23 July 2008

Betting On Thoroughbreds Down 11% Since Triple Crown

Betting on thoroughbred racing has declined sharply since the Triple Crown.
Wagering has dropped 11% on North American Thoroughbred racing since the end of the Triple Crown series -- at least by one indicator -- a disturbing trend that can likely be attributed to a variety of factors.

Bets placed on United States and Canada racing dropped $209,860,208 from a similar six-week period following the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in 2007, according to data collected by The Jockey Club Information Systems. This year’s total handle of $1,691,643,357 wagered from June 8 through July 20 is also between 5.5% and 7.4% less than any similar period from 2003-2006.

I don't buy the excuse that the drop is due to the economy or the price of gas. Usually, during times of economic weakness, gambling tends to increase. I'm sure lottery ticket sales and sports betting haven't declined since the Triple Crown.

The reality is, thanks to ridiculously high track takeouts, that the public has figured out that you might as well flush your money down the toilet than bet on horses. Perhaps, the bad economy is not preventing one from gambling, it is just stopping one from gambling in games perceived as no win situations, other than lotteries of course, which offer life changing jackpots for a very small investment.

The newly formed Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) got some more press in the article. One of the organizers (FYI I'm one of the original organizes as well), John Swetye was quoted:

“There is no doubt that some players have left the traditional pari-mutuel wagering platforms,” said John Swetye, a Connecticut entrepreneur who helped launch HANA, an advocacy organization for bettors. “Some left because they can't get a bet down with their ADW because it doesn't offer a particular track, or because the player can't have an account with a certain ADW because of where they live."...............“Right now, horseplayers get too little respect -- especially among some racetrack executives,” he said. “Horseplayers can not understand why the customer is given so little respect. Without horseplayers, would racetracks exist?”

I'll respectfully disagree with John's reason for the decline because most horseplayers will just bet on other tracks if they are unable to bet on certain tracks due to their geographical location, or because their ADW doesn't have that track on the roster.

But I will agree that horseplayers get absolutely no respect from horsemen and racing execs alike.

The Paulick Report printed a Guest Editorial from another HANA member, Dean from Pull The Pocket. It was his piece on how the Horsemen Groups are wrecking the chance for growth even more today.

The comment section is interesting in the editorial. I replied to a comment there:

"I’m less interested in how much someone bet than in how much they lost. The horses have to eat, and there’s no money to feed them if nobody loses.

The perspective of the horsemen is pretty simple. The industry is not growing. What makes ADW handle a growth segment is not new dollars, but dollars that used to be bet at the track. Purses have historically been about 6.5% of handle. Why should that number go down just because handle is now flowing through a different channel? It strikes me as naive to argue that the industry would suddenly start growing (in the face of increasing competition for the gambling dollar) if horsemen would just chill."
Bitplayer, I admire your honesty. I think that racing execs especially realize that the amount bet is not the way to look at things anymore, but the money lost by each individual customer is. They want to maximize the amounts lost by each customer because they feel they are competing against all other forms of entertainment.
In other words, they don't want winners. They even resent winners.

However, it is this mentality that has made it so that the ADW business has really just taken money out of the pot that used to be split by only racetracks and horsemen.

You would figure that once betting would be available to everyone anytime that customer growth would be exponential. It would have, if the takeouts were competitive with other forms of gambling.

Instead, the public has woke up and realizes that no matter how much time and effort one spends on trying to beat the game, without healthy rebates, there is absolutely no chance of winning over a 3 year period (OK, maybe one chance out of 20,000 tops).
Meanwhile, if one is sharp enough, sports betting is beatable or at least gives someone the chance to bet a lot and bet often and maybe even break even. The same is true with online Poker.

That is why WINNERS are important. They create BUZZ which creates new players.

What the racing industry needs badly is a whole slew of new players who will add to the pot that the horsemen and tracks and ADWs get to split up.

HANA's goal is to find a way to attract new horseplayers. In fact, that should be the racetracks goal too, but the standard racing exec doesn't seem to have a clue on how to achieve this goal.

Feds weigh lifting ban on sports betting in casinos in Canada

Revolving Door At Magna Entertainment Continues As Another Exec Jumps Ship

Pull The Pocket has a post up right now on Betting Exchanges and how one of HANA's founding members had his idea for one shot down 10 years ago.

Jockey Club Launches Injury Data Base
The primary objectives of the Equine Injury Database are to:
* identify the frequency, types and outcome of racing injuries using a standardized format that will generate valid statistics
* identify markers for horses at increased risk of injury
* serve as a data source for research directed at improving safety and preventing injuries

No Slots Equals The Death Of Another Racetrack: Woodlands

Woodbine Bias Report

Terry Jordan has "The Right Stuff", he is on fire. Jockeys Jimmy Mack and Jono Jones are doing good things right now. Speed was horrible last Wednesday night and even Thursday, but was great on Sunday. The track is just way too unpredictable to bet serious money, if any money at all. Not too many winners are using the rail to save ground.

Betfair wants more harness racing on its menu
'Punters placed more than £80,000 on the race with the online betting site, according to a story by Amy Mathieson in the Horse & Hound UK.

"Two thousand racegoers watched the race at Kempton Park and the race was aired live on Racing UK," the story said.

"Tony Calvin from Betfair told H&H: "Our expectations were minimal - but as it turned out more than 1,000 people placed bets on the harness race."'


Anonymous said...

I honestly believe the synthetic surfaces are turning many of the long-time bettors off the game. It's completely changed handicapping and when you have spent 30 years studying the game, it's too daunting a task to change.
Poker.....here I come.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Woodbine and the speed issues is due to their harrowing schedule. They wait until Monday/Tuesday to really dig the track up (and it gets very deep and is actually quite nice to train on), but then they will barely touch it until the next week.

So, after all of the training and racing as the week progresses, it gets harder and harder. This rain doesn't help either as it just packs down the surface. It's nice that we don't have to train in the mud but other than that it's such a pain in the ass and a waste of money. If we ever get a good downpour, too, it will take ages for the track to drain the water and the chutes and outside of the track are the slowest parts to drain.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1, you can always bet dirt tracks. Premier Turf Club has a lot of them on their menu.

Anon 2, it is amazing that the more water on the track, the faster the times. Because the outside retains the moisture, the outside bias must be more prevalent when wet. It used to be opposite for Woodbine's dirt track. The rail was better on off tracks usually because water on the outside slowed horses down.

Interesting about the chutes. It means that 7 furlong races should go relatively faster when the poly is wet.

Still, all the unpredictability that comes with Polytrack makes the game even more unbeatable. And at the outrageous takeouts that WEG charges, it is unbearable for most, even if you are cognizant of the takeout or not. You know you go broke faster, and that is all that matters.

Anonymous said...

Horse racing is all about the owners now. The purses keep going up, and the handles go down, it doesn't make any sense.

Six horse fields at Woodbine running for $86,000....ridiculous.

The purses should be at least partly related to the size of the field.

Anonymous said...

Anon, I have actually said that especially at B tracks that need betting, 6 horse races should get minimum purses that increase which each other that starts the race.

The majority of owners still lose money, but don't worry, Woodbine will be cutting purses soon enough.

Woodbine has probably the most inflated purses for the quality of their runners in North America, and purses don't make people bet. They have B track handles.