28 February 2009

California Moves To Rescind Idiotic Anti-Rebate Rule

OK, So They Don't Mention HANA, But We Know, Nudge Nudge Wink Wink

Us troublemakers at HANA (the Horseplayers Association of North America) scored a small victory, as we pestered the California horsemen into moving towards rescinding their idiotic anti-rebate stance. Not so much directly, but on both the Pace Advantage and Del Mar forums, HANA members used common sense and told it like it is. Many of us sincerely avoided betting California tracks because they have shunned rebate shops in the past.

The main argument is why should California horsemen and tracks care what an ADW does with the money they bring in after they pay for the signal? They were perceived as either protecting non rebating ADWs or protecting major off shore ADWs, or both, all at the expense of dissing price sensitive bettors.

Rebates are here to stay. It is apparent that tracks will not drop takeouts, at least in the near future, so the way they have to compete and grow at this time, is to allow ADWs to rebate to their heart's content.

The tide is turning, as racetrack execs have at least taken notice of their customers. That is one of the goals of HANA. Click here to join for free.

Speaking of rebates. Ian Meyers has left Premier Turf Club. The unofficial reason cited was that the other partners wanted to take the ADW in another direction (huh?).
Does this mean that they will give lower rebates? Are they shopping around to be bought out? I guess we will find out.
Ian was a hands on man. He genuinely seemed concerned about his customers. And many PTC customers did business there because of Ian. Mind you, the rebates offered were outstanding (probably thanks to Ian). I wonder if they still will be.
Also, it is rumoured that Joe Riddell has left the company. They were the only two partners I knew about. Obviously, there are another couple of partners now running the show.

Brothers Charged in IRG Investigation
IRG was an offshore ADW owned by Youbet (they bought it in 2005). Allegedly, the Jalinsky brothers were laundering money as well as deciding what bets to book and what bets to lay off.

Scientific Games Pondering Offing Racing Operation
The company operates many betting kiosks across North America, and got themselves in trouble last year because number 20 (Big Brown) was not included in any of their quick picks. Auto-tote is also a subsidiary of Sci Games.

The Walls Are Caving In At Magna Entertainment
Magna has received its first notice. This one from PNC Bank: “failure to comply with certain financial covenants relating to the financial position and results of operation of MJC and related entities.”

The bank reserves the right to come in for the kill at any time. I don't think this should be looked at as an opportunity for Stronach to try to get himself out of this mess though. I think the PNC didn't act yet because they are waiting to see what the Bank Of Montreal does on March 6th.

The resignation of three directors in the last week or so has made MEC non compliant to be trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock will be headed to the pink sheets from NASDAQ very soon as well. In other words, future financings are completely out of the question, and the company continues to bleed money. As each day goes by, there will be less and less for creditors to collect, so it is just a matter of weeks before we see a full fledged bankruptcy. I can't see it going Chapter 11 either, because of continuous operating losses. This means that tracks will be put on the selling block very quickly. But are there buyers out there?

For more on MEC, read The Business Of Racing.

Tragic News
Fort Erie owner/trainer Gordon Cowie died suddenly yesterday. He was only 44.

Cowie amazingly won an allowance race last fall with El Gran Brett, a horse that was getting beat up at Fort Erie in 5,000 claiming races. A private purchase for Cowie, the horse ran 2nd for him first time out in a 4,000 claiming race Sept. 7. He won on November 28th in an 8,000 open claimer with one week to go in the season. Cowie decided to run him back December 6th in a non winners other than maiden or claiming. He won. The purse was $76,000. And because he was a private purchase, and not a claim, and was Ontario sired, Cowie got the full share of the winners portion.

Fountain Of Youth
Free past performances for the race.
I don't do much handicapping for this blog (and after you see the results of the following picks, you'll probably see why).
This is a very interesting race. The controversial This Ones For Phil makes his first start in over a month. I just see "bounce, bounce, bounce" today for Phil. The undefeated Taqarub also has over a month between races, and he definitely ensures that there will be a hot pace. The best horse in the race could be Capt. Candyman Can. He looks like he has good tactical speed, and the mile looks to be a piece of cake for him. Two longshots could wind up in the exotics. Break Even Edison, second race off a layoff. Last year he produced a very good speed figure for a mile at Aqueduct. Also, Take The Points had a real good late pace number going today's distance at today's track 4 weeks ago. And besides, I really like his name.

For more free past performances check it out at Thoroughbred Blogger's Alliance

The newest issue of Down The Stretch Newspaper is available online. Lots of news and updates with a focus on the Ontario horse racing scene.

