5 November 2008

Betting Continues To Slide

Betting Drops Again In October Don't shoot the messenger, I want racing to grow, I really do, but racing is dying because the industry is completely dysfunctional, from racing execs to horsemen groups to drug rules. And it simply refuses to compete with other forms of gambling, which is the only way it will attract new long term customers. The takeout has to be reduced substantially or racing will continue its slow death.

HANA's blog has a recent post up "Why I Left Racing, Part One." Well worth reading.

Not helping, is the fact the general public has increased negative sentiment against horse racing because of "animal cruelty" concerns. Read the post by Pull The Pocket regarding the banning of dog racing in Massachusetts.

Don't forget to check out Down The Stretch on the internet. Lots of insightful articles on Canadian horse racing. A much longer article by Perry Lefko on Fort Erie's woes can be found there. I found an article on Ajax Downs very intriguing. Seems that a lot of Woodbine execs showed up there recently. David Gorman, Rod Seiling, Jamie Martin, Nick Coukos, and Nick Eaves were spotted. "Woodbine is interested in horse racing doing well across Ontario," Nick Eaves told the author of the article. Last time I looked, Fort Erie is in Ontario.
Aside from that, Ajax Downs has applied for only 35 dates next year. But the track is now 5 furlongs, making it a realistic though not ideal alternative for thoroughbred racing should Fort Erie close down.

Another good article on the ADW mess. This one mentions The Horseplayers Association of North America as it quotes HANA's President Jeff Platt. I'm surprised Woodbine/HPI was not mentioned as one of the ADW's under the "have" category. I believe Woodbine continues to get good deals from race tracks as warring horsemen organizations in the US seem to ignore them as another source that deprives their purse accounts.

Platt, who has penned a critical open letter to the horseracing industry on behalf of HANA, believes availability should be made to all bettors, regardless of the level. And he said players in the HANA organization and elsewhere could really care less how it happens, as long as it happens quickly.

“You don’t walk into a casino and have someone tell you the craps tables are closed, or the blackjack dealers are on strike,” Platt said. “Racing is making it difficult on its players. Players are leaving the game. They are spending their money elsewhere. And many of them are not coming back.”

HANA, which was launched this summer, has just fewer than 300 members that combined wager about $25 million a year, Platt said. “We don’t have enough members yet to stage a public demonstration (such as a wagering boycott), but the day may come when there will be several thousand members. And then we will be able to coordinate some sort of an effort.”

The message from Jeff Platt:

An open letter to all participants in the signal wars:

Racing is at a crossroads. Thoroughbred handle is down nearly everywhere. That in itself should be your wake up call. Track management, horsemen's groups, and ADWs - ALL of you should be working together - doing everything within your power to grow handle by bringing new fans to the game.

Instead you have done just the opposite.

This is exactly the kind of mess the industry doesn't need at a time when the last thing the industry needs is any kind of mess at all.

Everyone involved in this mess - EVERY board member of the TOC, THG, TVG, YouBet, TwinSpires, and everyone on every board at EVERY track in North America: ALL OF YOU should be hanging your heads in shame over this.


It doesn't matter who is right and who is wrong. No matter which side of this you are on, if you are an active participant in this fight, every hour that you allow this to continue is having a profound effect on the game itself. Simply put: Your actions are driving customers away from the game and giving potential new fans every reason to look elsewhere for places to spend their gambling and entertainment dollars. What a travesty! How can you do this at a time when the game itself can least afford the loss of even one single customer?

Can you not see that you are doing the game irreparable harm?

I implore you to put aside your differences. End this now - before you do the game more damage than you already have.


Jeff Platt

President, H.A.N.A.


HANA still need members, and we can use Canadian members as well (we are low on them). If you are a concerned bettor it is free to become a member, simply click here and join....it will take you 2 minutes tops.
We need numbers in order to have the pull that is necessary to make the customer count.

The Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance Has Added Four Blogs Including The HANA Blog, The Turk and The Little Turk, Pull The Pocket (which is kind of neat, since it is a Harness Racing first blog), and
another Canadian, Triple Dead Heat, who focuses on Woodbine thoroughbred racing.

Maryland Voters Approve Slots. Magna Entertainment stock really ran up prior to the vote.

Universal Racing Licenses Closer To Become Reality Amazing that something like that in such a dysfunctional industry might actually happen, at least on the harness side.

Keeneland Sales Numbers continue to tumble. And that includes the record amount paid for super mare Better Than Honour There are still gamblers out there. $14 million for a mare who produced two Belmont winners, but was barren last year, and isn't pregnant this year.


Anonymous said...

Couple of months ago I read a bit in the Detroit papers on Vegas lobbyists loading up the pols with campaign cash in anticipation of opening up internet gambling if the Dems made out in the election. The Dems made out. Keep holding out people.

