Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thoroughbred Takeout Increase in California?

HANA has learned that California's thoroughbred tracks and horsemen are spearheading an effort calling for a takeout increase on exotic wagers at California's thoroughbred tracks.

Sources tell us that California tracks and horsemen have asked John A. Perez, the Speaker of the Assembly, to sponsor a bill paving the way for a 2 percent takeout increase on exotic wagers involving two betting interests (double and exacta.)

Further, the measure calls for a 3 percent increase on exotic wagers involving three or more betting interests (trifecta, pick3, pick4, pick6, pick all, and super high five.)

Time is of the essence. Bill 2414 sponsored by John A. Perez is slated for a hearing on Monday August 2, 2010.

We have reason to believe that the final amended version of this bill will contain language about the takeout increase. That version of the bill is NOT YET SHOWN on the California Assembly website.

We urge you to contact your elected California state government officials NOW to let them know how you feel.

Link to California State Assembly Roster:

California State Senate Roster:

Find Your District:

State of California Office of the Governor:

If you are not a California resident, use the following email address to contact the sponsor of Bill 2414:


Your HANA Team

Monday, July 26, 2010

Better Information and Better Transparency

As horseplayers we are always on the lookout for more information. Whether it be a new speed fig, a paddock report via twitter or simply a new way to look at an old game, we tend to be interested. At HANA we are advocates for as much new information as possible, and a couple of items caught our eye recently.

First, Greg at Trackmaster informs us that they have added to their product line because of something wacky - input from you!

"Just in time for these premier meets, TrackMaster has made some significant improvements to its Thoroughbred product line. Many of these changes were a result of a meeting we had with the guys from HANA (Horse Players Association of North America), a smart group who has given a voice and influence in the industry for the “player”.

Now available in TrackMaster Plus Pro and our Platinum and regular PP files:

* Listing of prior race scratches, including reason
* A simple one page “In to go” list for jockeys, trainers and horses
* Highest Equibase Speed Figure earned added to the horse’s summary stats
* Direct link to Equibase for late scratches and changes
* Expanded conditional trainer stats
* Added statistics for the prior trainer when there is a trainer change

For a sample of the new look, and new items via a PP screen shot, click the pic and expand it.

Second up: NYRA has announced the judges will be explaining their decisions on camera. When we had some fun here a couple of months ago via a spoof post of "Undercover Bettor" we lamented that our money is simply not taken seriously in terms of inquiries. Well, NYRA has changed. We give them a hat tip for that.

“This new policy is a big step forward in providing transparency of the stewards’ decision-making,” NYRA president and chief executive officer Charles Hayward said. “Millions of dollars are bet everyday at NYRA tracks and customers should know why decisions are made in the stewards’ stand.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Los Al Handle off 27% Since Takeout Increase. CHRB extends Takeout Hike

At yesterday's CHRB meeting the board voted to continue the takeout hike at Los Alamitos, despite the hard numbers of handle being off 27% since the hike. HANA board member Jeff Platt and Barry Meadow both testified that clearly handle being off 27% is a sure sign that this is not the answer. However, they were summarily dismissed.

Are horseplayers listened to at all in California? Does lost handle and lost customers even register with the CHRB? Is lost handle and lost customers considered a good business practice in California?

Here is a summary from Mr. Platt:

Item #15 Review of Los Al takeout increase:

Not that all of the Commissioners voting today actually read the entire meeting package that dealt with the Los Al increased takeout experiment before voting at today's meeting... Hint: They didn't and one of the Commissioners admitted as much right before the motion was called to a vote...

Not that everyone who filled out a card to speak on this agenda item was actually given the chance to speak before a decision was reached... Hint: The Chairman made his motion to continue the takeout increase and it was seconded before Barry Meadow was given his chance to speak... That little factoid should appear as part of the meeting transcript too...

But by including the spreadsheet that I prepared as part of the meeting package, the CHRB at least acknowledged the fact that on track handle for Los Al since the start of the experiment was off 27% on a 2010 vs. 2009 per calendar basis.

Handle off significantly during the time period of the experiment was not enough to sway them. They voted unanimously today to continue the increased takeout experiment until it is scheduled to automatically sunset on or about Sept 8, 2010.

I can tell you from talking with some of the industry participants present at today's meeting that handle off significantly doesn't matter. There is an element among the horsemen where takeout increases are seen as somehow having the potential to pay for purse increases... which are now "needed" because for some strange reason handle keeps going down.

But I have to call it like I see it. On track handle off 27% is a pretty clear sign (at least to me) that increased takeout isn't the answer. Apparently, racing's decision makers in CA don't see it that way. I don't know what the breaking point is... 30%... 45%... 60%???... It appears for the time being that 27% just isn't a clear enough sign.

Jeff Platt, President HANA

Note: Here are some comments about this from horseplayers - the folks who pay purses through handle. One or two of them significant California bettors and horse owners.

California tracks have seen my last dollar until significant changes are made. Thanks to rw, JP, and BM for their efforts. If three people with their abilities coudn't make an impact on the board, nobody should be wasting their time and money trying.