ORC signs agreement with State of Illinois Racing Board to share investigative information
'This information will include such things as:

* Investigative files of police officers, regulation agents, and civilian investigators, including interview reports, notes, and background checks;
* Veterinary records, such as reports, x-rays, samples, and invoices;
* Photographs;
* History before administrative tribunals and in court, including decisions, findings and orders.'

Reminder for Canadians. Jockeys continues on Animal Planet tonight from 9-10PM

25 February 2009

Slots Will Have To Close If Fort Erie Doesn't Race

There is absolutely no way that slots can remain open if Fort Erie were to not race this year. The reason is pretty simple. It creates a horrible precedence.

What is to stop Windsor or other tracks from cooking their books a bit (or maybe legitimately having losses), showing a loss, and then stating they won't run races because they are losing money???????

Even Woodbine can get in on the action and move some numbers around to show that Mohawk loses money. What could the government do to prevent them from closing the racing operations, if Nordic can close the doors on horse racing but continue raking in the dough from slots?

It wouldn't take a lot for bigger corporations like Great Canadian Gaming or WEG to be able turn their tracks into bottom line losing operations. How much of a loss would it take for them to halt racing thanks to this potential precedence? How about a dollar or more.

The government needs to tell Nordic like it is. Without live horse racing there can be no slots. Right now, Nordic is using the non commitment by the government as a negotiating tool. The fate of the slots needs to be addressed now, before any further negotiations take place.

The government doesn't want to lose out on the slots revenues. They also don't want to be responsible for another 300 casino employees being out of work. But they have no choice because we could easily see another 10 tracks feint overall losses in the near future, and that would tread completely against why slots were put into tracks in the first place.

The government must make a stand NOW! By not giving a definite as to whether the slots remain open, the price of the track is also a big question mark. Nordic says they lose money even with the $4 million they get from slots each year. A company that loses money isn't worth much. Especially with the realistic little upside that the track has as is (the land can't be worth that much because Woodbine sold the place to Fort Erie over 10 years ago for $10 and assumption of $3 million in debt). But a company that nets $2-3 million a year (and this would be the case for Nordic if it can operate without live racing), is worth anything from $16 million to $25 million.

The least the government needs to do is to fine any racino owner their entire slots cut if they do not have live races. Then Nordic would be forced to be the ones to decide to cut off the slots. This would be due the fact that their property taxes would remain high if the slots operate, but would go down immensely if they were not operating any business on the property.

Here is an update from the Ontario HBPA site:

Good Morning Horsepeople,

The breakdown of negotiations yesterday regarding the purchase of Fort Erie Racetrack from Nordic was disappointing, but not entirely a surprise to all of us involved in the process.

For Clarification:

* The HBPA has been fully apprised and engaged in all negotiations.
* The HBPA fully supports the steps and position taken by the EDTC.
* The rhetoric coming out of Nordic is at best, misleading.
* The EDTC did NOT withdraw the offer. The offer made to Nordic had an 11am on Monday February 23rd deadline. Nordic failed to respond by that deadline.
* The Province is the key to the ongoing success at Fort Erie. The Province & our regulator, the ORC, are fully apprised of the developments.
* Negotiations among all parties will continue and are ongoing as we speak

We, the horsepeople, and particularly, right now, the Fort Erie horsepeople are amazingly committed. You are resilient, proud and dedicated to both our industry and especially to the horses. Now, you have also demonstrated incredible patience.

We can’t promise the final outcome of Fort Erie, but we can promise the effort to save Fort Erie will be fought to the bitter end. I personally, will not be deterred or intimidated by criticism, public posturing, or set backs such as yesterdays.

Please continue to refer to our website.

Respectfully yours,

Sue Leslie

Good for Sue Leslie and calling Nordic liars. If they lie in press releases, imagine what they do with their books. There is no way they are losing the kind of money they claim legitimately.

I have a feeling the government is trying hard, and they thought Nordic was going to accept the deal on Monday.

At a trade show in Niagara Falls last Thursday, Michael Bryant, the province's minister of economic development and Government House Leader said:

.... 'the province provided $2 million to the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism Corporation to assist with negotiations to save the Fort Erie Race Track and the Niagara Economic Development Corporation has also received more than $1.9 million to apply to business initiatives.'

"The government has to act now and as quickly as possible, we're investing literally billions of dollars...."

(In an interview with This Week, Bryant said the province is continuing to work on keeping the track in Fort Erie open and residents can expect an announcement as early as next week.) Note: It looks like he was expecting a positive outcome, but obviously that was not the case.

"Fort Erie and potential opportunities with the race track has the government's full attention."

So what are the options?

