are some other links to coverage of the incident:

Thoroughbred Times:

Paulick Report:

NY Post:

Turf N Sport:

In closing, we would like to ask racing's decision makers the following (obvious) questions:

What assurances do we as bettors have that measures will be taken so that an incident of this type will not be repeated?

Can you not see that racing is a gambling game?

Do you not understand that integrity is one of the requirements for running a successful gambling game?

In the hearts and minds of thousands of bettors everywhere, failure to scratch Life At Ten was a breach of the public trust, as was failure to test the horse after the race. If ever a horse should have been subjected to a full battery of drug tests, it was Life at Ten after the 2010 Breeders Cup Ladies Classic.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If Racing Was Pogo Sticks

A HANA member sent us along a note about a recent article on The article relayed how slots are helping horse racing. Helping how? Well, supply factors are up. Of course, sales and demand are down. Regardless, this clever member changed the word "racing" or "horse racing" in the article to another industry to see if he could become objective.

This reads like it is supposed to read. Putting all slots money into supply to "reinvigorate horse racing" by increasing purses (salaries) only, and ignoring demand (i.e. the long forgotten customer/takeout rewards etc) seems like a terrible business model for a subsidy, and it is.

Seriously, what business on earth would put ALL their subsidy into employee wages and supply, and zero to marketing and price lowering and expect to grow?

They are producing a whole lot of pogo sticks, but no one is buying. Gee, we wonder why.

Please keep in mind this is an actual horse racing article. There is one small edit, for continuity, in square brackets

Slots saving pogo sticks

Pogo stick sales are down 25 percent from 2006, according to the Pennsylvania Pogo Stick Board.

Gambling on slot machines in Pennsylvania provided $236 million in subsidies to the Pogo Stick industry in 2009, yet total sales of Pogo Sticks continued to fall, according to statistics released by the state.

The Pennsylvania Pogo Stick Makers Association said Wednesday that the statistics prove slot machines are a "lifeline," sustaining operations at Pogo Stick factories across the state.

"We would not have Pogo Sticks in Pennsylvania if not for the slot machines," said Michael Bounce, executive director of the Pogo Stick association. "The slot machines have saved our industry."

The organization remains hopeful Pogo Stick sales will improve with the economy.

Since 2006, when casinos in the state began operating, total sales of Pogo sticks have dropped 25 percent, according to the Pennsylvania Pogo Stick Board.

Jumping fans in Pennsylvania spent $734 million on Pogo sticks in 2009. That's down from $975 million in 2006.

Across the nation, Stick manufacturers have suffered. Pogo stick sales at all U.S. toy stores are down 16 percent from 2006, according to Pogobase, official supplier of Pogo stick statistics for ESPN.

The decline in sales in Pennsylvania comes despite a multi-pronged effort to invigorate the appeal of the Pogo.

A portion of all slots revenue goes to the Pennsylvania Pogo Stick Development Fund.

Of the $236 million generated for the Pogo fund last year, 80 percent must be spent on higher wages for factory workers [purses], and 16 percent must benefit the people who make the springs for the pogo sticks [breeders]. Another 4 percent helps pay for health care benefits and pension plans for Pogo employees.

Salaries paid to Pogo assembly line workers have doubled since slots were legalized, according to the state. Total salaries paid to Pogo producers were $134 million in 2009. Pogo producers received $62 million in 2006.

Pennsylvania Pogo manufactuers produced 11,539 Pogo sticks last year. That's up from 7,958 Pogo sticks in 2006.

In September, the Pogo factory unveiled renovations to its facility. The company said it hopes new Pogo themed sitting areas, entertainment centers and restaurants will draw more people to become Pogo enthusiasts.

A 24-table poker room, which opened inside toy stores on Nov. 3, should also spur more interest in the Pogo, Bounce said.

"We agreed to have table games in toy stores because we believe this will attract possible Pogo jumpers," Bounce added. "Unlike the slots, we believe that table games have a similar complexity to Pogo."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Delaware Park Handle Up; Looks to Extend Exacta Bonus

A bit of good news, in a betting industry fairly deviod of it this year - Delaware Park had a bump in handle this past meet. According to WDEL-AM, the 10% exacta bonus might be continuing.

