Tom Lamarra (for those of you who have wondered via email and twitter where the racing press is on this, they are here) in Bloodhorse wrote an article today on the horseplayer action in California. In it he discussed some numbers, what appears to has or has not happened, and what the player group over at playersboycott.org is looking for. We at HANA felt it struck the right tone.
We at HANA who support it (and the ~70% or so of you who were polled who say you support it) have worked very hard on getting the message through that this is not about "players wanting money". We have quoted gambling experts, old policies, empirical results and more which show purses will be lost in the long-term by a raise in takeout. We don't want that to happen (many HANA members are horse owners). We would like us to find "optimal takeout" where the takeout rate drives the most money to handles to drive customers to our sport, where we make the most money for purses.
The article touches on phase two: A Gambling Board. HANA would like professionals to make gambling decisions - a wagering economist or two or three, a smart horseplayer rep, and a track rep. We'd also like the CHRB to concentrate more on horse owner issues. We all know how much it is to train and keep a horse in CA. We need to address high costs in a professional way.
We'd also like to see the Gambling Board above look at rebates for CA players (as well as simulcasting issues in the state). People outside CA can get them and the industry supports that, why not inside CA for those horseplayers? Like a board member of HANA said (who lives outside the state of CA) today:
"I'm not a whale, not even close to it. I'm probably right around average. I started getting rebates about a year and a half ago, and since then my handle has multiplied just over 6-fold. That's just one player, and not even a big player at that. Imagine what would happen to handle if the retention cap were removed and suddenly all CA players could get rebates just like me. Not only would each of those players' handle increase, but the players that are playing offshore because it's the only place they can get rebates would likely bring their handle back to our pools. "
We think that makes sense - that board member plays through the pari-mutuel pools and supports racing in big numbers now, so why not CA residents. Maybe it doesn't make sense and is not workable, who knows, but we say study it and let the gambling board stocked with experts to decide if it is good policy. (**Note the HANA policy, however, is lower takeout will do the same thing, and bring more people into the pools and have a level playing field)
There are dozens of other issues we'd like to see professional consultants and gambling experts decide: New bets; can we test them to grow? Pari-mutuel rule changes - is the CA rule that a three horse race can have tri wagering a bad one? Can we eliminate it and have happier customers?
Anyway, spirited debate is good and spirited debate can yield positive policy changes to grow the sport - for customers, owners, trainers, grooms, and everyone else. We hope more and more places like the Bloodhorse start offering out some of our vision for growth, and let people decide. It might not be perfect, but why not talk about it as reasonable, decent people who care about our sport should?