Sunday, January 30, 2011

Boycott Q & A With HANA President Jeff Platt

HANAblog contacted President Jeff Platt to get some information and perspective on what is happening with the California National Players Boycott. How are things going? How did this past week’s meetings go with various players in California? Find out below.

HANABlog: How are things progressing with the National Players Boycott of California Racing?

Jeff: News about the boycott is spreading by word of mouth. Every day more and more players are telling us they support the boycott.

HANABlog: Do you think the boycott is having an impact?

Jeff: Yes. Players are speaking with their wallets. Their willingness to stand up for what they believe in is absolutely showing itself in the handle numbers.

This past Friday, handle at Santa Anita was down almost 30 percent from Friday the same week in January last year. Handle for Saturday was down about 23 percent from Saturday the same week in January last year. Today’s (Sunday) handle vs. Sunday from the same week in January last year was down almost 27 percent.

I’m not saying the boycott is responsible for all of that, of course. But those numbers are telling.

HANABlog: You and other HANA members had meetings with California track management last week. What happened? Can you share some details?

Jeff: Sure. Upper management from Santa Anita invited HANA to a meeting that was held at Santa Anita on Sunday January 23, 2011. A representative from the TOC (Thoroughbred Owners of California) was there too.

I thought the meeting was productive overall. We talked about field size, the takeout increase, and the ADW retention cap. We also talked about the importance of having people who are qualified to make decisions about takeout and wagering be the ones making decisions about takeout and wagering going forward. I think they were listening very closely when Associate Professor of Economics at USC and Director of Southern California Horse Rescue Caroline Betts started speaking about the literature and case history that’s out there about things like takeout, elasticity, and optimal pricing. They have been studied extensively in the past, and that study could even progress more. She let them know how they might obtain research grants to fund research of their own in those areas.

We also got to know each other a little bit, which is always good. I think upper management at Santa Anita now has a better appreciation for how players are impacted by high takeout than they did before. Also, we came away with a better understanding of how the takeout increase is impacting Santa Anita.

HANABlog:  Can you elaborate on that before and after statement? And was there another meeting this week in San Diego?

Jeff:  Sure. Prior to the start of the meet, Santa Anita announced a 25 percent purse increase based on the idea that handle would be unaffected by a takeout increase. The thinking was that handle would remain the same, or maybe go up because of the return to dirt.  That didn’t happen. Handle at both Santa Anita and Golden Gate is down. At the same time, handle at other tracks like Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs is up.  We think that is something they did not factor into the mix.

On Monday January 24, 2011, representatives from HANA also met with upper management from Del Mar. That meeting was more informal than the meeting with Santa Anita. But I suspect Del Mar doesn’t want to end up in the same box Santa Anita finds itself in.

HANABlog:  What type of box is that?

Jeff:  Well,  Santa Anita is shelling out money for a purse increase based on the idea that handle would stay the same or even go up a little as I mentioned. But handle is down. I think the numbers from this past weekend, if accurate, are telling and might be putting them in a box. If they announce a purse cut, that’s an admission the takeout increase was a failure. On the other hand, if they quietly keep paying out money for a purse increase and handle keeps falling, well, that can get expensive.

HANABlog: What has to happen before they are willing to rescind the takeout increase in your view?

Jeff: That’s a really interesting question.

The takeout increase was a really bad idea. But I don’t think the idea for California’s takeout increase came from the tracks. I think it came from the TOC. Sure, once the idea for a takeout increase was floated out there the tracks got behind it.

So yes, in that sense, if customers react negatively to that, the tracks deserve whatever they get.

However, I think there might be at least partial support at this point within track management to rescind the takeout increase. I say that because they reached out to us. They are looking for solutions.

But the tracks can’t roll back the takeout increase on their own. California State Law gives power to the CHRB to set takeout rates. My read on the CHRB is that the tracks and the horsemen will have to go in front of the CHRB jointly and ask to have the takeout increase rescinded. If that were to happen, I think there’s a very good chance the CHRB would vote to rescind the takeout increase. But the tracks need support from the TOC first before that can happen. I’m not sure the TOC is willing to do that just yet.

HANABlog: What can players do to help who are already not withholding their wagering?

Jeff: Support the boycott. Send a clear message by not betting California thoroughbred races. Also, tell other players about the boycott.

I really think the TOC and the CHRB thought players would behave like sheep and just go along with the takeout increase. Clearly that isn’t the case.

The boycott is making an impact. It’s shining a very public spotlight on racing's decision makers who failed to realize that racing is a customer driven business. The takeout increase was and continues to be a very bad idea. I feel we’re getting closer. If enough players stop betting California races the TOC will have no choice but to go before the CHRB, and jointly with the tracks, ask to have the takeout increase rescinded.

HANAblog: What’s next?

Jeff: The ball is in their court. We are just going to continue to work, move ahead with more paid marketing, and relay the message to those who have not already heard about the effort.

HANAblog: Thanks Jeff.

Jeff: You're welcome.


Anonymous said...

Excellent work everybody. Excellent!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Nice work,I haven't seen any Banner advertising.
Anything happening in that department?

Anonymous said...

Only full-blooded morons are letting themselves believe that any "HANA boycott" has anything discernable to do with the SA handle declines.

Those truly in-the-know about all things pari-mutuel are well aware that the most significant players are the centerpiece of the problems(s) in racing, and thus can never be any part of any solution.

Just imagine a poker game where one guy played around the clock with thousands and thousands of chips, and didn't even pay for "time", while everyone else at the table walked in with a pittance of chips and had to pay $4 an hour just to be there.

