Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Canterbury Park's Meet Starts With a Bang

Canterbury Park - the Shakopee, MN racetrack that lowered takeout's this season - had a very nice weekend opener. Friday through Sunday, handle was up over 30%, year over year.

Although the weather cooperated, and on-track wagering was up, it's still (by any measure) a super result for the track who had hoped to generate some buzz with simulcast players. Wagering outside the state via ADW and other racetracks was up 34%.

Canterbury debuted an HD signal (to a couple complaints on social media, mainly regarding the lack of visibility of the odds in full fields), and odds that update every ten seconds, giving players a pretty good experience for a smaller racetrack. They also flew in Katie Gensler to help with the two new candidates for paddock analyst, and the pre-game show had a professional feel.

The track catered to both its on-track and off-track customers by doing the right thing with the takeout decrease -- they promoted it. It's messaging is on the starting gate, the track announcer mentions it, and during the pre-game show the analysts talked about and explained that lower takeout means their customers' tickets pay more. "When you win, you win more" is a strong message to patrons. 

They seemed to push all the right buttons to set the table for a decent meet. 

Canterbury, as many of us have learned, is in a unique position as a racetrack. While most tracks earn the vast majority of their wagering dollars from off-track sources, Canterbury has an amazingly strong on-track business; upwards of half of some evenings total wagering comes from people on track. Although many of these bettors are younger and per capita wagering is low -- they have mainly come for other activities and promotions -- it does again set the table for growth. If even a handful of these newbies get that if this new 18% trifecta takeout (with some work) can be beatable, it's again very strong messaging.

While we as bettors can enjoy the perks of better takeout, it's also those of us who are fans and horse owners to be quite excited for the meet itself. Also not left out are the trainers.

Trainer Robert Diordino said things at Canterbury are different, “At a lot of tracks, you feel like you’re walking into an empty bingo hall,” said Robertino Diodoro, Canterbury’s leading trainer last year. “It doesn’t feel like you’re even at a racetrack any more.”

Donna Keen who sent a string to Canterbury last season loved the family vibe and people in the stands, “It's unbelievable. I love seeing the families here and the young people..."

For most of us not at the track, Canterbury's Friday evening races are at 6:30CT (there will be Thursday night racing at some point), and racing continues this weekend with a special Monday matinee for holiday weekend at 12:45CT.

For Canterbury Park on social media during the races, Candice Hare will be handicapping @chare889 as the national handicapping correspondent,  Brian Arrigoni is the on-track paddock analyst @MrB_CBanalyst, and there are others playing on social media with the hashtag #playcanterbury

This article was reprinted with permission.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Churchill's Change to Pick 6 Rules Symptomatic of a Sport Which Has Lost Its Way

Back in March, Churchill Downs petitioned the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for a change to the carryover rules for the Derby Day pick 6.

As Steve Crist wrote in the DRF at the time:
Sick 6 at Churchill - Speaking of carryovers, here’s hoping someone hits the pick six on the Kentucky Derby card at Churchill Downs on May 7. Otherwise, a game of parimutuel three-card monte will kick in under a scheme unfortunately approved this week by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
To see how it works, let’s suppose that the Derby pick six pool, where the minimum bet is $2, is exactly $1 million. After the usual 22 percent takeout, that leaves $780,000 that’s supposed to be paid out – $190,000 in Derby Day consolations and $570,000 that normally would be up for grabs in a carryover pool when racing at Churchill resumes on Thursday, May 12.
Instead, Churchill will add only half of that $570,000 to the May 12 pool, which will be conducted with a 20-cent minimum and with a mandatory payout. The other half of the pool will be carried over to Friday, May 13, to seed a new Rainbow-style “Single 6” pool that Churchill is beginning that day. That pool is paid out only when there is a lone winner, so it’s entirely possible that the Derby Day carryover money won’t be paid out until June.
This is dangerous policy that disrespects the integrity of the wagering pools. It makes the effective pick six takeout on Derby Day a whopping 49 percent
This ended up happening. As Marty McGee pointed out today:

"Here's what's happening with the $686,309 pick-6 carryover from Kentucky Derby Day:
Half of it ($343,154) is being used in a MANDATORY-PAYOUT pick-6 (now called the "Single Six") when racing resumes Thursday with an 8-race card (races 3-8). First post is 5 ET (Twilight Thursdays the rest of the meet.) The other half ($343,154) is being used to "seed" a new single-6 wager on Friday after the bet is dispersed Thursday."

Seeding jackpot bets with another pools money, and "three card monte" - as Steve Crist puts it - we feel are emblematic of a sport who has forgot someone very important: The Betting Customer.
The "#Sick6" is something that's being used to cure a bottom line, while in our opinion, it should be looking out for an entire industry.

Some (not all, see Keeneland and Kentucky Downs and Canterbury to name a few) in the sport all too often feel it has to resort to such prestidigitation, because "no one is betting horse racing." Well, for that, they do have a point:

We ask, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Although some would like you to believe this drop has been inevitable, we see evidence that the argument is faulty.

In 2006, Nevada sports betting was bringing in $2.4 billion. This year - 2016 - it's slated to do $5 billion.That's over a double.

During this time Nevada sports wagering has taken 5.5% off a bet, expanded reach, and treated customers fairly well - so well, they want to bet more and more money on sports. No funny parlay's, no sick 6, no takeout hikes. Just betting and customer service.

Unlike horse racing, Nevada sports betting has not had a monopoly on internet wagering like racing has. It doesn't have legal status in 43 states. It does not have hundreds of tracks and OTB's as distribution points. It does not have dozens of ADW's. It's being done in one city, miles and miles away from the rest of the country's bettors at a tremendous disadvantage.

The gambling business is big and growing. For horse racing it has not grown for many years. With policies like the "sick 6", which add to takeout, and anger and madden customers, we can fully understand why.