Sunday, June 26, 2011

Art Wilson: "It Makes No Sense At All"

In yesterday's column, California's Art Wilson summed up many of the problems in California racing in a few paragraphs:
"The TOC at first argued against the popular pick five, claiming it would not fly. Santa Anita wanted to institute it, but management was rebuffed. Finally, Hollywood Park was allowed to offer a pick five that carries an attractive 14 percent takeout, and the fans ate it up."

Let's start with rescinding that terrible idea to raise the takeout at a time when fans were staying away from the game to begin with. It just gave them further reason to turn their backs on the sport.

Sort of like a store with a $35 pair of jeans that's been sitting on the shelf for two years and raising the price to $44.50.

Makes no sense at all. "
After hearing reports from HANA members who attended yesterday's meeting, it seems little has changed in the way of the TOC thinking, when looked at from a customer (i.e. the people who pay for most of the purses) perspective.

For more information, or to lend a hand and sign-up to the Players Boycott of California racing, please visit here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bloodhorse Summarizes California Racing - Takeout Debate Continues

Bloodhorse's Tom LaMarra and Tracy Gantz today have taken what might be the most comprehensive look at the state of racing in California. From the power groups to you, the horseplayer, all bases are covered. The article is a must-read for fans of the sport in that state, and beyond.

Via the Bloodhorse, CTHA's Roget Licht:

“So many mistakes have been made by horsemen—ignoring the racetracks, horseplayers, and owners and acting on their own without getting the support of other constituencies,” Licht said. “Are they doing what they believe is in the best interests of racing, or are they acting in what they thought was in the best interests of racing?

“I think the horseplayers are a critical part of the game, and they need to be listened to. Studies are in accord with what (HANA) says. You can’t just raise prices and figure the customers are stupid. California guys are at the forefront, and may be more educated (on the issues), but what’s going on is this: They are an important voice to listen to.”

HANA President Jeff Platt:

Proponents of the takeout increase used flawed revenue projections saying there was little or no elasticity between takeout and handle,” Platt said. “They argued handle would remain the same, enabling purses to increase dramatically, and that field size would go up as a result of the increased purses—in turn generating increased handle and revenue. Of course none of that happened.

“HANA gave the legislature a more realistic argument. We told them the CHRB, TOC, and track management were using flawed revenue projections. We told them that racing’s customers see takeout as already too high, and that racing’s customer base would not support further takeout increases. We told them a takeout increase would cause handle to plummet, which in turn would have disastrous long-term consequences for track bottom lines and purses.

“We told them exactly what would happen beforehand, and then watched it play out almost exactly as we called it.”

There is much, much more at the link here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fort Erie Takeout Reduction Starts Strong

Without much publicity, Fort Erie has lowered the takeout on their Pick 4 wager (in Canada it is called a Win 4) This came into affect as of Sunday.  Takeout was lowered from 26.2% to an industry tying low of 14%.

“We are testing the waters in terms of takeout reduction,” said FELRC’s Chief Operating Officer Rick Cowan. “Management will assess the results on a regular basis.”

In the past three days there has been a nice percentage increase in pool size. On Sunday, a total of $11,989 was wagered on both Pick 4's combined, up from $7,611 for the corresponding Sunday a year ago, representing an gain of 57%. On Monday the combined amount wagered was $15,629 compared to $10,582 the previous year, which works out to a 47% increase. On Tuesday with the combined total of $19,616 wagered versus just over $11,000 the Tuesday from the previous year, the Pick 4 pool size increased by 69%.

Remember, this is with little fanfare, outside of a mention in the DRF which erroneously reported the takeout dropping from 16% instead of 26.2%.

What is interesting is that it appears that the Horseplayer has started looking for, and playing low takeout type of wagers. On Sunday, there was a slight increase in total handle at Fort Erie (by 7%), but on Monday total handle was down 47%. And on Tuesday total handle was off by 27%.  Last year they had an early post time Mondays and Tuesdays, this year the post time was 4 PM, and there was one less race this year.

Other takeouts at Fort Erie are on the very high side, especially doubles and exactors (at 26.2%).  Perhaps a 2:30 or 3:00 PM post time might make more sense, but it is pretty clear that the takeouts on doubles and exactors need to come down so that total handle numbers can begin to go on an upswing as well.

This was submitted by a Canadian HANA member. If you'd like to submit something please email us at

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

HANA Harness Tioga Freebies, ADW Deals & Other Notes

With every thoroughbred player getting primed for the Belmont card Saturday, the HANA harness team has been working on this Sunday's Pick 6 Pool Party at Tioga Downs. We are pretty impressed with what the team- working with this player friendly racetrack- has achieved for his Pool Party, in a short period of time.

Free Platinum Past Performances

These will be up tomorrow. Special thanks goes to Trackmaster and the USTA.

Special Deals from various ADWs/Simo's

America’s ADW ( is offers a bonus for new customers who use ‘HANA’ as a promo code.  Existing customers must write them for their special bonus.

Compubet ( ) is offering a bonus for all members wagering on Tioga Downs card on Sunday.

Big M Club card members receive bonus points for any wagers on Tioga Downs’ card on Sunday when wagered through simulcasting at the Meadowlands. ( offers a bonus for wagering on Tioga.

