The most important thing is that what members of the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) are saying and predicting regarding the state of the horse racing industry, are occurring, and very quickly.
Unfortunately, the industry seemed content with stagnant growth of late, but now we are seeing a real decline, and it isn't pretty. HANA has outlined the reasons why the decline has taken place, first and foremost has to do with horse racing's decision not to compete with other forms of gambling by keeping the cost to the player (the takeout) in the stratosphere.
Bettors, regardless of whether they understand or even care about track takeout, understand that they last a lot longer betting sports, poker, and even slots. The takeout makes the thought of betting on horses a complete negative.
Without winners (other than the winners who play with rebate shops), the industry has no meat to attract new customers. Unlike the days of old when winning was possible, when there was only 8 or 9 races to bet on each day, five days a week, and the bettor had to show up at the track to place a bet, and there were lower takeouts back then, and only one daily double and an exactor or two to possibly derail the churn bank roll, today, you can bet from everywhere, almost anytime, from noon until midnite, and there is a triactor with a takeout of anywhere between 20-30% enticing bettors to play, and there isn't just 40 races a week available either.
Mathematically, the game is as close to impossible to beat today, and the addicted are starting to die out, not being replaced. The young have already discovered poker and sports betting, to not only be possibly beatable but also they are games that allow bankrolls to last, much like bankrolls lasted back in the 60's and 70's for horse racing players.
I could also mention drugs which also add to the takeout the non insider must face. But I'm a very strong believer that if racing attracts more bettors, drugs will be scrutinized much much more than they are right now, especially if they get in the way of players who come close to beating the game for a living.
Right now, does it matter that much that trainers are cheating and ripping the public, when the public has next to no chance of beating the game because of the takeout drugs or no drugs. That is why I laugh at Woodbine's issue with the horsemen regarding drugs and integrity for their customers. They charge a 28.3% takeout on triactors, even though they have slots, and they have the nerve to mention doing something for their customers, or the word integrity? Cracks me up.
As for the decline in wagering, if we look at Ontario harness racing as a leading indicator, horse racing could be in huge trouble now, and we might see a rapid fall off from here if things aren't changed in a hurry.
But alas, the execs are taking notice. Nick Kling just wrote a piece called Lights in the tunnel?, that shows that execs are starting to get it:
Chris Scherf, executive director of the Thoroughbred Racing Association (TRA), acknowledged in comments made on the internet web sites of bloodhorse.com and the Paulick Report (paulickreport.com) that weakness in the economy is not the only reason for the wagering free fall.
The TRA is an industry arm which represents several dozen North American racetracks. Scherf told bloodhorse, “This should be a wakeup call to our industry that ... we need to keep focused on the issues of pari-mutuel wagering and the bettors.”
Scherf added, “The first voice we need to listen to are the bettors. If we are not meeting their needs, and obviously we are not, we need to figure out ways to address those.”
.....Scherf told the Paulick Report, “We’ve got to look into pricing (the takeout charge on pari-mutuel bets).
Drew Couto, President of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) also had interesting things to say, and seemed to be in complete agreement that changes are needed when it comes to takeout, even adding that new ways to bet (like exchange betting) need to be seriously considered. Read more here.
I realize I'm one of the most vocal members of HANA, at least on the internet, but KUDOS go out to the others who have blogged, and left fantastic comments on sites like Paulick Report, that have helped gain attention to our cause.
HANA is not out to wreck the bottom line for racing execs and horsemen, just the contrary as we know that by lowering track takeout, the bottom line will increase as more players will be created, existing players will spend more time playing, and money bet offshore will be placed into the North American pools.
We want more players as much as race tracks do because it is very difficult to have or maintain any advantage when pitting good handicapper versus good handicapper. We want the sports bettors, the slots players, and even the lottery players to bet horses instead.
HANA has around 500 members, and membership is free. The more members we have, the more power we will have, so if you haven't signed up as of yet, please take a minute or two and join by clicking this link.
HANA has a blog. We also have a website. You are free to make suggestions, and we will listen, or you can support us silently by just adding to are growing number of members. Also check out HANA's Facebook page.
FORT ERIE UPDATE
Looks like January 15th is going to be the make or break date regarding whether racing will happen in 2009.
Rumours have it that the government gave Nordic a take it or leave it offer, but there is a good chance that it won't satisfy Nordic. Lets hope this rumour is wrong regarding Nordic accepting it.
Why does Thibert keep saying Nordic is willing to invest??
Nordic has already suspended the $300 million nonsensical project indefinitely a few months ago, regardless of whether the government would go along with it. I just don't get what Thibert is thinking or what he knows or thinks he knows.
Nordic's parent company is getting hammered as well thanks to the global recession and they already postponed a project in Vegas where 1.25 billion was spent on acquiring land a year ago that today is worth half that.
Nordic is simply looking for a bailout where they can at least brake even "according to their books." That in itself isn't something I agree with, but I'm accepting to it if it means the survival of the racetrack.
David Willmot comments on ceasing negotiations with the OHHA.
But please Mr. Willmot, stop mentioning integrity for your bettors when you maintain one of the highest collective track takeouts in North America, and where is the integrity in having "secret" rebate deals with some of your biggest player?
I do think that high percentage trainers should be tested for everything, and I'm not sure if barring horsemen on hearsay evidence is the correct way to go about doing business.
THE BETTING ADVANTAGE
Got an email from someone who runs The Betting Advantage website. The guy who runs it is from PEI, and he gives what looks to be a analysis of his highlights each day, as he plays mainly Betfair.
Check out his Phoenix Rising post, where he shows that at one point in yesterdays Cardinal upset over the Panthers, those on Betfair could have got at least 99-1 betting Arizona.
He tells us he got out on the days after picking Baltimore to win the first game yesterday, but wound up betting poorly (too defensive), so that he actually lost money on his selection.