Fort Erie closes and the slots close. Fort Erie becomes a ghost town. Nordic is stuck with a lot of real estate that will become more and more worthless each day. The Ontario thoroughbred industry will also suffer more. Breeders will have less of a market to sell to. Owners with horses not capable of running at Woodbine will be forced to race in the states. Less owners, less interest in racing overall.

Fort Erie closes but slots remain open. Again, the precedence this would bring with it would cause many tracks in Ontario to at least think about closing the racing side of their operation.

Nordic sells the track. Realistically, it won't happen because Nordic has historically wanted too much money. If the government is intending to buy though, it is to their own best interest to state that without racing there will be no slots, as this will force Nordic to sell at a more realistic level.

Nordic decides to race in 2009 and absorb another year of supposed losses. And pigs can fly.

The government makes an exception for thoroughbred border tracks (ie Fort Erie), where Nordic and the horsemen are to split 35-40% of the slot revenues instead of the usual 20%. This seems like a no-brainer. If the government sincerely wants to keep Fort Erie open, this is what they must do. The government needs to pressure the OLG in changing the slots revenues arrangement NOW!

As for precedence. Again, Fort Erie is an exceptional case being the only other thoroughbred track in Ontario, and the government can deem its existence crucial to the entire thoroughbred industry in Ontario. End of story.

Down The Stretch has a new issue online with an article by Perry Lefko on Fort Erie's current plight.

23 February 2009

Horseplayers Don't Get Any Breakages; FORT ERIE UPDATE

What Is Breakage?

Breakage is what the track makes due to the rounding down of what a horse should actually pay versus what the track ends up paying to the winners.

Most jurisdictions allow tracks to "break" to the dime (Canada and New York state break to the nickel). In other words, after the track applies their track takeout to the total money bet, they round down what they pay to the bettor to the nearest 20 cent interval per $2 wager. In Canada and New York state, the payoff is rounded down to the nearest 10 cent interval per $2 wager.

Here is an example how it works:

There is a four horse race. $100,999 in the pool. Number 1 has exactly 21,000 bet on him, number 2 has 18,500, number 3 has 23,500 bet on him, while number 4 has 37,999 bet on him. Takeout is 16%, and number 1 wins.

$100,999 times .84 (1.00 minus 16% takeout)=$84,839.16 to be divided to the winning tickets. There are 10,500 winning $2 ticket. This means that each horse should pay $8.07992, but of course, it only pays $8.00 The track just made 839.16 in free money (breakage). In fact, they charged takeout on their own money (the $999 that wasn't going back to the customer if number 1 won the race).

Now lets look at the cumulative effect it had on the players with the winning tickets:

Simply take the 84000 and divide by 100,999 which equals .83169, subtract that total from 1 and the takeout in this case was 16.83% instead of the published 16%.

The higher the cashed ticket, the less significant is the effect on the real track takeout the player is up against. Show bettors will see a much higher real takeout than win player, and much much higher than exotics players.

Here is an extreme case:

Lets say you were betting some hick harness track that has very little money in its pools. You like a longshot, and you decided to take a shot and bet $200 to win. Your bet $200, but no one else bet the horse to show. The total pool is $299. Your horse wins, but it turns out you were the only person who bet the horse.
Track takeout is 20%, so your payoff should be $2.392 (299 times .8), but because the track breaks to the dime, your horse only pays $2.20 to win.
The track makes an extra $19.20 in breakage. And it cut your potential profit by 49%. Interestingly, the effect on track takeout isn't as high as you might think. Instead of 20% it works out to be 26.42% in this case (220 divided by 299). Goes to show how high takeouts cost us lots and lots of money in the long run.

Overall cost to bettors:

When breaking to the dime, breakage has an equal chance of being zero, one cent, two cents...10 cents...14 cents.....18 cents, 19 cents. So adding all the numbers up from zero to 19 and dividing by 20 yields a 9.5 cent average. This means that over enough time, you donated 9 and a half cents for every $2 ticket cashed. If you bet $20 tickets, on average you get back 95 cents less per bet cashed thanks to breakage.

In Canada and New York state, breakage only costs the player 4.5 cents per every $2 bet cashed on average.

I spoke to a former racing exec who told me that he factored in .5% of the total expected handle to come from breakage, when making his yearly budget. This means that Canadian tracks and New York tracks expect to make .25% from the total handle, thanks to breakage. Again, the effect on the player will vary widely depending on whether you play exotics or mainly you are a WPS bettor. The more bets you cash, the more it will cost you. If your average win mutuel at a certain track is around 9 bucks, and the published track takeout is 16% for that track, thanks to breakage, the real takeout is closer to 17%.