Mutuels Online ( is offering rewards on the entire day’s card.

Twinspires ( will be promoting the event and may be offering some prizes. .

Tioga has also produced a commercial for the venture, which highlights not only the pool party, but their industry low takeout. If you are a HANA Harness member, please consider playing a few bucks in this Sunday's guaranteed Tioga Pick 6!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rich Eng - It's Not that Complicated

Today in the Las Vegas Review Journal, columnist Rich Eng states that the problems in California racing are many, but one solution for the customer is simple:
I suggest a cheaper, more common-sense approach to increase wagering: Just lower the takeout. A lower takeout would instantly make the product more attractive in the simulcast market.
For a primer on the work being done (or lobbying on behalf of you, the long overburdened player) from Jeff Platt, HANA President, please review his blog post here.

On the good news front, you have said time and time again that you want to support the racetracks who want to earn your business. One such track has caught the eye of our members who play harness racing - Tioga Downs. They were the only major track in North America - thoroughbred or standardbred - to lower takeout across the board this decade. Our friends at HANA Harness have started to arrange a Pool Party with Tioga for June 12th, which is coincidentally a marvelous betting card with myriad stakes.

Please watch the blog for news, past performances (Platinum ones graciously donated by the USTA and Trackmaster) and much more. If you'd like to join the harness team and work with tracks like Tioga, please email and he will add you to the mailing list and steering committee.

Lastly, we are extremely close to releasing the track ratings for 2011. This player resource will allow players to quickly scan all the thoroughbred tracks in NA, with updated takeout rates, bet types, field sizes and handle/pool sizes. Thanks to all HANA members who helped compile this list.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

California Meetings Update from Jeff Platt - New Takeout Increase Planned at NorCal State Fairs, Boycott Continues

I attended a meeting yesterday at Hollywood Park. This was a follow up to meetings held earlier this year well in advance of the Hollywood meet.

The premise for the original meeting was this:

1. All Sources California Thoroughbred Handle in 2010 (total customer spend) has shrunk to approximately ONE HALF of what it was just nine years earlier in 2001.

2. Handle (total customer spend) at California's two thoroughbred tracks for the first two months of 2011 are showing accelerated declines despite the takeout increase (where additional money was earmarked for purses.)

3. Let's identify the reasons behind the decline and air suggestions for reversing the trend.

(Kudos to Hollywood Park for providing the impetus to meet and look for solutions.)


During the original meeting the following problems (in no particular order of importance) were identified:

1. The horse population is shrinking.

2. Costs to maintain a horse in California are higher than elsewhere in the country.

3. Field Size continues to decline.

4. The price (takeout) is too high for the product offered.


There were about 40 people at the original meeting. Attending were management/leadership from all facets of the industry: track management, owners, trainers, breeders, the CHRB, and yes horseplayers.

It was decided that the issues involved were complex and that it would be best to break the attendees up into committees - with each committee assigned an individual area - and each committee to hold follow up meetings to discuss their assigned area of responsibility.

I was assigned to the committee charged with discussing pricing the game properly. (So I'll write the rest of this progress report from that perspective.)


At a follow up meeting (about two months ago) I mentioned that all sources handle numbers for California's two thoroughbred tracks were off more than $100 million vs. the same period the prior year and made the suggestion that an immediate rescinding of the takeout increase might be a wise thing to do.

I also suggested that CA State Law mandating the ADW Retention Cap be rescinded so that California residents could obtain rebates like the residents of other states.

Track management and horsemen (the TOC) weren't willing to rescind the takeout increase. Some of them mentioned being pressured by the CHRB to keep the takeout increase intact at all costs (a position the CHRB commissioners have apparently done a 180 on if you read the transcripts from the last public CHRB meeting.)

We suggested other ways they might reduce the trend, including the reduced takeout pick5 that Hollywood later adopted.


With five full months of handle numbers now in the books, the evidence is overwhelming:

The takeout increase has been a colossal failure. The strategy of increasing purses by removing money from customer wallets did not bring increased field sizes as promised. It only accelerated the decline in total customer spend.

On the bright side, the handle numbers clearly indicate the reduced takeout pick5 at Hollywood has been a success. Beyond whatever money the pick5 is generating on its own, having a reduced takeout pick5 in the early part of the card is generating overflow handle for their earlier races. (They admitted as much yesterday.)

Despite the evidence, which is crystal clear at this point, California's racing decision makers do not appear to be in any hurry to act.

At yesterday's meeting, when we suggested they rescind the takeout increase, looking around the room - I saw a lot of them rolling their eyes. (Many of them are still clinging to the idea that takeout doesn’t matter.)


I have some bad news to report. The senate bill authorizing the thoroughbred takeout increase also applies to the upcoming NorCal Fair meets.

Incredibly, at present, they plan on increasing exotics takeout at the NorCal Fairs as follows:

From 22.02% to 24.02%

TRI, P3, P4, SUPER, Place Pick All, Pick6, etc.
From 22.02% to 25.02%


I wish I had better news to report. Based on what I saw yesterday, they still have a long way to go when it comes to implementing the changes needed to reverse the trend and start earning player business.

Until or unless further changes are adopted (There ARE future meetings planned where further player friendly changes WILL be talked about.) I will continue my support of the Players Boycott – and recommend all players everywhere do the same.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

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