I officially gave up a month ago. I'm done.

Brackpool blew it on this one and ought to get the hell out if he's going to treat Horseplayers/the people of California this way. If you can't stand the heat Mr. Brackpool then take a hike and hand the CHRB over to Stronach.

What a group here in California. Disgrace after disgrace. And the hits keep coming.

They should raise the prices to 80% takeout. Handle will go down 75% and it will be more of a "success". 75% is higher than 27%, after all, and they seem to think less handle is a good thing in California.

Watch out Hollywood, Santa Anita and Del Mar players - you're next.

If you'd like to discuss California racing below, please add your comment.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The ADW "Monopoly"

Horse racing has a monopoly on internet wagering. Some might say "what have you done with it other than fight about the revenue split" and they have a point, however, the fact remains this is a monopoly in North America. But for how long? The answer is not long at all. In fact, in British Columbia Canada, online wagering opened last Thursday. And demand was so high, the system crashed.

"the site was temporarily offline simply because of too many visitors. The Crown corporation did not return QMI phone calls Monday, but it finally issued a media statement at 6:02 p.m. local time, blaming "high player volumes" that exceeded server capacity on Thursday."

If this expands throughout Canada and an enterprising state or two (i.e. New Jersey who is looking at betting exchanges), all the ADW fights with horsemen and regulators, and Fred Pope's ideas and all the rest might end up being one faint, sad memory of what might have been.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rich Eng Interview

"In horse racing there's a tendency to have very high takeouts in double digits of 15, 20, even 25 per cent and just the mathematics of that is that it will eventually bust the bankrolls of many horseplayers - and some never come back into our game." says Mr. Eng in an interview/podcast with Standardbred Canada.

To listen to the interesting podcast, please click here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gamblers & Breeders/Insiders

We have often heard from horseplayers, consultants (that racing pays for) and many others that gambling people should be in charge of gambling in our business. If they were, many say, we would not be where we are.

I remember having a chat with a horseman group person several years ago and he was wondering why we do not double the takeout, because if we do we would double revenue. He could not quite get the whole price and quantity thing.

Well we have another, the indefatigable Fred Pope. In his most recent Bloodhorse piece (offering the same advice as all his others ..... 'raise prices and we'll do great') he actually admitted in the comment section he does not care what price we charge:

"Re takeout, I don't care if the takeout is 15% or 25%. "

A poster at Paceadvantage thinks he has Fred figured out.

"Fred Pope is a marketing and advertising executive in Lexington. He has worked for racing and breeding clients most of his career. That tells you all you need to know. Tote monopoly and high takeouts = lots of money for breeders. So Pope is just arguing the case from his side of the fence"

Compare that to a gambler. Rich Eng in his latest piece:

"So here's some free advice.

The racing industry should promote core betting products that create high churn. High churn will increase handle, thus raising purses to attract more owners, who will in turn buy more racehorses from breeders.

The cycle of growth always begins with the customer. If you want to sell more products, lower the price, don't raise it."

See the difference? Case A we have Fred Pope, shuffling the shrinking pie and Case B, Rich Eng, trying to grow that pie through more handle by using simple gambling economics of churn and demand.

Who should be in charge of setting prices in our sport? Who do you trust? Insiders who don't bet, or follow gambling, or people like Rich Eng, who actually studies and lives gambling?

In racing, unfortunately the former gets more play. That's probably a big reason why we are in the mess we are in.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

HANA Days at the Races Moves to Monmouth!

HANA Day at the Races - Monmouth Park - Sunday August 8, 2010

Gates Open 11:30 am, First Race 12:50 pm

The Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) cordially invites you to attend HANA Day at the Races at beautiful Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey on Sunday, August 8, 2010.

If you would like to access free admission and program coupons for HANA Day (Members only), please click here.

Complimentary seats in the air-conditioned Clubhouse Teletheater will be available to those who RSVP by August 2. We hope you will take this opportunity to enjoy a wonderful afternoon hanging out with fellow horseplayers handicapping and playing the races while escaping the summer doldrums at the Jersey Shore. In addition, it is a great time to meet and exchange ideas with fellow HANA members as well as with members of the HANA Board of Directors. You are also encouraged to bring friends and acquaintances who are interested in learning more about HANA.

If you are interested in attending HANA Day at the Races at Monmouth Park, please RSVP or send questions to If you would like to request a complimentary seat in the Clubhouse Teletheatre, please note that in your RSVP e-mail along with the number in your party by Monday, August 2. Check-in for members will be in the Cleveland Room on the first floor of the Clubhouse near the Patio Terrace Teletheatre.

And not forgetting our Harness Players.......

You are also invited to take full advantage of a truly special weekend in New Jersey Racing by also attending the Meadowlands biggest harness race: The Hambletonian on Saturday, August 7. More detailed information will be available in the near future. If you are interested in joining us for the Hambletonian, please drop us a note at the above e-mail address. We will notify you as logistics are finalized.

Thank you very much and we hope to see you at Monmouth Park on August 8!