Good news for the Fort Erie backstretch was announced this week. Fort Erie is getting funding for 7 more racings days, so they can prolong their race season to the end of October instead of the middle of October.
The additional funding is coming from the HBPA. The Ontario HBPA is funded from a portion of the 2% additional takeout on all wagers made in Ontario (4% on triactors). Woodbine was able to negotiate that down to 2% on triactors last year and passed the savings onto the customer as takeout was reduced from 27% to 25% on that wager. It helped make Woodbine's product more appealing to their ever growing US base.
Fort Erie on the other hand is literally hanging on by a micro thread. Total handle was down 19% last year, which was almost triple the North American average. The only bright spot was an increase in handle in the Pick 4, which was due to dropping takeout on that wager from 26.2% to 14%.
The betting public is more and more aware of takeout, and at 26.2%, Fort Erie's takeout on doubles and exactors is an insult to those who have any knowledge about track takeout. But even those who are unaware (including on track patrons) just don't get enough gambling satisfaction from churn because of the high rate. In other words, Fort Erie is doing nothing to cultivate its live Horseplayer when it comes to gambling. Fort Erie needs to reduce takeout on doubles and exactors to the 20-21% range (Woodbine has a 20.5% takeout on these wagers). California A tracks are still suffering major backlashes and a tarnished image from raising takeout on two horse wagers from 20.68% to 22.68% at the start of last year.
The four o'clock post time didn't work out. Probably an hour to an hour and a half too late. The later post time does make sense in the summer especially, and it is still something that is needed to get the dinner internet crowd on the later races.
Sunday racing is close to pointless. Even Presque Isle Downs has figured it out and have done away with weekend racing this upcoming season. B and C tracks need to find niche times and dates. Fort Erie would probably do much better with a 2 PM post time on Wednesdays instead of racing on Sundays.
Still not a fan of giving out so much money on faux allowance races. Fort Erie would be better served if they used those funds to prop up the purses for the $4,000 to $10,000 claimers. That is their niche, and at current purse levels, it is not economically viable to pay day pay for a horse that runs at Fort Erie. Fort Erie needs more owners as more owners wind up bringing newbies (potential new Horseplayers) to the game. I think by increasing bottom level purses and decreasing the higher end purses(or eliminating the higher end purses), that this could be achieved.
Fort Erie also has to aggressively push patrons to ADW wagering. Right now, they use HPI but they do little to push their visitors to open online accounts. And those with online accounts in the Fort Erie home market don't receive any rebates through HPI. Woodbine's home market members at least receive something depending on their wagering levels.
The biggest reason I don't think we will see any necessary changes is that Fort Erie is in the third and final year of a temporary bail out (a band aid) by the government. Unless there is certainty soon that the bail out will continue, I only see management having one foot in the door, one foot out the door. Without the same type of deal long term, Fort Erie will not have a chance to open in 2013, unless Nordic sells it to someone with deep pockets, and that seems highly unlikely.
I do think the Consortium is doing their best to avoid closure, and they basically saved Fort Erie and gave it the life it has right now. But, and this a big but, they don't seem to understand the gambling public, or the direction horse race gambling is going these days.
On a positive note, Fort Erie's website is very good, by the way. Free replays, free video and a free tip sheet. These are things that help, but the pricing of the bet is the most important thing these days.
DRF has increase subscription prices again, and Horseplayers aren't impressed. There is a big debate going on as to whether racing information should be free. Fantasy football fans have no problem getting stats on just about everything for free, and we've seen nothing but growth in that area. Anyway, a very good alternative to DRF is TrackMaster:
A study suggests that casinos would produce around an extra half a million a day to be given out in purses and breeder awards if Kentucky were to be able to put casinos in racetracks. That aint hay.
In case you have missed it, horse racing appears to have their own version of Casey Anthony. The Paulick Report has done a very good job covering the story of Kelsey Lefever, who allegedly sold over 120 thoroughbreds to killers, many were supposedly acquired under the guise that the race horse was going to find a good home.
Kelsey Lefever: Every One Of Them Is Dead
Pennsylvania Farm Fires Kelsey Lefever
Probable Cause Affidavit and Charges Against Kelsey Lefever
Kelsey Lefever Case: How to Prevent the Alleged Practices?
Pennsylvania congressman calls for passage of slaughter prevention bill