I'm positive Jim Thibert is sincere about making Fort Erie a success, but isn't his fault that he is missing the point. He has surrounded himself with horsemen and people who have been part of a failing industry. Kind of like getting a stock tip from a guy who has no shirt.
Better quality horses for a track that averages $12,000 a race in purses will at best be marginal even if Steve Asmussen brings some horses to race. And it really isn't worth it to have pots taken away from foreign owners as the local horsemen will suffer even more than they do right now.
In fact, maiden special races and allowance races that attracted Stronach horses in the past, were amongst the lowest handle betting events on the card. Horseplayers would rather bet on a competitive $5,000 claiming event with 12 horses than a 7 horse fake allowance race.
Field size is key, but again, because purse size is limited, it will be a struggle to card races with enough horses consistently that will attract more betting.
John Whitson, the new temporary racing secretary might have lots of horse racing experience as an exec, but he hasn't been a racing secretary for close to 40 years. He'll find out that despite his best efforts that he won't be able to improve field size that much over last year, if at all. Competition looms large from Presque Isle, Mountaineer Park and Finger Lakes.
Other new managers have been hired, and others will be hired in the near future.
As for community involvement. I don't think there is anyone in Fort Erie who doesn't know a track exists. More community tied events may get the numbers of patrons up at certain times, but until the issue of Fort Erie's ridiculously high track takeout is tackled, I don't expect new horseplayers to be created.
Thibert is talking like horsemen are the main thing that makes or breaks the game. They are not. Not even close. It is the bettor that pays for track operations and purses. The more they bet, the higher the purses, the higher the quality, and eventually, the bigger the fields.
Today's new gambler is not the same gambler from the 70's and 80's. The worst thing Fort Erie could do right now is ignore this fact. Horse racing executives need to disassociate themselves from horsemen groups when it comes to decisions about how to attract customers.
For too long, horse racing makes decisions based on how they think bettors should behave and react, or even worse, how they want bettors to behave and react.
The best way to find out how horseplayers tick is to ask existing horseplayers. HANA (Horseplayers Association of North America) has published survey results that was answered by close to 500 horseplayers.
The number one issue to existing horseplayers is high takeout.
Fort Erie's takeouts are amongst the worst in North America. Lets compare them to the best, Keeneland (which has no alternative gaming to boot):
Keeneland WPS 16% All other wagers 19%
Fort Erie WPS 16.95% All other wagers 26.2%, except triactors which are 28.2%
Even the California Lottery now gets it. They just announced they are lowering the takeout on Scratch tickets:
"There are more prizes to give out, so people are going to win more often," said lottery director Joan Borucki. "When people win more often, they feel like playing more often, which in turn will increase sales, and as sales go up . . . our contribution to education goes up."
More about the California decision compared to the stubborn mindset of horse racing execs and horsemen at HANA's Blog(I wrote it so it is worth reading).
The other thing Fort Erie needs to do is get a Beulah-like bet going. As I explained in a previous post, I think a $1 Jackpot Pick 5 would do it. Speaking of Beulah's Fortune Pick 6, there will be a mandatory payoff on Derby Day. The carryover pool is over $400,000, and it is anticipated the pool will double on that day. It might even hurt the handle for the Kentucky Derby by a small amount.
The Queen Of Fort Erie is making a comeback. Francine Villeneuve will be riding at the Fort in pursuit of 1000 wins. She is 66 wins away from that goal. She hasn't ridden since 2006, but she really knows how to ride at Fort Erie and should be amongst the leaders there in the jockey standings. Beverly Smith mentions Villeneuve in her latest article about Chantal Sutherland.
Steve Crist has a new article up on the potential good riddance of the NY OTB's.
No one likes to see the loss of 1300 jobs, but the OTB's in New York state are dinosaurs. They are just not needed. Not only is everyone who attends these scuzzy joints capable of betting from home or at the track, but these patrons have been getting fleeced for years with surcharges. Even though the players pay them, it does affect their psyche, and helps kill horse racing and kill handle as bettors become more and more convinced that horse racing is strictly a losing proposition.
Crist stated that the proposed solution will have nothing but an adverse effect on horse racing:
"The solution proposed by OTB is to reduce its payments to the industry even further, which - like the takeout increases it has repeatedly gotten to avert previous crises - would only continue the downward spiral of racing."
Conversely, if the OTB's shutdown, these horseplayers might find themselves playing at ADWs that offer bonuses instead, like Horseplayersbet.com and if that happens, will see a boost in handle and more confidence from horseplayers.
Woodbine handle is still in the dumper. Yesterday they did a pathetic $1,362,091 in total handle compared with $1,562,826 a year earlier. Again, I expect purse cuts to be announced soon. Woodbine is completely stuck on stupid when it comes to the idea of lowering takeout.
Woodbine announces the addition of 1,000 slots
Seems like a con job to give horsemen hope, and maybe delude racing execs in thinking the future is brighter than it is. Unless there are times that there are no slot machines free, how does the addition of machines help. Revenues from slots were down 2% last year, which indicate a leveling off. The bottom line is that slots will make less than they do right now on average, but I don't see how the addition of slots will bring in new lost money by customers.
Sure, table games and sports betting will bring in new money....but more slots?
Australian Charged With Laundering Gambling Funds Of US Gamblers
Between February 2008 and March 2009, Tzvetkoff's company Intabill allegedly processed more than $540 million in transactions between US gamblers and internet gambling websites, disguising transactions to the banks so they would appear unrelated to gambling.
Eye On Gambling Website Owner and Wife Die In Apparent Double Suicide
Police have ruled out foul play, and it has been speculated that the suicides were due to gambling losses, though this hasn't been proved.
Ken Weitzner contemplated suicide four years ago.
No love lost from online news rival, Majorwager.com's Russ Hawkins:
Hawkins, who openly despised Weitzner, his main competitor in the gambling news website biz, wrote: "Not really sure what to say here. I think that those of you who know me personally know that I never gave into Ken's bullsh%@.
"In fact, I spent a good deal of my time trying convince people that he was a con man of extreme proportions. Nothing has changed. Clearly he conned his wife into suicide--a wonderful mother by all accounts and fantastic grandmother.
"My sorrow is with Jackie's family. Ken had none. He had a Mother he leeched from...I have nothing more pleasant to say, so I won't."