WHO would be playing such a poker game??? (Only morons)

But nice try with the poorly-implemented "boycott". (it's funny how the takeout was fine @ SA in December, yet the idiots involved were still boycotting that). How stupid can you people be??

Anonymous said...

With comments like the above I think you boys and girls must be doing something good.

HANA said...

",I haven't seen any Banner advertising.
Anything happening in that department?"

Hi Anon,

We hope to have that, as well as some other things, moving soon (hopefully within 7 days).



Cangamble said...

Anon, how come they are playing the game at Tampa, GP, and Fair Grounds?
Tampa Bay was 17% yesterday, while Santa Anita was down over $7 million in handle the past three days.
I guess Santa Anita should consider themselves lucky the boycott isn't working or just imagine how much handle they would be down.

Anonymous said...

Is Cangamble still talking?

How in the world did he get home to little league land from Hialeah in just eight days?

Now surely Cangamble is the sole possessor of the huge Hialeah handle figures (since he was the lone winner of so many pick-4's and pick-3's there during the recent meeting). How come guys like Cangamble never even bother to publicize those mighty 2010-2011 Hialeah figures???

Why isn't it because one could have raised the handle to 32% across the board at Hialeah and just about matched the same performance???

This is your problem: Noooooooooooobody cares about the mutuel take. Get it through your thick skull and move out of the way so as to no longer be one of racing's obstacles.

I'm starting to think that Cangamble is Jesus Christ reincarnated. Hialeah is on the cross with him this time.

Indulto said...

As I understand it, the above meetings might not have taken place without the persistent efforts of Andy Asaro and Roger Way who were also present at the meetings and, up until now, have been the primary direct contacts with California horsemen and track representatives as a result of their established and ongoing relationships in Southern California.

Jeff Platt and Barry Meadow have represented HANA at CHRB board meetings and, hopefully, their prior direct contact with board members will eventually bear fruit with continued horseplayer support. Roger Way is a regular attendee at board meetings and has extensive knowledge of California racing including its statutes. Economist, Caroline Betts, is also a valuable local resource and advocate for lowering takeout. All five individuals are articulate and effective representatives of horseplayer interests.

Others are playing active, but less visible roles. Their research, counsel, and communications have also contributed to increasing awareness of the issues, and attaining whatever progress may have been made in addressing them.

Encouraging feedback like this should be shared as widely as possible to bring others on board. No effort is too small to help save our game.

Anonymous said...


Why are you speaking about a quarterhorse track here. The story with that track is that Twinspires has not taken them. If you are looking for a scoop, that's it.


cory613 said...

There will be no change overnite,politicians are involved. There will be a lot of red tape, when and if they ever decide they need to lower takeouts. Thats a good thing. Lets make this mistake they made cost them big time !

Cangamble said...

Despite Twinspires not taking Hialeah, their on track handle total handle, and on track attendance was up. Put more money in players pockets and whether they understand takeout or not, the game will grow.
Meanwhile, California is getting pounded.
California might actually drag the whole industry down in 2011. Almost every track is up a bit this year so far.

Dareandgo said...

The increase in takeout was very damaging to my style of handicapping. I bet alot of Exactas and Tris and the near 10% to 15% increase in the takeout of both bets would hurt too much so I have concentrated on Gulfstream and Tampa Bay. (I realize that the takeout on Tris are higher their than in So. Cal. but obviously I hit more exacta's than Tris so I had to emphazise that bet more in my choice.)
What I have found, and the other factor the Cal Tracks must take into account, much to my surprise I am enjoying learning the new tracks and trainers (Gulfstream and Tampa Bay) and their unique angles plus new bets (like the pick 5 with a 15% takeout). I assume if I feel this way, so probably do others. So the longer the boycott lasts, the less likely it is that handicappers like me will return to the Cal Tracks even if the takeout is reduced. We may find other tracks more enjoyable to play especially with the much larger fields that they get as opposed to Cal tracks.
The CHRB has always been in the pocket of the TOC but this takeout increase could have long term permanent effects if not reversed quickly.
P.S. By the way I live in San Diego and love attending Del Mar, but not at this price. I will still attend, but I will bet much at all, if anything.

Anonymous said...

Nobody else of note took Hialeah either!!! Or maybe you didn't catch that obvious factoid over the past couple of years.

It doesn't matter whether St. Peter simulcast the Hialeah signal all across heaven this year. The facts remain that they threw the admission gates wide open this winter as in the past, slashed the takeout to 12% like never before, and NOTHING POSITIVE CAME OF THE MOVE.

Had the groundswell of public interest blossomed as Cangamble predicted, the pool sizes would have been gargantuan (especially with so many high rollers looking for places to invest their money after taking it out of So Cal!!! - yeah, right) instead of habitually yielding a single winning pick-4 ticket to Cangamble in those $630 gross pools.

Cangamble, you are undoubtedly the brightest star in the Hialeah grandstand by winter, and the brightest of the northern lights which summer at Alymer.

Outside of those two spots, however, your outdated and absurd approach needs a lot of work.

Hey, maybe you should head for Puerto Rico, where the takeouts are much, much higher!

The racing there is probably on par with your Summerside Raceway where you can sit in an empty grandstand and listen to your own orations bouncing back and forth from wall to wall.

cory613 said...

I don't think Hialeah should be the yardstick people use to measure whats going on in horseracing. We should use a track that was here 2 years ago and most likely to be here 2 years from now.

vinny said...

and just wait til the scavengers from betfair come in with the betting exchange. this could further impact handle downward. racing has been decimated everywhere they have been allowed.

cory613 said...

How about a boycott of NYRA racing, until the trainers start using other jocks beside Ramon Dominquez ? What is it 10 years of him bringing in 4 or 5 big favs everyday ?