The Stanton track also says they are considering extending the "on-track exacta bonus" where bettors on-site had less money taken out by the track, increasing their winnings by over 10% compared to simulcast wagerers.

In addition, this might not be the end of the takeout reductions at the track. According to the DRF "Mike Vild, Delaware’s senior vice president. “We intend to evaluate the program during the off-season with the goal of expanding the promotion to other ontrack wagering pools next year.”"

In terms of pure churn (we all know now that churn is the real metric of takeout reductions, not gimmicks) handle would have been up about $6000-$12,000 a day because of this reduction. Small potatoes perhaps, but in a business who has lost almost half its handle in ten years, it is certainly something to be happy about.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

D'Oh Canada

HANA is committed to giving horseplayers a voice. Part of our job entails shining a spotlight on industry practices that are anti-player.

Every player I have spoken with this week is excited about the Breeders Cup. This year it is held at Churchill Downs, one of the most takeout friendly tracks in North America.

With this year’s Breeders Cup fast approaching, I’d be remiss as HANA’s President if I didn’t point out a decidedly player unfriendly policy being carried out by Woodbine against Canadian players.

If you play this year's Breeders Cup through HPI and are fortunate enough to hit a trifecta or superfecta for example, you can expect Woodbine to pay you off as if the takeout rate was between 25% and 27%, despite the fact that the takeout for these wagers at Churchill Downs is 19%.

That's right. If you bet this year's Breeders Cup through HPI and hit one of these wagers, you can expect to be paid significantly less than if you had made the same wager at Churchill Downs or through a pari-mutuel ADW in the US. For example, if a trifecta pays $2200 at Churchill, the Canadian customer will only receive a little more than $2000.

We at HANA find this policy deplorable. We know that you as players feel exactly the same way.

Rather than just call attention to this in a write up, we at HANA would ask you to let track management at Woodbine know how you feel.

Why not take the time to write them an email - or better yet an old fashioned letter - voicing your thoughts? Phoning them is also an option.

Woodbine’s contact info is shown below:

Woodbine Entertainment Group
P.O. Box 156, 555 Rexdale Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario, M9W 5L2
Telephone: (416) 675-7223 (RACE)
Toll Free: 1-888-675-7223 (RACE)
Internet Comment Page:

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Western Fair: Lower Takeout

Western Fair Raceway, a harness track in London ONT, joins a growing list of harness tracks trying to gain customers and grow their business. This meet (starting November 5th) they are offering a 15% takeout on both their pick 4's. We contacted Greg Blanchard, Assistant Race Manager and Announcer, and he was kind enough to answer some questions. Many of you would know Greg from his work with Woodbine as an on-air handicapper and host for both thoroughbred and harness events. Two months ago, Greg moved to Western Fair

HANA: What have you done for this meet that is different than before?

GB: We have added a late double, a second pick 4 and have made both pick 4's a 15% takeout, which is down from 26.3% takeout

HANA: What was the impetus?

GB: We are trying to find ways of enhancing our product for the horseplayers and wanted to do something we could promote effectively. Offering a large guarantee wasn’t a good option for us and we realize that pricing is very important to today’s horseplayer, so we thought this was a good way to go.

HANA: Is it hard for a small track to get noticed?

GB: No question; at least on certain days of the week. There are times when you can get absolutely buried in product so I think it’s very important for a track like ours to be placed in the optimal time slot, like Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (3:35 p.m. post) and to do our best to offer the customers a solid betting option.

HANA: How is the pool size now and what would you consider a success?

GB: Currently, the pick-4 isn’t one of our largest pools, but I think that will change with some focus placed on it. I’m confident it will become our signature bet and that we can easily double, maybe even triple the existing pool size with strong promotion and good, competitive racing within those pick-4 wagers.

HANA: Will you be picking the pick 4's on the pre game show? And will you be promoting it on screen/anywhere else? Is it starting today?

GB: Yes, I’ve started doing an enhanced pre-game show on Mondays and Tuesdays, where we are featured on HPI TV. We’ll be doing the same on Thursdays now that we’ve added that day. I’ve been focusing on the pick-4 already and obviously will continue to make that the focal point of our shows. I’ve always believed that looking at those four specific races in the pick-4 can also encourage wagering within those races themselves.