One has to ask, that in the computer age we live in, why don't bettors get back what we are supposed to get back from the tracks and ADWs? Anyone who has cashed a 20 cent superfecta at HPI knows that their accounts often have odd pennies in it thanks to a super that, for example, paid $1,546.35 for a buck (for 20 cents you wind up with $309.27 put into your account). So the technology is there to give us what we are entitled, we just don't get what is entitled to us.

Track Thieves makes a great case for eliminating breakage.

See also About Horse Racing's page on breakage.


H/T Jen's Thorough-Blog

Nordic's Press Release:

Nordic Gaming Corporation / Elad Canada, the owner and operator of the Fort Erie Race Track, has been working with both the Town of Fort Erie and the Province of Ontario, as well as other stakeholders, for the past several years to move forward with a proposal to revitalize the Town of Fort Erie as a major tourist destination and in so doing, generate sufficient population to operate a profitable racetrack.

More recently, Elad has been working with the Town of Fort Erie , in addition to the Province and other stakeholders, to ensure that live racing would continue in Fort Erie for the 2009 racing season. It was within this context that a proposal was made by the local Economic Development and Tourism Corporation (EDTC) to work with the Province to purchase the Fort Erie Race Track.

On Friday, February 20, 2009 the EDTC presented Elad with a very lengthy offer that contained a myriad of conditions that from both an economic and performance perspective were non achievable and unacceptable. In addition, the only condition that Elad had previously placed on an offer, which would have ensured live racing for 2009, was not fully satisfied. While Elad was prepared to continue negotiating with the EDTC to arrive at an agreement on both the shortfall and the conditions that the EDTC attached to the offer that it presented on Friday afternoon, on Monday, February 23, 2009, Elad Canada was informed by email that in fact, the EDTC was withdrawing its offer to purchase the Race Track.

While it is unfortunate that there will be no agreement to purchase between the EDTC and Elad, Elad and Nordic continue to believe in the importance of the Fort Erie Race Track both to the local community and the Province as a whole. In that regard, the Company will continue to work diligently to try and find a commercially viable solution to ensure the Race Track’s long-term survival.

Nordic was only being offered $2.25 million, one million short of what they say they needed to break even. The EDTC offer fell short on Nordic's extortion demands.

Meanwhile, someone is lying (my guess is that it is Nordic):

"EDTC general manager Jim Thibert said his agency did not withdraw its offer to buy the track for $35 million."

The offer obviously came up short as Thibert said the fundamentals of the new offer were the same that were proposed about a month ago:
"except for the value of the offer and who was carrying the mortgage."
Basically, Nordic does not want to go into their pockets for one dime, and will not sell Fort Erie for anything close to what it is worth.

Update: Crystal Beach Strand is stating that it is Thibert who is "saving face" aka lying. They report that allegedly the government said no to using the remains (around $1.5 million) of the money that was allocated for the feasibility study of the laughable $300 million expansion project.

And now Nordic seems to be in the driver's seat as Liberal MPP Kim Craitor is hinting that even if the track were to close, the slots may wind up staying open.

This is a coup for Nordic, as they can reap the estimated $4 million in profits from the slots and not have to operate their losing side of the business (horse racing).
Nordic will have security guard expenses, still have to pay property taxes, but all in all, will be profitable.

It seems that the only solution right now to save Fort Erie for 2009 is that the OLG gets pressured to give Nordic a bigger cut from the slot revenues.
Hopefully, Smitherman, McGuinty, Tory, Hudak, and Craitor can get together and make this happen.

20 February 2009


ESPN did a Q and A session with Chantal Sutherland
Apparently Mike Smith begs a lot.

And fellow blogger Handride, obviously desperate for blog hits:), did a blog post on Chantal Sutherland as well.

Bloggers know that Google searches for "Chantal Sutherland" are responsible for many daily hits, even if we just mentioned her name in our blog a year ago. Pull The Pocket even joined the Club.
Over 21,000 match results on Google for "Chantal Sutherland." To put things in perspective, "Woodbine Entertainment" only yields 17,000 match results. "Horseplayer Interactive" only has 5,880 match results. "Patrick Husbands" only yields 5,100 match results. I know that he has been a jockey much longer than Chantal, but I doubt he looks as good as her in Victoria Secret lingerie.

Handride posted this video first, so I'll give him credit. All About Chantal:

Looks aside, Sutherland is a really good jockey. Especially on the turf, and the Woodbine Polytrack. I wonder about her longevity though. At 33, her biological clock might be keeping her up at night these days. She seems like the type who would like a family of her own.

