12 February 2012

More Competition Heading Woodbine's Way

The OLG is serious about running video slots, poker,  and sports betting online (of course store kiosks will also be used) as well as allowing people to buy lottery tickets online.  There is also lots of talk about bringing a new casino to Toronto.

This will definitely make it easier for mooches to blow their dough quicker.  However, I doubt the big money value players are going to get excited, if the OLG's history of giving horrible odds on Pro-Line is any barometer on how they will handle online poker and sports odds.  The smart players will avoid OLG online like the plague.

Woodbine relies on the mooch player, so I can see cannibalization when the OLG  gets their ducks in a row.  Poker and sports bettors will still be able to last a lot longer (unless the OLG uses an absolutely ridiculous house edge) than the typical Ontario Horseplayer who has to try to overcome an average 21% takeout on each wager.

Yes, new gamblers will be created.  More money will be lost.  But Woodbine stands only to lose, unless the OLG hands over the online business to Woodbine on the merits that they have experience with online gamblers.  Would it be worth part of the revenues the OLG would have to give away?  That is the big question.

The same thing is true when it comes to the proposed new casino.  Expansion of Woodbine's casino would be great for Woodbine, and purses.  However, if it is a location having nothing to do with Woodbine, it will cannibalize Woodbine's income in a big way.  Even if Woodbine is allowed to expand when a new casino (at Ontario Place, for example) is built, I expect Woodbine's bottom line to drop (there will be more cannibalization from both the new casino and from the live racetrack bettor who will lose a lot of potential churn money at the track casino).

From a Horseplayers standpoint though, even the worst case scenario won't be all that much of a loss.  If Woodbine were to drop their handle by 33%, purses would still attract close to the same field size as they do today (take a look at field size for allowance races at Tampa and Fair Grounds).  I don't even think quality would suffer that much, if at all.  Trainers and vets would naturally be forced to drop their outrageous rates, and they would make less money (and this will motivate trainers to race more). 

Trainers will also be limited to how much detail they can put into a horse.  I believe that is good for Horseplayers.  Major vet and hyperbaric chamber use will drop off, creating less head shaking performances, and this will create more confidence in bettors.

The loss of certain US trainers won't be missed either, by local trainers or bettors (who shy away more when super trainers show up in a race).  I think it has be a shame that so much slot money (a tax on the poor) winds up in the hands of US based outfits.  This was not why the slots deal was made in the first place.

I have a feeling that Woodbine's "entitlement" has just hit a brick wall.  It would be wonderful if they focused on their actual core product, horse race betting.  They have great unrealized potential on the thoroughbred side especially.

Their long season is a plus.  Handicappers become familiar with horses, jockeys and trainers.  However, the one thing holding them back is the high takeout.  No long term winners are created.  No buzz is created.  Woodbine, with slot money all these years, should have reduced takeout to Keeneland levels or even lower.  They didn't.  And now they might wind up with a deer in the headlights type of scenario.

Woodbine does have a good reputation relatively when it comes to policing illegal drugs.  I'd like to see them take the initiative and make it mandatory that the public be informed when horses have operations (breathing, etc.) or hyperbaric chamber treatment.  If they want to attract more Horseplayers, pricing matters, but so does transparency.

The tragedy that occurred this week at a Florida farm might cause more regulation when it comes to hyperbaric chambers.  Again, there is no reason that this info shouldn't be available to the betting public.

I'm not for banning their use.  I just want to be able to factor it in before I play a race.  Check out this list of benefits for hyperbaric chambers:

Athletic injuries:
  • Desmitis (ligament disease)
  • Tendonitis (bowed or diseased tendons)
  • Fractures
  • Exercised induced pulmonary hemorrhage (Bleeders)
Other diseases for which hyperbaric therapy is indicated include:
  • Acute laminitis (Founder)
  • Reperfusion diseases (severe muscle damage, crush injuries)
  • Colic (intestinal obstruction, colon torsions, volvulus, etc.)
  • Enteritis and endotoxemia
  • Ileus (loss of intestinal motility)
  • Infertility (male and female)
  • Rhodococcus pneumonia in foals
  • Lyme's disease
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
  • Compromised wounds
  • Sinus infections
  • Sudden blood loss
  • Myositis (tying up)
  • Septic arthritis (joint infections)
  • Neurologic disease and trauma
  • Severe necrosis (as in snake and spider bites, toxic substances, etc.)
  • Neonatal maladjustment syndrome
Check out this quote by Wayne Catalano in 2008:

When asked if he thought hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a miracle, Catalano said, "I think it is ... it's been a big help. We've won five or six races out of the tank."


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