We have already added the late win-4 and a late double to the wagering menu. The new rate of 15 per cent does not go into effect until This Friday, November 5. We wanted to start this long before now but there were regulatory issues we had to take care of first.


It is very nice to see people like Greg, and Western Fair, working their product. It is good for them (increased handle over time) and good for horseplayers (more money in their pockets so they can enjoy the game more). It also can attack - in even a small way - the thousands upon thousands of horseplayers who have left racing for other gaming pursuits. In a game with the tagline for gamblers of "you can beat a race, but you can't beat the races" such initiatives are vital to its long-term success.

Western Fair joins several other venues (like Tampa Bay Downs, Balmoral, Pinnacle, Pompano Park, Portland Meadows, Retama, Tioga, Maywood Park) on the HANA "support" list, who have all lowered takeout in the recent past. We encourage all harness players to give this new low takeout bet a look.

Track: Western Fair Raceway
Website/Free Programs (pdf): Western Fair
Where: London, Ontario, CAN
Signature Race: $300k Molson Pace
Available: At simo centers & many ADWs
Track size: Half Mile
Post Times: M, T, Th at 3:35. F and S at 7:05E
Best Bet: 15% takeout pick 4's
Handicapping note: The outside post (seven) this season has the highest win percentage at any half mile track at an amazing 7.3%
Two year PP stats below

Monday, November 1, 2010

False Advertising?

Well, it is not false, but this sports' customers will certainly take exception to the following banner ad running by Cal Racing:

Make no mistake - with a 15% takeout increase on two and three horse exotics in California starting December 26th, you will (as a group) definitely not make more money this winter betting thoroughbreds in the Golden State.

Is there any business in the world where the customer has been placed so low in terms of priority?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Horseplayer Richard Bauer Passes

Richard Bauer, long time horseplayer and one of the original members of HANA, has passed away at the age of 70.

Richard, a US Navy veteran, is survived by his wife of 47 years, Karen Metzger Bauer; one daughter and son-in-law, Jill and Doug Dunne; two grandchildren, Kylie Dunne and Trevor Dunne, all of PA; and one sister and brother-in-law; Judie and Frank Armijo, AZ.

Richard lived and breathed horses and the sport of racing. He was as passionate a player as you would ever want to meet.

HANA President Jeff Platt:

"Richard was a true horseplayer and I am truly saddened to hear of his passing."

One of the founders of HANA, John Swetye, remembered his early help for HANA:

"He gave valuable advice to me during the startup of HANA. He was a mover and shaker and will be greatly missed."

After HANA's formation, Richard's support did not stop there. He is the organizations largest financial contributor to date.

Richard, throughout the horse racing community has always been respected, even on sometimes contentious chat boards.

"Rich has been a fixture here on PaceAdvantage from the beginning. Always a very generous person, and always fighting the good fight for horseplayers." said Mike who runs the popular chat site. "I'm going to miss seeing Rich at Saratoga, drinking a beer with him, and doping out the next winner. He knew his stuff inside and out."

Most people in racing would remember Richard as the spearhead of the 2004 boycott of Magna racetracks. Richard's passion for the project was infectious and the boycott was a huge success.

In recent years Richard was a proponent for lower takeout and the elimination of the archaic and anachronistic practice of breakage. He loved Tampa Bay Downs and visited it each January. In the spring he was a fixture at Keeneland.

The Horseplayers Association of North America would like to offer its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Richard Bauer, a friend to horseplayers everywhere.

If you are a friend of Richard and would like to leave the family a note, you can via an online guestbook here. In addition, if would like to share a story or two you can below, or at the existing thread at here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

CHRB-HANA Member Meeting Tapes

We have received audio and video of a recent meeting between a CHRB member and a concerned member of HANA. We have uploaded it here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Customers are Usually Placed Last

The concept of not cashing a ticket - losing it, bringing a voucher back home with a few dollars on it and various other reasons - is not uncommon to horseplayers and customers of racetracks.

Because of the monopoly racing was, whereby every group, faction, government etc could take bettors money with impunity (it was not like they had to compete) even that uncashed ticket money finds a home. And as reported by WKYT in Kentucky the home is not with the rightful owners.