Keeneland made a 15 second Promo congratulating themselves for being HANA's number one racetrack:

Incidentally, "Horseplayers Association of North America" yield 4,600 Google match results already. That is pretty darn good considering we've been around for what? 7 and a half months. HANA's first post was July 1st.

Horse who was substituted for, in one of the largest horse racing betting scandals dies of old age at 31
"Super trainers" of today don't need to resort to such child's play.

Magna Entertainment on the verge of financial collapse
MI Developments Inc, who have their own problems due to today's financial crisis, finally said no to the proposed spin off deal. Debt repayment has now become a crisis issue for Magna Entertainment.

Now the TSE is reviewing Magna Entertainment. It looks like a delisting of the stock is imminent.

A big question gamblers who have accounts with XPressBet should be asking is that if Magna goes bankrupt, are their account funds protected? Will they have to wait for bankruptcy proceedings to wind down? Will they only then get a portion of what was in their accounts at the date of bankruptcy? I don't know the answer yet, but it isn't for lack trying.

Fort Erie Update?
"Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking, into the future" In other words, I got nothing.

16 February 2009

Ontario HBPA and Fort Erie EDTC To Buy Fort Erie?

From The HBPA Site
February 13, 2009

The H.B.P.A. of Ontario, the Town of Fort Erie, and the EDTC will be offering a non-refundable down payment for the purchase of Fort Erie racetrack from Nordic Gaming.

A brief outline of the offer is as follows:

The above named parties will make a non-refundable deposit for the purchase of Fort Erie Racetrack in the amount of $2,250,000.

In exchange, Nordic Gaming must agree to run 78 days of live horse racing in 2009 commencing the first Saturday in May. They must also allow the parties involved till August of 2009 to review with the Province of Ontario the formation of a not-for-profit corporation. This will allow all concerned to perform due diligence to secure a permanent solution for Fort Erie.

Several prior meetings with Nordic Gaming made them aware this offer could be forthcoming. We were awaiting approval from the Province to use EDTC funds.

This information is for horsemen's use only, please do not make it public as there is a long way to go yet.

We anticipate a timely response from Nordic Gaming. More details will follow.

Sue Leslie, President
HBPA of Ontario
No offense to Sue Leslie, but the HBPA site doesn't require a password to view, so this is now public information. And besides, Jen's Thoroughblog and there is an article in The Thoroughbred Times by Perry Lefko on the subject.

Obviously, this isn't a done deal yet. Nordic still has to say yes, and the government has to approve using the use of the left over $1.5 million that the EDTC has in its coffers, from the $2 million handed over to them last year to do a feasibility study on that $300 million expansion project (that made no sense from the get go).

The $2.25 million falls around a million short of what Nordic states they need to break even. Though there is very good reason to believe that Nordic doesn't lose as much as they state they are losing.

Also, there is no mention of an actual price on Fort Erie. I highly doubt the $35 million first offered, will ever happen. The business appears to lose money, slots numbers are still on a slow decline, and with a Buffalo casino around the corner, they could take another hit. And the land isn't worth $100,000 an acre. Not even close. Realistically, a fair price for the track is somewhere in the $7-$15 million area, and that is only if the people buying the track are confident that they can grow the business, and at least make it break even.

I do commend James Thibert for his creativity, and initiating a deal in the first place (though his buying price was ridiculous), and a lot of praise must go out to Sue Leslie for persevering on this issue. However, even if this deal does happen, I really don't like the idea of the horsemen running the track, especially if this tracks viability and future is still dependent on the track making money.

I'll give a couple of examples. Horsemen believe that the higher the track takeout, the more money they get for purses. This is totally wrong, as I've explained many times on this blog. Worse, they think a takeout reduction means less money. And again, that is completely wrong as well.

Secondly, they think that the more race dates they have, the better off they are. Again, this is wrong. The purses need to be enough so that owners don't have to win three races in a year just to break even. Minimum purses need to be $10,000, and racing dates need to be set with that in mind.

What can Fort Erie do to get to break even?

They tried Friday racing and a 3 o clock post time a while back, and neither worked out. But things have changed since then. For a track like Fort Erie to get handle, they need to race when there is little thoroughbred competition.

Management does know that from 4:40-5:30 PM on Monday and Tuesday that their biggest handle happens. Outside of putting up lights (which wouldn't be a bad idea if they can get it to happen without disturbing the harness people too much), they should start the first race those two days at 1:30 or even 2:00 and run until 6:00 or 6:30.

On Sundays, handle sucks big time, but they need Sundays to attract new business and to allow for owners to come to the track on the weekend to watch their horses. There is way too much competition from A tracks on Sunday though. They should start racing at 12:15 or 12:30 so they can get the bettor's first dollars.

