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


Scott said...

Quite simply.... yes.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. I will no longer be playing any simulcast feeds from the state of California. All of this seriously concerns me as I start to wonder if this will move eastward, toward my homestate of Arkansas.

Unknown said...

It's not a difficult choice to bet anyplace in the Country and it is a good idea to take our bets out of this state.

Another thing we should take note of is the coming elections. CA State Assemblyman Jim Silva from Huntington Beach wrote to me and said he supports the tax increase. I have time to work in a campaign and I haven't done that for years so this might be a good time to get active in politics again.

Phil said...

Yes. I think so.

PEM said...

A true no-brainer. First they cram poly down everyone's throat and now this. Truely--a legislature with absolutely no idea of what is going on outside the walls of their own (taxpayer funded)building.


Anonymous said...

Yes! - It is time to draw a line in the sand. Not only should this takeout increase be boycotted but the statement should be made that all future takeout increases in any jurisdiction will be boycotted.

No one should bet California exotic parimutuel wagers!

The_Knight_Sky said...

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

Absolutely and emphatically - yes.

California Racing is too valuable to the national racing scene to allow an erosion of national wagering action.

We waited four years before someone finally decided synthetics racetracks were a mistakes.

We should not wait for four years to decide if the takeout increases need to be curtailed. There is too much at stake.

A formalized boycott that gets the point across is warranted. For the regular California players like myself this is difficult, but I have been making plans to shift my action elsewhere.

We have until December 26th to plot the course. I look forward to the correction of this price increase, one that I hope is short-lived.

Anonymous said...

A boycott of Cal racing would also put TVG and XpressBet in the position of at least having to discuss this situation on air, I would think.
The problem with boycotting Cal racing is probably that the customers who go just to play the huge pick 6 probably don't care about takeout.
Maybe a well planned boycott of another track would show what the customeers can do, if properly motivated.

Len Shapiro

Steve D said...

I'm in.

Brian Russell said...

Brackpool actually said they delivered the premier product on a year round basis as a justification for this? He is either dishonest or amazingly stupid. Even looking at their best meet, Del Mar, why are their constant barrage of Maiden $25K's and $12.5K claimers "premier" racing?

Anonymous said...

When I was younger, I would fight the cause. Now, I just silently bet with my wallet.

These clowns need to lose their jobs.

Don't even buy a program and move on to the next track. Maryland raised the takeout and look at them now.

don said...

Of course, enough is enough. Actually found it almost funny as they are in dire need of a takeout decrease with all the small fields. To often we see three horses at 2-1.

Never a big LosAl player but made an occasional fun play on body language but have made none since the increase.

Lets hope word grows and it becomes a big issue by Dec 26th!!

Anonymous said...

Twenty years ago, my motivation to bet serious money on horseracing was directed toward California because of its relatively low takeout.

Where have the sensible leaders of racing gone? It seems that the politicians appointed to Racing Boards fail to address what should be obvious to all -- that is, gamblers really do care about not just the entertainment of attending the races but moreso the chance of winning money.

Excessive takeout guarantees that those who bet have no chance at winning or even playing the game close to break-even. I think of it this way. My friends who enjoyed betting on football 20-30 years ago are still betting that sport now. The cost of betting football(11/10 or about 4.5% vigorish ) hasn't changed in over 50 years.In contrast, virtually all of them discontinued betting on horsseracing years ago because of the impossibity of overcoming the high cost of playing the horses. Deep down, gamblers want that feeling that maybe -- even for just the short time-- they can enjoy winning at the races. Take that away and the heads turn to gambling events where deck is not so stacked.

eric said...

i'm in...

where is the NTRA in all of this? useless as ever!

Cary Fotias said...

And the beat goes on..

To David Israel - It's all about the GAMBLING, stupid.

I have been fighting the takeout war for over a decade now. But no matter how many panels or boards are convened (and I've been on countless ones) nothing good will happen unless players take revolutionary action.

Most executives in the industry, along with the bureaucrats and politicans they pander to, have no interest in changing the status quo, except for the worse.

They will only change if on their collective deathbeds of if forced to by concerted action by players.

Double digit decreases in handle and foal crops have led to a depression-like environment.

Liquidity has dried up. There is too much racing and more importantly, too many betting options. The Monmouth experimeent of "less is more" did not go far enough. Even with $85,000 NW1 purses, I could not bet serious money as there wasn't good liquidity, even in the win pool.

Just this past Sunday, I bet a horse (Ontothenextone) in the 12th race who was 2/1 as they neared the gate. The next flash he was 6/5and ended up paying $3.80. As a professional player, I cannot accept that.

Even more than quality racing, serious, value-oriented players want to have some sense of the price they are going to get. That's why I limit most of my play to the major New York and California tracks, CD and KEE (not as good liquidity but good takeout rates) and special event days at other tracks where pools rate to be sizable.

Yo don't need exactas, quinellas, trifectas, supefectas and daily doubles on every race in today's environment. All these betting options only serve to dilute the money in any individual pool. It might be OK for the $2 bettor, but for the hardcore, (the 5% of us who account for over 90% of handle)
it's a joke.

