13 November 2009

Ontario B Harness Tracks Can Become The Catalyst For Industry Growth

Jack Darling's Article "We Must Act Now" Getting Lots Of Intelligent Response
Speaking about harness racing in Ontario which is on life support right now "Putting on a bunch of races and expecting people to come out and bet on them is a thing of the past and just doesn't work anymore."

This statement is true off all horse racing. And the obvious solution cited by Darling and many of the commenters is to reduce track takeout.

In Ontario, because of slots, most B and C tracks purse money comes from slots. It is actually safe for them to experiment with lower takeouts on that basis. They aren't dead yet, but dieing fast. The industry is just at the date reduction stage, Ontario harness isn't Quebec....YET. The time is perfect to cater to the horseplayers big time, and actually grow the industry.

However, the big bully in the room named Woodbine Entertainment Group can make life very difficult for any track that offers lower takeouts. WEG can refuse to put the tracks on their betting menu, they can refuse to put the track on HPITV and even prevent HPITV from being available in a certain area. WEG can also ramp up the takeouts to their customers like they do with many US tracks where they give less money to winners as they base triactor and superfecta bets on a 25% takeout, if the real takeout is lower than that (this would at least not affect those who bet live on track at a harness track that offers a lower takeout, but affects overall chance of external growth for that track).

Small Ontario tracks can always offer their own ADW service. They don't have to go to the expense of developing one either as there are white label ADWs out there like EBET Online who have already signed up with tracks like Colonial Downs. This would cater to their immediate home market, and I see no reason why they couldn't compete for other markets as well. Wouldn't it be great to see some competition to HPI? Competition would be phenomenal for horseplayers, and therefore it would be great for the racing industry. Imagine another Canadian based ADW for a track with a very low takeout that also may give decent rebates to its account holders.

Sure, Woodbine would blow a gasket, as they still think they are entitled to monopoly like status. But it has been lack of competition that have driven horse bettors offshore and to Betfair, and lack of competition that has driven horse players away from horse racing altogether, and most importantly has lead to virtually no new horseplayers in the last 15 years, especially.

The B and C tracks of Ontario are in a perfect situation to act now and become leaders in growing horse racing again. They can possibly get together and offer 12% takeouts on all bets, and this network of tracks will become very popular amongst bettors. On track they will be giving out more money than ever before, which will cause players to last longer, and the ball will get moving that way. Once the pools start increasing, which will occur as well, I can see even thoroughbred players from the US being attracted to the B and C Ontario tracks.

Eventually though, because of success, I believe all tracks in North America will drop down to 12%, or they will die. But Ontario racing can have a nice head start, and start getting people hooked again.

See also In A Nutshell, over at Pull The Pocket and Warnings From Ontario.

Trainer Terry Jordan Still Allowed To Train Horses But Hollywood Hit Has To Ride Out Suspension
Jordan's fate rests on the outcome of split sample test.

I still think banning the horse and punishing the owner is the wrong way to go. Many owners have no idea what the trainer putting into the horse, though some do, I feel the ORC should have proof that the owner was in on it before suspending the horse and the trainer. In other words, Hollywood Hit should not have been denied to run in the Breeders Cup Sprint.

The racing industry is in desperate need of owners. And the last thing it can afford to do is chase them away because of actions done by trainers that are out of the owner's control in most instances.

I'm all for severe punishment against trainers as a way to deter cheating but that is where it should stop.

Horseman Evzen Pindur Gets 12 Year Ban After Appeal
Good for the ORC on this one. These type of punishments may actually deter the odd trainer from cheating.

Quite a few polls on the internet as to who should get Horse Of The Year
Response to a NY Times poll complete with point counterpoint video has produced 70% picking Rachel Alexandra over Zenyatta.

The Daily Poll over at Paulick Report has completely opposite results with 69% choosing Zenyatta.

Over at Pace Advantage, 58% have chosen Zenyatta over Rachel as well.

Talk about a horse race. I vote Zenyatta. She won the Super Bowl (lets forget the fact she is a she), and like Rachel Alexandra was undefeated for the year.

Youbet merger with Churchill Downs is under some scrutiny. The price of the stock could have been driven down since late July, and the shareholders are only to receive around three quarters of what the stock was trading at during its 2009 high.

Churchill Downs is not known for being player friendly. They had something to do with the takeout rise at Calder in 2008. They have a reputation for bullying competitors and horsemen groups as well.

Youbet on the other hand was starting to become horseplayer friendly. They were giving special advertised bonuses on cashed tickets as well as special unadvertised rebates for bigger bettors.

Horseplayersbet.com could be the most horseplayer friendly ADW out there today, but that is another story.

I assume Twinspires will continue continue rebating its Youbet customers who qualified, because a huge part of the deal was taking over the Youbet customer base. And the last thing they should do is chase these players away. But Churchill Downs is like Woodbine South when it comes to perceived contempt for the horseplayer, and the fact that they are monopoly driven which is what is causing the death of horse racing, so who knows?

Churchill Downs isn't creating new horseplayers, they are just taking more from a shrinking pie. The only thing that promotes growth in the horse racing industry right now is through rebaters which allow players to last longer and possibly win. As players last longer, they devote more of their entertainment money specifically towards horse racing, and the more time they bet, watch races and handicap, the more likely they are to expose new potential players to the game.

The industry should fear Churchill Downs. Inevitably moves like this will cause more tracks to have less dates, and many will be forced to close down.

Fort Erie Sold For The 9,548th Time
The newest rumour regarding Fort Erie Racetrack is that it was sold to Japanese connections. Details pending:)

Seriously, since 2003, I must have heard that the track has been sold 15-20 times. Never happens. Hopefully one day it will.


Scott said...

However, the big bully in the room named Woodbine Entertainment Group can make life very difficult for any track that offers lower takeouts. WEG can refuse to put the tracks on their betting menu, they can refuse to put the track on HPITV and even prevent HPITV from being available in a certain area.

are there not anti-competition/anti-trust laws against this sort of practice? Why are WEG above that?

Cangamble said...

Woodbine didn't put Laurel on their betting schedule when Laurel did the 12% experiment a couple of years back. They ramp up takeouts to 25% on triactors, pick 3's and supers from California and Kentucky,etc.
They can do this because they don't have an competition, outside of US ADWs that take Canadians, Betfair, and offshore bookies and ADWs.
There is no way they would put a 12% harness track on their menu. No chance. They only have so much room on their menu (that will be their rationale).
And as far as having HPITV available in a region that makes them no money (if a track were to set up their own ADW), well, I don't see anything wrong with them pulling out of the region, but it is something that keeps harness tracks from making that move.

There are quite a few ways I feel WEG violates anti-competition and anti-trust laws, but gambling is still a gray area in Canada.

I once called a government official, and they were not interested in my complaint.

I'm hoping Woodbine gets a rude awakening in the near future. One day their reign of entitlement hopefully will meet real world laws including those of simple supply and demand.

mj said...

Where do these Fort Erie rumours come from??

Cangamble said...

Good question. It just takes one person to tell another I guess. Soon enough, crossing guards are talking like it is fact.