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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

"IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

The above quote is from the novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, published 1859.

I thought it might be nice to present you the horseplayer with a contrast of two cities (racing jurisdictions) this Holiday Season.

CAL Racing
Monday was opening day at Santa Anita. Despite perfect weather and Monday being a Federal Holiday, all sources handle was up just 7% vs. opening day the year before. By way of contrast, all sources handle for last year's 2010 opening day card was down 21% when compared to the opening day card for 2009 - largely because of bad publicity resulting from news of the takeout increase masterminded by the TOC and the CHRB.

Last year, CHRB commissioner David Israel was quoted in several articles by the racing press as saying: 

“We’re in the entertainment business. We are competing with the Dodgers and the Giants and the Angels and the Lakers and we’re putting on a show…” 

Quotes like the one above, coupled with player reaction to the takeout increase resulted in a Cal Racing public relations nightmare. Year over year all sources handle for California thoroughbred racing fell off sharply – to the tune of approximately a quarter billion dollars for calendar year 2011.

There was at least one positive to come out of this. Last spring, representatives from HANA met with leadership from Track Management and the TOC. Among the changes we suggested to them was a 14% takeout Players Pick5. They listened and the new wager was first implemented at Hollywood Park. Needless to say, the new reduced takeout wager has been very well received by players. Last week, on Hollywood Park’s closing day card, the 14% takeout Players Pick 5 pool reached a record $1.2 million dollars.

NYRA
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, when you are absolutely certain every possible facet about the game that could possibly present itself has - a story breaks that makes you shake your head in utter disbelief.

NYRA overcharges bettors $8.6M, will lower takeouts to correct error:

Questions:

Does any horseplayer on the planet really believe claims that NY takeout law is so impossibly complex that it took over a year to discover that the betting public was being charged more than takeout rates allowed by law?

How is the on track bettor (who was underpaid on winning exotic tickets) supposed to be made whole by the NYRA plan to right this wrong?

Is the NY Attorney General going to look into this?

On 12-21-2011, NYRA issued a statement about the issue on their website:

The headline from the above linked to statement reads:

NYRA Lowers Takeout on Exotics

Putting questions aside about whether or not intent to fleece the public existed - or whether this was a case of oversight - Whoever wrote the above headline is no dummy. It’s a safe bet the words “NYRA Lowers Takeout on Exotics” were crafted in hopes NYRA can avoid the kind of handle debacle CAL Racing experienced as a direct result of poor decision making by the TOC and CHRB.

On December 9, 2011, Richard Eng penned an article for the Las Vegas Review Journal calling for NYRA to lower takeout. Eng titled his piece Casino could position NYRA to lower takeout, grow business:

Eng’s article makes some valid points. Now that NYRA has actually lowered takeout (said tongue in cheek because I doubt this is the takeout reduction Eng was calling for) it will be interesting to see how things play out going forward.

A Tale of Two Cities: CAL Racing vs. NYRA
 
If you are planning to play either CAL Racing or NYRA this Holiday Season, here’s what your takeout landscape looks like:

               Takeout Rates 
Wager           CAL    NYRA
-------------  ------   -----
WPS            15.43    16.00
EXA            22.68    18.50
DBL            22.68    18.50
TRI            23.68    24.00
PICK3          23.68    24.00
PICK4          23.68    24.00
PICK5          14.00     N/A
PICK6          23.68   16.00 non carryover days
                                 24.00 carryover days

"IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
 --Charles Dickens, 1859


We at HANA would like to wish all horseplayers everywhere a Joyous and Happy Holiday Season and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

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