Anonymous said...

Racing is a dying industry, everyone needs to face the facts and do something about it. I'm shocked that the execs aren't worried that they're going to run out of a nice easy cash flow for doing dick all once racing is all said and done.

I don't think Ajax is going to get the turnout they're hoping for from the TBs, but you never know. I heard they were approved for 2 days of racing a week - one day for QH and one for TB. Still doesn't help those that were stabled at Fort Erie... they're going to have nowhere to go at all, unless Ajax comes to the rescue with a brand new stable area while they're at it. I'm still having a hard time believing that place is going to have TBs at all.

I'm a young person that has been working at the racetrack for the last 5-6 years and I am now in the midst of getting out of the business. I don't think I'm the only one, either. I really can't see anyone solving the disaster of anyone saving the industry at all and I have a future to think about. Being 40 with my only career experience being a rider isn't going to get me very far in the real world. Time to go to school and do something that I know has a secure future.

The industry is also forgetting about the younger audiences that are the future of the sport, without them, who will place the bets when everyone else passes on or simply leaves? If you walked into a school, even in the area near a racetrack, I doubt that you'd find many people that have much interest. I know I was the only one in my school that liked it. Also, here in North America we have too many options for entertainment when it comes to sports and gambling.

Between all the other sports available to watch (that don't have 25 minute breaks in between 1 minute races) I have to say that racing does lose some appeal. Todays day and age is all about the now and people don't enjoy waiting for anything. They'd rather watch an action packed hour of some rough and tumble sport than sit around all day for 8-10 1 minute races.

I've tried to get non-racing friends of mine interested in the sport and waiting between races is a major downfall. Not only that, though, but learning how to read a form, the different kinds of bets and understanding how to handicap is simply too much work for people nowadays. Again, with the way life is now where everything is instant, people have also become far too lazy to try and learn anything.

Given the choice, I can't see too many people opting to bet on horses that are potentially on drugs and the race potentially fixed after having spent the time to try and learn how to do it properly, only to win very little in return, rather than going to the casino and throwing a $20 into a machine. Then there are also the lotteries that people throw their money away at every week but they'll keep doing that because the could be the next multi-millionaire. I heard someone saying that in China, for example, they do not have lotteries. Their racing seems to be fairly strong. Not having too many options for gambling could be something that's helping them. There are simply too many forms of gambling available and horse racing is losing its appeal to the public.

The polytrack/other synthetic surfaces, of course, aren't helping matters much either. Especially at Woodbine. Every day the surface is different and as the races go on for the day, it changes. It's no surprise so many handicappers are deterred lately. How do you place a bet with confidence on a horse that may or my not be drugged, with a rider that may or may not be competent enough, on a surface that may or may not favor their running style but you won't know until the gates open? I'd rather throw my $2 bet on a scratch ticket where my random bout of luck could land me $25,000 rather than a pointless return of $2.10 or something ridiculous like that.

Now is the time for these people to do something, not in 5 years or 10 years when the industry is beyond repair. Action needs to be taken immediately to win back the publics interest.

Anonymous said...

RG, politics is politics.

Anon, thanks for the sincere comment. I don't think Ajax is planning on TB racing with their 35 dates. However, they could get more if Fort Erie closes. And they don't need people in the stands either. Ontario racing especially is slots first and totally dependent on them.
Without slots, Woodbine execs would be pitching quarters on the corner of Yonge and Dundas.

Are you a jockey or an exercise rider? Not that it matters. Your decision to get out is probably very realistic. Education is important.

When I was in high school in the late 70's, horse racing wasn't talked about much either, but it was the only gambling game in town still, though the Blue Jays were starting to make a dent in their attendance.
Now the gambling crowd expects quicker action, but they can still get it betting lots of tracks from home...they just can't afford to do that because the takeout breaks everyone way too fast. Unlike online Poker or sports betting, which you are right about, doesn't take as much planning and knowledge as horse racing does.

So for young gamblers, the fact that you need to know a lot to play successfully and successfully still means losing your money for sure, why would anyone even start out playing horses nowadays?

Anonymous said...

That's exactly what I've been thinking. I think for my generation poker is the way to go if you want to gamble. The fact that the industry is dependent on slots just goes to show how bad the sport is doing - it isn't even about the sport anymore.

I am an exercise rider, though I did ride a few races. I have tried over the years to attract people I know to the races and I pretty much got the same reaction overall from them. My generation basically has ADD with the way that technology has changed our lives. None of the people I brought with me to the races or to an OTB enjoyed waiting between races and were overwhelmed trying to learn how to handicap. At the end of the day, they'd rather go play cards which is a constant ongoing game where you can actually win some money and have fun.