Over $2.3M in uncashed tickets go unclaimed in Kentucky. Nationwide it is of course much more. The cash, if unclaimed for a prescribed period of time, goes to the backstretch workers. Surely a noble cause; however, taking the bettors money and not returning it to them in some way is surely emblematic in regards to how customers are treated in horse racing, not to mention an obvious display into the industry's foresight in customer cultivation.

Please allow me to show you how difficult it is to do something common sense in racing for us, the lifeblood of the sport. The people who fund purses:

In Canada in 2007 there was a movement to take this uncashed ticket money and place it into a jackpot bet for bettors, a lower takeout bet, giveaways to customers etc - in effect return it to its rightful owners (and ironically, help a business which seems unable to help itself when dealing with customers). I was a part of this process during a wagering conference.

At the conference itself there was almost unanimous support (when the public was watching) from the 300 people or so present, to get this done. In the crowd I saw only one hand go up when asked who was against this - it came from a representative from a horseman group. That should have clued me in; they had their fingers in the horseplayer uncashed ticket pie and were not going to give it up without a fight. Regardless, after the meeting it seemed that at the upcoming government review, uncashed ticket money would now be going back to customers in some way. I spoke to several people and expected a press release to be issued telling us how the customers money was going to be given back.

As I understand it, the meeting was held (with only the racetracks, government agency and horsemen group present), and it was not passed. The tracks and the horsemen group both voted it down, and if they vote it down the government can not make them do the right thing, they just rubber stamp it.

The good feeling at the wagering conference with industry watchers, tracks, bettors, customers and lovers of the sport agreeing that this simple, common sense thing to help racing and do the right thing, was all one big show - one big thumb in the nose of the customers.

It was not the customers money it was theirs, and they were not giving it back. And they wonder where handle has gone since 2007, when this meeting took place.

Racing is not friendly to customers, and they never have been. The question to me is: Will they ever be?

A good start would be to give uncashed ticket money back to the people who own it - the customer. But without the horseplayers having a seat at the table, with real clout, I am not holding my breath.

Dean is a HANA member from Canada. If you'd like to join HANA please click here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wow! Hialeah Quarterhorses go 12% Across the Board Takeout

According to the Bloodhorse, Hialeah for their quarterhorse meet will go 12% takeout, across the board.

For the players of that sport, you have a pretty clear choice: Los Alamitos who raised their takeout this year to about 22% blended, or Hialeah at an almost 50% discount.

This is in sharp contrast to 17 years ago where we looked at old time racing, being, well, old time racing in a story on HANAblog. Bill Finely was analyzing the Hialeah thoroughbred takeout situation at that time.

From 1993.

"Only this year will be different. Hialeah owner John Brunetti will do the unimaginable; he will make Hialeah the worst place on earth to play horses. Hialeah opens April 1, April Fools' Day for South Florida bettors. Brunetti plans to institute what is believed to be the highest takeout structure in the history of U.S. thoroughbred racing. The take on win, place and show bets will be 23.1 percent and there will be a 28 percent take on all other wagers. Winning money -- never easy at the track -- will be impossible at Hialeah."

17 years......

Moving from "the worst place on earth to play the horses" to "the best place on earth to play the horses"

We are witnessing a full circle development in the state of this game. Losing over 50% of your yearly handle and half your customers tends to do that.

Value Update - Some Tracks and Organizations Want Your Business

We have been hearing more and more about tracks wanting to do things for the player, and in terms of getting a nice pay when you hit something, the following tracks might be on your radar.

Harness race fans have been treated pretty well of late. For this weekends Breeders Crown, the folks there have created two new bets: A pick 4 and a pick 6. Both bets will be at the ultra-low 15% takeout and both pools are seeded with money (better than a guarantee of course). Pocono Downs, where this is being held had 35% take on some exotics this past summer, but lowered them, and now we have two 15% bets. If you bet them, you get paid.

In addition in harness racing, we have Tioga Downs of course who slashed their take this meet. Balmoral Park has their new 15% take pick 4 which is rolling, and recently Pompano Park has slashed their rake. On a chat board today I see that little Northville Downs is trying - they created a place pick 9 at 15%.

In thoroughbred racing, despite the huge horseplayer setback in California, some tracks want your money and want to earn your business.