Many players go to the track with a certain bankroll, and they tend to bet heavier to begin with (and many don't last passed the third or fourth race). The same is true of bettor's betting through the internet. You want the weekend players to possibly handicap Fort Erie because it is the first race to go off, and to get their day started betting Fort Erie.

Also, Fort Erie could easily set up their own ADW (internet betting hub). I know how they can do it with no set up cost. Instead of sharing with Woodbine's HPI, they can directly market to their home market (400,000 residents in the Niagara region). There is very little, if any, marketing to get players to open up online accounts that goes on in the Niagara region today. I think if Fort Erie gets an ADW they can increase profits by at least $500,000 a year.

They also can draw in Americans with sports betting. Parimutuel sports betting would work, as long as the takeout is equal to the commission charged by bookies. Lots of Americans may venture over the border to play the Bills and Sabres.

I have quite a few more ideas as well. But I'll wait for the deal to happen and my phone to ring before I give out any more advice:)

Nordic's owner is looking to acquire a 5% ownership interest in Israel's biggest bank. And his company just had a major gas discovery. I'm sure, that he wouldn't mind getting rid of Fort Erie. Now if his ego would just get out of the way, he could put a realistic price tag on it.

Epilogue on Track Ratings by HANA

Committee Transcripts: Standing Committee on Government Agencies - February 10, 2009 - Agency review: Ontario Racing Commission

Great resource again this year thanks on Equidaily. The lifetime past performance charts of all the Kentucky Derby contenders. For free! 94 pages, yikes.

13 February 2009

HANA'S Number One Rated Track? Hint: It Isn't Woodbine

Keeneland is number one out of the 65 rated tracks. Their brass took the results pretty seriously too. Keeneland President and CEO Nick Nicholson seems very pleased that his track was rated on top:

Nice field sizes, but more importantly, the lowest takeouts in North America pushed Keeneland to the top. To put things in perspective, a triactor at Keeneland that pays $810 for a deuce would pay $717 at Woodbine, if the betting on each were proportionally the same.

If you are a horseplayer who wants the biggest bang for your buck, please join HANA, it is free.

Fort Erie Update
Tim Hudak was adamant that slots should go if Fort Erie doesn't have live races.
No slots and no racing at Fort Erie would make the racetrack almost worthless. The land can't be worth that much if Woodbine sold it for $10 and the transfer of a $3 million debt just over 10 years ago.
'The Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Agencies Tuesday.' I watched most of it on TV (channel 67 on Cogeco). Rod Seiling seemed to be optimistic that racing would happen this year at the Fort. Only he knows what he knows.
There is a lot of quiet optimism happening right now. Is a deal imminent? Will Fort Erie be saved?

Also, OHRIA will probably be getting more power soon and take away some of the pressure from the ORC. But if they think that they can go ahead and campaign against what they call "illegal offshore betting," good luck to them.
OHRIA, WEG, and every other racing entity in Canada had better learn that their days of monopoly are over. It is time they compete for the bettor's action.

Andrew Beyer Gives Maryland Hell For Raising Takeouts
'Executive 1: "The economy is killing us. Customers are deserting us. Our business is terrible. What are we going to do?"

Executive 2: "I've got an idea. Let's raise our prices!"

Executive 1: "Raise prices! Brilliant!.....

....Whenever I visit tracks in other countries, I observe the relationship between the takeout and the health of the sport. Gambling-mad Hong Kong and Australia produce per-capita wagering that dwarfs the United States. Their takeout rates are around 16 to 17 percent, and in both places I met pros who bet astronomical sums and make a lucrative livelihood beating the game by a couple of percentage points. By contrast, when I visited Argentina last spring, I did not hear of a professional horseplayer in a country with a rich horse tradition. The takeout rate of 28 percent made serious betting impossible. Somewhere between 17 and 28 percent is a crucial tipping point.'

New York Breeding Program Finally Paying Dividends
Hey, don't they have state bred claiming races? How come Ontario doesn't?

Maryland Rejects Magna Entertainment's Slot Proposal
H/T The Paulick Report

Speaking of Magna and Frank Stronach, this is one of the funniest pieces having to do with horse racing that I've ever read:
Economy Hits Magna: Stronach Announces Jockey Layoffs
'Magna CEO Frank Stronach announced in a teleconference held yesterday that the latest cost cutting measure by his beleaguered racetracks and company will include the layoffs of jockeys.

“The economy has adversely affected out bottom line at Magna, and we are forced to make some tough decisions, including the layoffs of all jockeys at our tracks as of Feb. 18,” Stronach said.'