If you only had two trifectas and one superfecta a day per track, those pools would be bulging and the other races would have bigger WPS and exacta pools.

If you're a tri or super specialist, you could play all of them at all tracks to get your fix. And, you wouldn't have to worry about betting a $10 super and knocking your price in half.

There are too many racing dates, too many races, too many betting options, and way too many idiots in the industry who failed Economics 101.

I have several ideas on how WE CAN CHANGE ALL OF THIS. I will be sharing them with the HANA board and welcome any of your ideas.

If the social media can get Betty White to host Saturday Night Live, we oughtta be able to get the take to resaonable levels and spruce up liquidity.

The time for conventional warfare has come and gone.

Join the Revolution.

Cary Fotias

Declaration of Horseplayer Independence

When in the course of thoroughbred events, it becomes necessary for horseplayers to dissolve the financial bands which have connected them to insensitive racetrack owners and short-sighted state legislatures, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the rightful station to which they are entitled, they should declare the causes which impel them to action.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all horseplayers are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are market-driven takeout rates, sterner drug policies, the integrity of the wagering pools and the embracing of new technologies that could make it easy to bet on any race, anywhere, at anytime.

HANA said...

Thank you for all the comments, via email, or here. Please keep them coming.

There are other discussions on the web with many, many comments.

At HRI, where Bill Christine has called for two CHRB members to step down there are many from players:

At Pace there are a couple threads with pages of comments on this issue.

The mainstream media has not seemed to discuss this as a player issue yet. is the only one we at HANA have seen so far.

Thanks again for the comments.


PS: Blogger has been having trouble with comments today. If we missed yours we apologize.

Hajck Hillstrom said...

I am one of the documented thousands that have walked away from the game, at least from a wagering position. It looks like I will continue my personal boycott somewhat longer now with the position the CHRB has taken with their increased take in CA. It is somewhat unbelievable that this is the course of action taken. Once again, the horseplayer, the lifeblood of the game, is the group abused.

Indulto said...

For almost three years now, we we've discussed getting takeout lowered because it was already excessive, but we have done little about it beyond complaining as individuals.

Whether or not this has had the effect of emboldening the industry to further increase takeout is debatable, but it has to be obvious to most horseplayers that the manner in which the latest increase in California was handled is a slap in the face to bettors nationwide.

When I first moved to California, it symbolized progressive thinking, innovative ideas, and freedom from long-entrenched power and cultural dogma. That is no longer true in many ways.

The arrogance of the CA horsemen who abuse the power of the TOC and -- by extension -- the CHRB, can no longer be ignored. The support of horsemen by tracks at the expense of their customers is foolish. The access allowed by politicians to horsemen to the detriment of their constituents is disgraceful.

It will not be enough to merely rescind the increase. Takeout must be lowered from current levels to ones that encourage greater participation in the game. State-funded agencies must cease placing state resident bettors at a disadvantage with respect to those betting CA races from out-of-state. Our success in California would be a precedent setting victory for horseplayers in all states.

The game has degraded severely since Secretariat helped the world focus on all that was great about the sport. Perhaps the movie version of those days will remind us how great the game used to be, and encourage us to collectively change the status quo, and make racing an experience we can once again embrace and enjoy.

Spectacular Bid said...

I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take it any more.


Handle needs to go to ZERO, otherwise these clowns in charge will blame it on the economy.

So, Russell Baze will win another 20,000 races on 2-5 shots instead of 3-5 shots.

Frank Polk said...

Cary is correct. The only way anything will change os for the betting public to stop betting for awhile.

I personally do not understand why it would be that difficult to accomplish throgh the effective use of the internet.

John Collins said...

FYI, it is too late! I approached two industry people who have been fighting the good fight for years, and they declined to help HANA. Intelligent players have stopped betting, as there is no value and have moved on. Have you been to the races lately and looked at who is betting? I swear, I was behind a man who purchased a 65 cent voucher. The most popular bet with many is the ten-cent superfecta. Lottery players rule.

David G said...

The 6th race at Mountaineer Park on Friday 10/7. The 1 Horse was 9/2 in the gate, made the front an 1/8th in, showed 5-1 the opened up a lead and went to 9/5. Won by open lengths. Makes playing races totally annoying.

Unknown said...

This is just the icing on the cake. The California races have been deteriorating over the last 5-10 years. Short uncompetitive fields. I will certainly stop my wagering there straight and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I am tired of clueless politicians running the show and ruining things and ignoring the people's voice. Thanks HANA for keeping us informed and for fighting for us.

Time to boycott Cali.

Anonymous said...

Yes. It was a wrench to bet on the West Coast anyway, because of the time difference from the East where I live. Also, their racing has declined tremendously over the past decade, with too many short fields, too many odd new surfaces, and the annoyance of too many shippers from overseas. On a trip two years ago I stopped for a day at Santa Anita and was appalled by how run down their plant has become, also. The Golden Age of racing in California has ended. Shed a tear. I lived there in the good old days when Shoemaker was an apprentice.