We are informed at at Portland Meadows, the new 14% take pick 4 is doing fairly well at this very early stage. This bet replaced the super-high take pick 5 from last year. The pick 5 averaged $2000 per card, and the new pick 4 did just short of $15k yesterday, or a 700%+ increase. Seth is handicapping it, we see.

Pinnacle Race Course, is in really tough shape with Michigan racing on the ropes. They lowered their take to try and grow some business.

Retama continues with their 12% pick 3's. The pools are up there as well we are told.

If you are looking at some tracks or events on the simulcast menu, there is a short list. At least if you hit there, with some of these bets, you are sure to get your money's worth in what is perhaps the most difficult gambling game in the world.

If you are a racetrack and you are offering anything in the way of new horseplayer value, please inform us here at horseplayersassociation @, so we can inform our members!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Countless Comments. But One Stuck Out

We have been reading countless comments across the web of late, regarding California racing. We will be talking about them more, but this evening one really caught my eye. It was on the HRI site, where Bill Christine has asked Brackpool and Israel to step down.

It's not from a whale saying "I am going to stop betting a million dollars a year", or a name caller, or anyone else inside this sport. It's from a newbie.

I’ve only watched the major horse races on TV, with no betting, until this year. (I’m in my mid-30s.) I’m a newbie. I’ve been following it daily now--the big tracks as well as the small tracks. I’ve done okay as a bettor online, and I’m still learning, but the rake taken by the track makes an already tough game to play far harder to beat, of course. As long as it is reasonable, it is fine, and essential, to the operations of the sport. I get that.

The changes in CA make me shake my head. I love watching Zenyatta as much as anyone, but on most days I’m simply studying the non-superstar ponies in the Racing Form to attain a modest ROI. When that modest ROI becomes more difficult to achieve, due to the current changes, even newbies like me stop feeding that fire. I’m not sure if anyone cares about that, but “small people” count too, and many are the next generation of supporters of the sport.

Post courtesy HRI. For Bill's post and 80 or so comments, please click here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Has the Time Come?

If you walk into a store to buy a loaf of bread, and notice that the bread is stale and overpriced, you put it down and you walk out of the store.

Thousands of racing customers have been doing just that for the better part of a decade now. If you take all sources handle as it existed in 2003 and adjust it for inflation, and you compare it to all sources handle today in 2010, you will discover that all sources handle today in 2010 is approximately one half of what it was just seven years ago in 2003.

Consider the real life case where instead of walking out of the store, a group of conscientious racing customers took the time to contact the owners of the store and explain to them in a reasonable and intelligent manner why thousands of racing customers have been buying their bread somewhere else.

Instead of listening to the customer group’s suggestions, the owners of the store decided to implement a takeout increase at one of their stores: Los Alamitos.

Oddly enough, this same group of racing customers presented data to the CHRB clearly showing that year over year on track handle at Los Alamitos was down more than 27 percent during the six month period immediately following that takeout increase.

Instead of rescinding the takeout increase (as had been promised at the time it was implemented if it caused handle to drop) the CHRB voted unanimously to keep it in force – effectively telling racing customers everywhere what they could do with their ideas about fresh bread at competitive prices.

Shortly afterwards, the owners of the store lobbied the California Legislature to amend an innocuous bill originally written to promote the Breeder’s Cup. They were able to convince John A. Perez (D) to tack on provisions mandating a takeout increase of up to 15% over previous levels for exotic wagers at California's thoroughbred tracks. Takeout on exactas and daily doubles was raised to 22.68%. Takeout on all other exotic wagers was raised to 23.68%.

The above events actually took place during 2010.

Who are the owners of the store?

Hollywood Park, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields, Los Alamitos, the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), and the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).

Who is the customer group?


The state law?

At the September, 2010 CHRB meeting, when it was announced that Senate Bill 1072 had been signed into law by the Governor: The owners of the store stood up and cheered.

At some point, as a consumer, you have to consider the possibility that the owners of the store no longer deserve your business.

That’s exactly where horseplayers are at right now given the recent actions of the store owners in California.

You do not raise prices in the face of economic downturn. You lower them.

The store owners in other states are watching. It’s time for players everywhere to send a clear message back to the store owners. It’s time for players to start speaking with their wallets.