Read the rest:)

8 February 2009

At Woodbine, The Monkeys Run The Zoo

Nick Eaves, President of Woodbine Entertainment, must be Willmot's puppet
At a recent gaming conference held in Reno, Nevada, Bill Eadington, a prominent gaming authority, stated that racing is in trouble, and that current models are not the way to go. Nick Eaves said "I'm not sure there is a problem. I think we're overstating the problem. The discussions should be about solutions and realities......
between 1990 and 1998, pari-mutuel wagering at Woodbine went from $930 million to $770. "In 2008, it is at $870 million."
No problem? It looks like Woodbine has developed an aim low and always be satisfied philosophy. Lets look at gambling in Canada and compare it to parimutuel wagering at Woodbine: $13.6 billion in gambling money was lost by Canadians in 2007. In 1992, only $2.7 billion was lost.

And lets not also forget the fact that anyone in most regions in Canada can now bet through HPI. And thanks to their collusive contracts with most ADWs in the US, Woodbine has held a near monopoly on Canadian customers who want to wager on North American race tracks.

Of course, I stated "near" monopoly. Customer friendly sites that offer much lower rakes and takeouts have come along to spoil things for Woodbine and their culture of entitlement (a term that pops up in the Sadinsky Report).

Woodbine has failed to compete for new business, and has slowly lost their regular customers. One of the reasons their betting has somewhat stabilized is because of the secret deals they offer their biggest customers. All that does is increase the handle and keeps that customer playing at Woodbine. It does not create new business.

More from Eaves: “You have to invest in your product, too, and not only in the brick and mortar sense of the word, but invest in the customer. Keep the ones you have and get new ones.”
How is Woodbine keeping old customers? By having a 28.3% takeout on triactors? By offering a piddly rebate to their HPI customers? How are they competing for not only their old customers, but new customers? Glitz doesn't do it. The reality is that 1 in 1000 HPI accounts show a profit over any 365 day span makes playing at HPI a joke. There is absolutely no buzz created, and no reason other than convenience to play there. And convenience by itself doesn't grow the business in the long run, especially in today's internet age.

Eaves said it is more difficult for racetracks to keep the customers they have when there are other gaming options at the facility. He said that more racing customers bet on other forms of gambling versus casino players who try racing.
D'uh. Thanks for finally stating the obvious. Give Eaves a banana, he has earned it. So how will expanding casino gambling increase the amount bet by customers on parimutuel horse racing? Lets face it. Woodbine is now in the casino business. They've given up on trying to grow horse racing, but they will never admit it.

Eadington on the other hand knows his stuff as he states facts about slots and horse racing, and basically explains what is happening at Woodbine, without mentioning Woodbine: “Racing is overshadowed by the revenue that slots generates...This is the challenge racing has. It has to overcome that fundamental that the racing customer is diminishing in importance. Over time, you will see management who are specialized in managing a gaming operation."

Eadington also brought up this point: (contrary to the general perception that horses, horsepeople, owners and breeders are the foundation of the industry), "the demand from customers is what is essentially important. That is the essence of the argument that must be dealt with or else you are swimming upstream and the current will push you back ultimately....Legislators are going to look at racing and say, 'is this worth saving?' The vulnerability is very, very strong. Especially under these harsh economic times, you'll see a lot of revisiting of this whole model."

Fort Erie Update
Dalton McGuinty lent Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin an ear yesterday
Martin came out of the 45 minute meeting optimistic, but he has been optimistic about just about everything in Fort Erie lately, so I take with a grain of salt.

Another article states Fort Erie Needs More Horses.
George Smitherman, Ontario's Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said "they need to focus on finding ways to attract more people to come and watch them race."
To get more horses at Fort Erie, you need more owners. To get more owners, you need bigger purses. That is why the government needs to increase what Fort Erie gets on slots from 10% to Nordic and the horsemen each, to 17.5%-20% for each.

That keeps Nordic breaking even, and the increase in purses will get more owners to bring horses to Fort Erie, and get more owners into the business again.

Small owners and partnerships need a better chance of breaking even. The more small owners there is, the more of a chance they will bring friends and family back to the track.

I want to add that the rule where you don't get the full purse on Ontario breds once the horse is claimed is another huge deterrent to potential owners. It also helps create less owners in the long run.

That rule needs to re examined by someone who understands how to grow the industry. It really isn't very well thought out.

For example, what incentive does a new claiming outfit have in claiming an Ontario bred over an American bred? None (unless it is good enough for Ontario sire races). And they feel like they are getting ripped off if they buy the Canadian bred on top of that.

Many outfits will buy try to buy the horse after the race if interested in order to bypass the rules, and that isn't what the game should be about.

