Advocating for horseplayers and betting customers is as old as the day is long. There are the very influential - Beyer, Crist, Maury Wolf - and there are the grassroots - people like you and me, on twitter, or on chatboards, who take time to post or write their thoughts. Everyone, from the loud voices the small, is their very own horseplayer advocate.
Here at the Horseplayers Association, we're no different, even though sometimes we may be looked at like we are.
HANA, as an organization, is 100% volunteer. How this works, and how people get involved is pretty simple. Let me share a case to illustrate.
One member noticed several issues with past posting (races being bet after the bell rung) over the years. He, like most squeaky wheels, tended to be ignored by the tracks he was trying to help. He got in contact, and since HANA did have some cache as an organization, he began to advocate under the HANA banner, as a member in charge of wagering integrity questions.
He donated his time on an important horseplayer cause, and shed light on various issues. Ray Paulick picked up the Hollywood Park incident, and he was able to share his findings with a larger audience. Although the problem is not 100% rectified, his voice - a grassroots one - was very important.
Other issues are addressed in a similar fashion.
One of the founding members was also a horse owner, and questions revolving around trainers and positives was something he was interested in. HANA members were as well - drugs and potentially "bad trainers" scored high on our polling of members, so it fit nicely. He worked with the RCI on their trainer positive database, as a horseplayer advocate.
Some, like Jeff, is a data person, so he, over the years has worked on behalf of players to try and get better horse racing data. Reporting first time geldings, having SMS updates from Equibase on scratches and changes, are two such things he took the lead on. Jeff hopes to one day have the gelding reporting issue solved in a way we can all be happy with.
Others wanted to address other issues that many horseplayers believe in - some of them simple things, like all tracks showing exacta and double probables in the same $1 or $2 increments, and reporting payouts in a uniform way. They took the lead on that (that we were told this was "incredibly difficult and not worth our time" is more of a reflection on the sport, in our view), as an advocate.
Others want the industry to card better races for us to bet, so he went to bat to try and get a large study completed on what makes bettors tick, through proper pricing, field size etc. The wheels were set in motion on this - with the generous help of the New York Racing Association - and there's a chance this study will be completed in the near future.
Large issues that players complain about - let's take for example the Keeneland takeout hike - are looked at similarly, but a little different.
If the inbox is filled with an issue like this, the process involves a poll of members, gauging their support and interest, and offering a few solutions that they think are reasonable. For any action like the Keeneland boycott, the direction comes from the members alone.
HANA members are very cognizant of pricing, clearly, because our polling shows it is the member's number one issue.
At that point a few people who are behind the "boycott" and want to donate their time and money, swing into action as horseplayer advocates. (so far so good on the boycott and we thank those of you who are participating against takeout increases through advocacy).
HANA is simply a group of horseplayers willing to donate their time on an issue - any issue. No, it's not a switchboard for problems (unfortunately, and as much as we all wish it was), or an organization filled with staff that can drop everything and look into every issue.
That's why we invite you to join, and become a part of something.
If you have a horseplayer issue that bothers you (or you're interested in) that you think needs addressing, email us. If the issue is something horseplayers are also for, the organization can open doors for you (yes, most in the industry take our calls), and you can "take the ball and run with it" as a volunteer.
We have bi-weekly meetings and can offer advice, and probably some like-minded help. Because, after all, we're all horseplayers like you who want to make the sport better.
That's what Jeff did, and Mike, and Bill and Theresia and others have done in the past. If it's something you want to do, too, we'd love to hear from you. ( info at hanaweb.org )
For those wanting to just join HANA, we appreciate it because there's strength in numbers. It's free, and you can do it right here.