Friday, June 25, 2010

Bettors Develop Software - The Power of Free Data

Today the winners of the software developer challenge were announced by Trackmaster. Trackmaster created a contest whereby bettors could develop and test their own systems, with the hope that if they won, they would be able to market their software as a third party vendor. They did something different this time, however. They offered out test data for free. This data would normally cost thousands of dollars.

From Trackmaster's press release:

"The selected programs — two pertaining to Thoroughbred racing and one geared to harness racing — were developed by Dan Ligett of Amherst, New York; Dave Richardson of Ottawa, Ontario; and Mike Orlando of Marple, Pennsylvania.

Each of the three developers will be offered a revenue-sharing agreement with TrackMaster whereby his software program will be incorporated into TrackMaster’s menu of handicapping products on

“Through ongoing interaction with our customers, we knew that many horse racing enthusiasts had developed programs to help analyze races, but never put the finishing touches on such applications to make them commercially acceptable,” said TrackMaster President David Siegel. “In addition, there are many statistically oriented individuals outside of racing who simply have a fascination with predictive models. This contest also gave these individuals an opportunity to apply their knowledge and interest for possible profit.”

One line in the release caught our eye (emphasis ours): “I've been developing my own handicapping software as a hobby since 2007, but the biggest problem I’ve faced is having enough data to properly calibrate and test the system,” said Ligett. “The data provided as part of the contest is just what I needed to move the idea forward.”

Horseplayers have been saying this for well over a decade now. They want to develop their own software, they want to develop software for sale and promote it (and racing). Most of all, they want to bet more on horses with their systems. But, the data to test run their work, or to even start developing their software can cost many thousands of dollars. Who will spend many thousands of dollars and hundreds upon hundreds of hours on something they don't even know that will work? A lot of them throw up their hands and move on to something else.

In baseball and football there are hundreds of software packages, for fantasy, betting and more. Each one promotes the game in their own way. The data for that is all free. On poker sites everywhere you can download hand histories all for free and develop software with that. Betting giant Betfair - from day one - has offered all their trading exchange data out for no charge, as well as offering an API. Today there are literally thousands of software and betting systems for that company, developed by people like me and you.

Trackmaster did the right thing - they offered out data for free - and people responded.

I wonder if we can not see more of this, or at least have better data prices in the future to promote our game to a new market? Let's hope so, because its worked for a lot of other sports and games. Our sport should not slam the door in people's faces who want to sell and promote our game, as well as bet it - we simply can't afford to.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tioga Takeout Reduction Bearing Some Fruit

Tioga Downs made headlines this spring when a reduction in take-out on wagers to the minimum allowed by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board was announced.

The results are in for the first 18 live cards (May 1 - June 13) and, in the face of handle declines across the entirety of North American horse racing, it appears as though there is merit to the theory of price reduction.

Overall handle is up 4.6% thus far, as compared to the 8.74% decline Standardbred Canada is reporting to date for our harness neighbours to the north. Handle figures published in Blood Horse magazine for US thoroughbred racing reveal a negative trend in handle of 8.37% for the first five months of 2010. No figures are available for US harness racing at this time.

The handle on Tioga's exported signal has increased by a healthy 9.9% over figures for the same period (18 programs) in 2009. Live handle on Tioga's races is 8.6 % below 2009 levels, with those negative numbers (at least in part) reflecting some unseasonably cold and wet weather in May, even for upstate New York.

Regional VP of Racing & Simulcast Jason Settlemoir had this to say, “The export numbers are encouraging and we are in hopes that they will grow even more now that we have added Pick Six Sundays with a guaranteed pool of $6,000. All of us at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs are committed to leading the way when it comes to promotions, giveaways and other ideas for the sport of harness racing, if anyone ever has an idea that they would like to share please let us know.”

In yet another effort to encourage play, the Tioga Downs website now offers a page geared toward information on handicapping the races. The site includes a link for TrackMaster programs, race replays, updated info on each card (including driver choices), a list of all locations taking the Tioga signal and a link to the USTA's 'How To Bet' page.

Unique to the site is a handicapping contest on the Tioga races sponsored by the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) and its forum. Four expert opinions, two human and two computer generated (including the 'Chatsworth Consortium' program graciously donated by TrackMaster and the USTA and currently leading the contest), are offered on all races in an effort to provide those unfamiliar with Tioga racing some welcome guidance on the races. Those 'Chatsworth Consortium' picks regularly sell for $10 per card, but will be available free on this page for the entirety of the Tioga meet.

Tioga races live each Friday and Saturday at 6:50 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 1:30 p.m. and should be available at a simulcast location near you.


Friday, June 18, 2010

New Jersey Looks to Betting Exchanges; Metro 6 New Site

New Jersey, who as witnessed by the Monmouth and Metro 6 Shooter experiments, are trying to build their horse racing business. Most recently, a betting exchange bill has be approved in committee.

"The bill puts the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority in charge of creating a betting exchange through which bettors would place wagers."

As well, the Metro Six Shooter, a harness bet that uses slot money to seed the pool with $30k each week has its own website. They are offering promo materials for simo centers, have spent cash on advertising, have added free PP's each week - in other words they are doing all the right things. Bettors so far have responded to the bet, and if they get a carryover or two we could be looking at a pool in the millions.

To visit the new 6 shooter site, its here. If you are a harness site owner, or simulcast center, there are pre-made ads, and buttons that you can use.

New Jersey seems to be trying, in the absence of VLT's.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Data, Data, Data

One of the sections of the HANA mission statement has to do with dissemination of data to horseplayers. We believe that the data and past performance deals in racing were written for a different time, for a different business. Ray Paulick has often joined us in championing this cause for the player, and for racings future.

He is at it again, with his latest piece. Please visit Ray and let him know what you think.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pinnacle Race Course Lowers Takeouts

It was announced recently that Pinnacle Race Course in Michigan has reduced their exotic takeouts.

"Win, Place, and Show are set by the State at 17%. All other pools are by track choice. We have lowered all our other offerings to 20% except Trifectas and Superfectas which have lowered to 25%. The bottom line here is: More Money to the Players"" said an email that went out June 3rd.

In addition this was a response to horseplayers concerns. From Director of Pari-Mutuels/Simulcasting, Laura Bennett: "In response to the Horse Players Association of North America, we have lowered our take-out rates to the "lowest in Michigan".

Pinnacle, last year, ranked 64th out of the 69 tracks in North America for takeout score in the HANA rankings. Next year they should be able to move up, and we hope they have a great meet.

For more information on Pinnacle, please check out their website here. Their live meet started on June 5th.