To me, the fact that other states still have takeout even higher than California’s new 23.68 percent takeout on trifectas is irrelevant. California is where the store owners decided to raise takeout over the objections of the players. California is where the CHRB ignored the facts related to the Los Al takeout increase. California is where the track owners, the TOC, and the head of the CHRB lobbied the Legislature for a takeout increase. California is where the Legislature ignored the voice of the player and passed that takeout increase. California is where the Governor ignored the voice of the player and signed Senate Bill 1072 into law. California is where the owners of the store made comments like the following after they enacted the takeout increase:

CHRB Commissioner David Israel:
“People often say we are competing with the casinos. I think that’s shortsighted and wrong. We’re not competing with casinos. We’re in the entertainment business. We’re competing with the Dodgers and the Giants and the Angels and the Lakers and we’re putting on a show..."

CHRB Commissioner Keith Brackpool:
"We offer in California the premier racing product on a year-round basis,” he said, “but we were offering our first-class product at a discount price. We’re changing the pricing model. We left win-place-show where it is. But we came up with a solution that will produce $30 million more a year. That’s a 25-to-30% increase in overnight purses."

I hate to use the word boycott, but in my opinion the owners of the store in California clearly no longer deserve even one penny of my business.

I have to put the question out there to other players:

Has the time come for an organized national players’ boycott of California racing?

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Press Release: HANA Supports Racing Development Plan

Horseplayers Association of North America Offers Support for the Racing Development and Sustainability Plan


(September 26, 2010, Charlottesville, VA) The Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) would like to endorse and offer its full support for Ontario harness racing’s “Racing Development and Sustainability Plan”.

This ground-breaking plan, proposed by forward-thinking horse owners in the Canadian province of Ontario, allows for a slice of purse money (primarily from slot machines) to be used to promote racing through several potential customer-focused initiatives, including:

* Seeded Pools/Jackpot Bets (e.g. lower effective takeout)
* Exchange Wagering
* Handicapping Leagues and Championships with Larger Prizes
* Customer retention techniques and promotion

When slots were initially passed in many jurisdictions, racing was given a warning that handle on their core product would fall due to the presence of an attractive lower takeout competing product on premises. As more and more racino’s emerged (using essentially the exact same business model), horseplayers and industry watchers have urged racing to give a portion of slot money back to the customer, not only to directly address their needs and wants, but more importantly to keep horse racing betting on sound economic footing. Until now this advice has been largely ignored. In just eight short years handle on Canadian harness racing has fallen from $719M to $431M. Conversely, since slots were introduced in Ontario in 1999, almost $2B has been distributed in purses.

“Our members have been calling for tracks and horse owners to do more on the consumer demand side using slot/VLT revenue for some time now. We are extremely encouraged and thankful that Ontario horse owners are stepping up to the plate by looking to cultivate their customer base - both the existing ones and the ones who have left - with some of their slot money” said HANA President Jeff Platt.

“Answering a customer’s needs and wants is not a radical idea, it is good business. We feel if Standardbred Canada uses achievable means to lower takeout, seed pools and offer customers a reason to play your product and attend your racetracks, you will win in the long run. We would love to work with horse owners in Ontario in any possible way we can once this new plan is enacted.”

Barry Meadow is a member of the HANA Advisory Board and is a long time bettor and author of Success At The Harness Races and Professional Harness Betting. He echoes Jeff's thoughts. "It's good to see an initiative that takes the most important part of any business--the customer--into account. Anything that makes a bettor want to bet more, or more often, will help the industry."

If passed, the new Ontario Plan is slated to go into effect on January 1st, 2011. HANA will be keeping all of our members updated on its progress.

If you would like to comment on their plan or learn more, please visit

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 1700 horseplayers (both harness and thoroughbred) from almost all states and Canadian provinces. It currently represents over $75,000,000 of yearly racing handle.

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

Note: A special thanks to members (you know who you are) who were focused on slot programs being used for a better means for our sport.

Further Evidence We Need Gambling People in Power

CHRB Vice-Chair David Israel:

"Vice Chairman Israel said regarding the takeout increase and the issue of price, “People often say we are competing with the casinos. I think that’s shortsighted and wrong. We’re not competing with casinos. We’re in the entertainment business. We’re competing with the Dodgers and the Giants and the Angels and the Lakers and we’re putting on a show."

