Monday, April 14, 2014

The View From Vegas on Churchill Downs - "Stupid, stupid, stupid"

We've heard a lot about the Churchill Downs takeout increase, announced last week, via email, or on social media, chat boards, through phone calls from HANA membership, or in the trade press. Most of this reaction is fervently insider led, from the people who live, eat and breathe horse racing.

Tonight we stumbled upon what we might call an outside view while surfing on twitter. We saw a gentleman with over 10,000 followers speaking about horse racing, and we were surprised, because we've never seen him before.

Chris Andrews, from his bio, booked his first bet as a fifth grader. Through high school Andrews and his cohorts continued booking bets and operating card games. Andrews paid his own way through college, hustling bets and making book to fund his education. After graduating cum laude from Robert Morris College, Andrews came west to Las Vegas. The next two years were spent at two of Las Vegas’ legendary sportsbooks, the Stardust and Barbary Coast, where he learned the old Nevada method of being a bookmaker. He took the knowledge from that experience and at twenty five was hired by Club Cal Neva. He turned the tiny Reno sportsbook into one of the biggest and most successful sportsbook in Nevada.

Chris, and his "cohorts" are exactly the people racing tries to reach. There's gold in them hills, because these are the players with a bankroll who like betting - racing included.

Chris's view of Churchill's decision to raise the juice is not unlike many horse racing gamblers, but it is a different view.

He writes:

"One reason circulated by those who think they know but don’t, is young bettors don’t have the patience to read all the data in the racing form.

That’s a complete load of crap.

Young sports fans, whether they are bettors or merely fans, have taken analytics to a level unimagined a generation ago. It started with baseball, and then evolved to football and basketball.  Now even hockey has metrics that were unheard of a few seasons ago. Unfortunately, the first thing these potential horse bettors analyze is the percentage they have to overcome to be profitable.

To win at football, basketball or hockey, it’s about 4.5%.  Baseball is about half that.  When they see horse racing’s house edge is north of 17.5% it’s an easy and logical decision they make to concentrate on other wagering options.

They probably have heard the horseplayers’ prayer.  You know, it goes “Dear Lord, please let me break even today.  I could use the money.”


"Churchill Downs Incorporated announced they were increasing their pari-mutuel takeout from 16% to 17.5% on win, place and show bets, and from 19% to 22% on exotics.

Stupid, stupid, stupid."

Horse racing wants to attract sports gamblers and others who enjoy the pursuit of catching a winner and making a little bit of money. If Chris's article is indicative of those people, Churchill Downs is not helping the cause.

To read Chris's article in full, at, it's right here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Track suits and horsemen patting themselves on the back after telling the press they found an extra $8 million sitting around in horseplayer wallets. Meanwhile, executive salaries at CHDN more than doubled in the past year ($8 million in 2012 to $27 million in 2013 according to Morningstar.) As a longtime horseplayer these actions are sickening to me. Please organize a BOYCOTT. --Bill Simone, Phoenix AZ