Did any brainiac ever think that the reason California A tracks have such great handle is because they have one of the lowest takeouts in North America? I don't think anyone who voted for the takeout hike that begins January 1 gave it any consideration.
The winter meet began at Santa Anita on Sunday. Optimism was all over the place. I listened to a segment on the Steve Byk radio show and you would think that the move back to the dirt was more significant than if man were to land on Mars. BTW, don't waste your time listening to Byk, I find him to be a nauseating anti-horseplayer cheerleader for tracks and horsemen groups. Roger Stein, on the other hand is well worth listening to each week. He gets it. Byk doesn't.
With all this anticipation and exuberance, handle must have gone through the roof on Sunday. It didn't, far from it. All source handle was off over 21% from the previous year. Granted there were weather issues on the East Coast, and they did have an extra race the year before. However, in 2009, Santa Anita signal wasn't being picked up by the Mid Atlantic Co-Op. That cost Santa Anita anywhere between 5-10% in handle last year. Handle was back to 1992 levels, and that doesn't even take into account inflation.
Things were a little better yesterday. Handle was only off 2%. But they ran an extra race yesterday compared to the corresponding first Monday of the meet last year.
So who exactly was demanding a move back to the dirt? The horsemen and a few existing Horseplayers.
Existing Horseplayers will look for all sorts of excuses as to why they lose money. 99% of them lose. Artificial surfaces in California was just one more scapegoat for some existing Horseplayers. Bottom line, the movement back to dirt didn't create any new Horseplayers. At best it could shift betting money from one track back to California.
Excuses from Horseplayers stem from them losing money or not winning enough on the day. Sure, they are valid, but in the end, the overwhelming majority of Horseplayers will lose. What matters is how long they last. The longer they last, the more likely they are to expose others to the game, the quicker they lose, the more excuses they will make, the more negative they will be, and the less likely they are to expose others to the game.
Sidetracking a bit. My father was a $2 bettor his whole life. Almost never missed a day betting. He used to make $500 to a couple of thousand almost every year. But I remember him going bad for about 3 years (breaking even or losing a bit on the year). He started blaming the cat. "Since I got this cat, I can't win anymore. The cat is a jinx. She is looking at me right now with her evil eyes." Cats or polytrack. If a Horseplayer starts to lose faster, they look for excuses.
Back to California. The timing was bad for this switch as it comes just a few days before takeout is hiked on all exotic bets in California. This has caused talk of a Player's Boycott.
Horseplayers who 1) Understand that takeout is the barrier between winning and losing and/or 2) Care about the future of horse racing, have already stopped playing California tracks. Many more are expected to stop or slow down once the boycott is officially called.
Even without a boycott, handle is going to go down the tubes in California. There is going to be less value on most combinations once takeout rates go up 9-14%. Price sensitive players who still believe they can make money will bet less, and in the meantime, the dummy money will lose quicker and some of it will disappear creating less value.
In the end. No Horseplayer will have a chance at beating California in the long run (not that very many are today).
Let me explain why this is a 9-14% increase in takeout and not a 2-3% hike that those not in the know are preaching:
Takeout is increasing on exactors and doubles from 20.68% to 22.68%. So if $100,000 is bet in a double pool, the track is now takeout $22,680 instead of $20,680 which represents an increase to the track of 9.7%.
Now lets look at it from the bettor's long term perspective. If the bettor makes $100,000 in double bets over a period of time, the bettor has to overcome $22,680 being taken out as opposed to $20,680. That means they are expected to lose collectively close to 10% more than they lost previously. That is if handle remains the same. It won't because that extra 10% lost will do a lot of wear and tear on the existing Horseplayer's bankroll.
It is is greater on other exotics which shoot up from 20.68% to 23.68%.
If you still don't get it. Lets say you have a $100,000 line of credit and you are paying interest only. If interest rates go up from 3% to 4%, you are not paying an extra 1% per year, but an extra 33%, as your yearly payments just rose from $3,000 to $4,000.
Personally, since Los Alamitos rose takeout early last year, I bet one card there. I felt very dirty afterward even though I broke around even. I won't do it again. And I'm not about to feel dirty by betting on any California thoroughbred track until California does the right thing and the takeout is at least rescinded.
I'm not alone here. There are a lot of pissed off players who are passionate about the game willing to treat California racing as "entertainment only."
I don't bet on Family Guy, Dexter, Two and a Half Men, and now California racing. I only watch them for entertainment purposes only. I have to tell you though, California racing gives me the least entertainment value of these four "shows" by a very good margin.
I'll watch Tampa Bay, Hawthorne, etc. for gambling purposes. Oh, and I bet as much as I did when I was playing California. It just goes to other tracks.
Oh, and blaming the weather on Sunday?
Turf Paradise a year ago last Sunday: $1,212,049
Last Sunday: $1,552,112
Hawthorne a year ago last Sunday: $2,297,748 (10 races)
Last Sunday: $2,311,654 (9 races)
Both tracks started just a half hour earlier than Santa Anita.
Even Golden Gate was up a little. Apparently, HANA forgot to tell its members that Golden Gate is in California:) Actually, the Boycott still hasn't been called yet, and the takeout hike doesn't happen until January 1st. All I can say is look out below.
I'm sure the handle numbers from the first day are helping those horsemen on the fence who were thinking about sending a few horses to California, make up their mind.
Field size looks like it will remain on the weak side in California, and there just won't be any value in the majority of races thanks to the hike.
VOTE HERE FOR THE THOROUGHBRED BLOGGER'S ALLIANCE PHOTO CONTEST
Canadian Horseplayers Advocacy Group founder Eric Poteck now has a regular article up at Down The Stretch Newspaper Online. In the current issue he tackles the integrity issue of promoting fictitious payoff prices. For example, when there is only $35,000 available in a superfecta pool at Woodbine, and someone has the pool for 20 cents. The price promoted is $175,000 (which is the dollar price). It is blatant false advertising.
In a related topic. Does anyone proof read the HPI Quarterly?
Though the WEG Pick 4 has a 21.7 per cent takeout, Martin (Jamie) said the track now honours lower takeout rates for other tracks’ Pick 4 wagers, some as low as 15 per cent.
“So, we’ve made it attractive for people not only to play our own, but to play all the other ones,” Martin said.
“I think it’s a good bet,” Hamilton said. “It’s better than the high-percentage takeout we have with superfectas (23 per cent),...”
Note to editor: Takeout on superfectas at Woodbine is 26.3% and it is 25% on Pick 4's. The 2% that is tacked on for the Horsemen, and the 1.3% to the government on each wager is still part of the takeout.
Note to Dave Briggs: For future articles involving takeout, please refer to this chart.
Note to Jamie Martin: How about honouring all lower takeout rates, including triactors and superfectas as well? Woodbine has no right to partner themselves with winning bets made by their customers.
In 1968, horse racing in Toronto was in its glory days. People were in the stands, and they came back for more because takeout was lower and you could only bet WPS on most races. Bankrolls lasted. There were even some known winners. The public was addicted. Great stories from that time. Here is one. Just remember, this story is not supposed to endorse the concept of hidden ownership. It was hip in the 60's. It can be costly today.