Meanwhile - back in reality:

Pew Research did a survey on the popularity of "sports" and what "fans" like.

Football: 34%
Basketball: 14%
Baseball: 13%

Horse Racing (not enough responses to make a list): 0.13%

It was beaten by Rodeo/Bull Riding.

Thank god we are not competing with the Dodgers and Giants. If we were, purses would be less than a biggie sized Big Mac meal.

Until this industry finds a way to fund purses from sales of TV deals (we pay networks millions to show our races every year, not the other way around), Zenyatta T-shirts or Todd Pletcher jerseys, from 0.13% of sports watchers, we need to cultivate gambling.

Why? Because bettors pay all the bills for purses.

$2B of revenue comes from gamblers for racing. Other revenue sources are non-existent. Trying to squeeze revenue out of a place there is none, is akin to promoting a Justin Bieber concert in an old age home.

As Gibson Carothers said in his Eclipse Award considered piece, warning racing that they have to concentrate on their real market (gamblers) to grow the sport:

“It’s amazing how many advertisers confuse their real market with the market they would like to have. In all my years in advertising, I can’t recall a client [racing] who was so conflicted about its own product.”

This is alive and well in California and the CHRB, Mr. Carothers.

Note, at the same meeting, the CHRB gives us another head scratcher:

· The racing commissioners voted unanimously to “have the will of the Board conveyed to the Governor’s Office that California Horse Racing Board critical contractors (i.e. stewards, veterinarians and other contract personnel) receive compensation for services rendered from monies received from the wagering public to ensure the continuation of horse racing in California .” Chairman Brackpool explained that even though CHRB operations are funded by the industry, not the State General Fund, CHRB contractors have been ordered included in the general non-payment order for contractors during the budget impasse. CHRB Executive Director Kirk Breed was instructed to convey to the Administration the Board’s desire to pay its contractors immediately.

Comment (from Rich at Does this mean that the stewards, vets, etc. work for the horseplayers? If we're paying the bill for them out of our bets the we should have more say about the "who, what, where and when" of their behavior and stop being told to "sit down and shut up" when we raise issues about the same?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Takeout Increase Signed in California

Today the California governor signed the California thoroughbred tracks takeout increase into law.

For exacta players, you are particularly getting a poor deal. The 22.68% takeout is punishing. In fact, California exacta wagers are now the 60th worse value bet for that choice on the entire continent. They just edge out Los Alamitos, who as everyone knows, hiked take this spring (and suffered tremendously).

It will be interesting to see the effects. Handle will go down over time, that is assured. But by how much?

When speaking to our economic adviser here at HANA on takeout, they pointed us to the duration element in terms of analyzing this hike. As we all are well aware, a price increase does not affect demand overnight - it is a slow grind. So, as Tampa Bay Downs, who has lowered takeout since 2001, has grown their business and handles incrementally over time, the opposite happens with a takeout hike.

For example, from Wikipedia:

"Duration: for most goods, the longer a price change holds, the higher the elasticity is likely to be, as more and more consumers find they have the time and inclination to search for substitutes. When fuel prices increase suddenly, for instance, consumers may still fill up their empty tanks in the short run, but when prices remain high over several years, more consumers will reduce their demand for fuel by switching to carpooling or public transportation, investing in vehicles with greater fuel economy or taking other measures."

This economic principle helps explain the slow burn of handle over the last decade (people going slowly broke, searching for other games to gamble etc), as well as explaining how short term reductions never do a lick of good. People do not just leave day one, they simply find they have less money over time, and leave one by one, hurting our growth. Even in Hong Kong, who lowered takeout effectively by 2% in 2006 to try and stem seven straight years of handle losses, the positive metrics (an increase in handle and a 9% increase in purses), were not felt until late in the year.

One might have the opinion that in two or three years, California and the CHRB will be back, asking for another increase, because this one did not do what they wanted it to do (remember, this same jurisdiction raised take only five years ago to "fix problems").

It's what racing does because we have a dearth of leadership and do not manage based on fact, a business case and sound economics, but on emotion, and band-aids. Appeasement and the path of least resistance is not a policy; it is an albatross in an industry devoid of ideas. It will continue to resurface, until we put people in charge who embrace change, respect and a modern vision with regard to their dwindling base of customers.