There's a lot more to the fact that people don't want to bet than just takeouts. I'm not saying that it isn't important, though. When I first moved here, I used to go to the races every day. That didn't last long, though, as I would finally nail a bet and my winnings wouldn't even cover my $2 exactors I had bet earlier that day. Needless to say, I never bet anymore, even when I think that a horse I know is going to gallop. There are too many ridiculous variables in racing, I'd rather go up to Rama and spend the afternoon at a poker table.

The people that are interested in racing as a form of entertainment, also, only come out once in a while. A lot of my family is a bit more interested in it from when I was racing, but they may only come out once every few months or so and they won't be spending much money to make an impact on the handle.

I honestly can't see wagering from home saving the sport, though. As you stated... it's far easier and more exciting to bet on other sports and play poker online. I don't know how the industry can compete with all of these options anymore. I think that if more people were attracted to the racetracks that they'd be more inclined to bet while they're there. Woodbine really doesn't do much with regards to marketing.
Whoever is in charge of their marketing department is making a lot of money to do squat. Then again, that's about all anyone does in the offices there.

The industry needs to try and appeal to the younger audience, otherwise I think there's going to be an even steeper drop in racetrack losses as the years go on. I know that several movies have come out in the last several years but they almost all show how negative the sport can be and that really does hurt the potential of the sport.

I have heard that Woodbine may be bringing tables into the casino, though... maybe that could help with some revenues, though I wouldn't bet on it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say that online poker or sports betting is more exciting than horse racing. For me horse racing wins.
People don't have to even understand takeout to fall victim to it. They just realize that they don't last for whatever reason. They can blame all sorts or things, bad luck, drugs, bad rides, bad handicapping, etc., but in the end it is the takeout that kills them.

What racing needs is drastically lower takeouts so that winners can be created, even a few winners, it doesn't have to be much.

People want a CHANCE to win. That is all they ask for. And I'm talking long term.

The reason why the younger generation plays poker is that they last, and they feel that if they are good enough they can win long term...because there are actual examples of poker players who have become rich playing the game.

Anonymous said...

I understand that for you it may not be exciting, but for the average person it today's generation that's whats popular. They get continuous play for long periods of time and are overall more entertained.

I think that racing is getting to a point, though, where if they drop the takeout rates it isn't even going to matter to the coming generations that are going to be the future of the sport. Even if money can be made, the entertainment factor is missing.

I honestly think that racing has dug itself a hole and needs to do a lot more than just reduce takeouts to attract the public. If the handle doesn't improve because the public isn't interested, then lowering takeouts is only going to result in more losses for the racetracks. That definitely isn't going to be good for anyone. On one hand I can see their point of view for not dropping them, but they could also help increase the handle by launching a stronger marketing campaign and drawing in a broader range of the public.

If people come, they will bet while they are there. When at home, there are too many other options. I know someone that used to bet all day long while watching the races from home, but I don't see the next generation being like that or many people that don't work in the industry doing that. The only significant bettors right now I think are the ones that work and live on the racetrack.

I know they were trying to attract families with the family day pony rides and such (that's how I got hooked on horses.. the pony rides at Flamboro back in the day!) but they don't do anything to let the public know about these events going on... or they wait until the last minute so no one has time to make plans.

The public also doesn't realize that children are welcome to the racetrack. That's the time that they are most likely to get that itch for horses and racing. I know many parents (mostly family members) ask if it's okay for children to go. Sure it may not be the greatest atmosphere now, but I'm sure that Woodbine and other racetracks alike can do their part to appeal to the younger audience so they get them hook line and sinker - just like how Flamboro reeled me in.

Woodbine also doesn't help itself very much by charging so much for everything inside, beverage and food-wise. Who wants to go to the races to win absolutely no money from your bets and also fork out a lot more money for watered down drinks and sub-par food? You have to appeal to the public to draw them in. If people knew they could come in and enjoy a nice meal on a Wednesday night without breaking the bank, they might be more inclined to actually come out and place some bets.

The public is easy to appeal to, Woodbine just has no clue on how to do that.

Anonymous said...

Who bets what. Search "Why Doesn't Anybody Go to the Horse Races?" By Ed McClelland. In the article Dana Parham claims to be responsible for $2.4 billion in handle since Jan of 2000.
This afternoon I washed the electronic filters for my furnace, blew the leaves out of my gutters, blew the leaves off the patio, ate supper and managed to watch about five races at Hawthorne and make a few bets. Probably will do something like that again tomorrow. When Tampa Bay opens it will take all my time. The action is only a click away.
P.S. The last race super at Hawthorne paid over $10k for a dime. You'll never get a charge like that playing poker.

Anonymous said...

Poker is definitely the better gamble.

If you drastically reduce Takeout
(8%-10% on all wages) you have a chance at getting the Pokerplayer and Sports gambler,otherwise Horse racing is done.