And to stay on the point of growth and buying Ontario breds at sales, the more owners there is, the more likely yearlings will go for higher prices. The reality is that most new owners enter the game via the claiming route first. If they are successful or even break even, they may start dabbling in the CTHS sales.

What is needed is state bred claiming races which give yearling purchasers more of an out when risking money at a sale.

Increasing the amount the lower end Ontario breds are worth will push up what all Ontario breds are worth collectively. Why is Ontario one of the only jurisdictions that doesn't run state bred claiming races?

Back to Smitherman:
"It's not just about having a race track in operation for the purposes of subsidizing horses running around a track."
Reality check: Without slots Woodbine would be close to dead today, and probably every harness track in Ontario would be out of business. The industry needs subsidies to survive, much like many farming businesses do as well.

Not that slots are that great, I've seen studies that state where ever slots pop up, parimutuel betting decreases on average 30%. And that is a lot, considering that when two people go to a track and one person bets slots and the other horses, and they both lose $100, the track and horsemen only get $10 each from the slots bettor, but they get around $48 each from the race track gambler.

High takeouts which have persisted in the industry coupled with losing horseplayers to slots (unsophisticated bettors), has made it near impossible for sophisticated horseplayer to become long term winners or even allow them to break even. Thus the shift from horse racing betting to games that offer a lower rake or takeout like online poker sports betting and exchange betting.

This is changing as more and more players are clued in when it comes to rebating on horse racing. But will Woodbine or Fort Erie follow the trend and go that way?
Fort Erie doesn't even have their own ADW. That alone could make them another half a million plus a year.

Also from the article:
'Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor said some new opportunities have arisen that are being pursued.

"There are a number of players who have come on board and want to be part of the solution, so it's not just going to be the government," said Craitor, not wishing to go into further detail because things are still being worked out. "That track has to be made into an entertainment complex, a place where people want to go."

The property, he added, needs to offer a broader attraction. The days of going to a track just to watch horses race are gone. Craitor said the government is looking at the entire industry, not just what is happening in Fort Erie.'

Again, other forms of gambling can have a cannibalistic affect on parimutuel handle. However, if other forms of gambling bring in players who wouldn't have been there to begin with, that is another story.

Sports betting, even making it parimutuel, could work to get Americans to come over the border to bet on the Bills and Sabres, for instance. These bettors may also play horses as well, while waiting to see if they win their sports bets.

I'm leery of table games like blackjack and poker because of the proximity of the Buffalo casino and Niagara Falls. These games might just take away people's horse racing money, and if the government gets an 80% split on the money made, well that will hurt the purse accounts and what the track makes even more.

Reminder: the HANA bettor friendly countdown continues. Click here, as the Top Five are just around the corner.

6 February 2009

It Was 40 Years Ago Today.....

It Was 40 Year Ago Today....
'Feb. 7, 1969: Diane Crump became the first woman jockey in America to compete in a parimutuel race when she finished tenth of 12 aboard a 48-1 shot, three-year-old Bridle n Bit, in the seventh race at Hialeah Park.' Also, on May 2nd 1970, Crump became the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby. More about Crump at her web site.

This leads to the documentary Jock The Movie. It is all about the history of female jockeys. To watch a very interesting trailer, click here and click archive when you get to the site.

I never had a problem betting on female jockeys. I was 19 when Valerie Thompson was the top apprentice in Canada. She completely owned Greenwood. And I remember cashing a lot of tickets on her during her apprentice reign.

Woodbine Give Fort Erie Trainers A Bit Of A Break

Woodbine has been granting temporary stall space to Fort Erie trainers, though they've been turning down applications for trainers who want permanent stalls in the 2009 season. They are playing it on the premise that there will be a 2009 season at Fort Erie.

It will be interesting if there is no season at the Fort. That would mean there is no such thing as a Fort Erie trainer anymore, not that it says "Fort Erie trainer" on the ORC license anyway.

News on the Fort
Not much to report, except a new article that states the Province in working hard to save horse racing (in Fort Erie). Click the link and watch the video showing George Smitherman's remarks.

I don't get "But the industry has to do it's part to make horse racing an attractive and financially viable form of entertainment." Woodbine can't even do that, nor can any harness track in Ontario. How does Smitherman expect Fort Erie to financial viability? Without slots, Ontario would be doomed, as the racing execs don't have the foggiest clue when it comes to competing for the customer's buck.

Since when does financial viability have anything to do with horse racing in Ontario?

Note to Smitherman, just give Fort Erie an extra 7.5% for horsemen and Nordic each from the slot revenues, and quit grabbing air. It is the only answer at this time, barring a miracle where Nordic decides they will sell the place for fair market value.

Ontario may make it tough on Super Trainers

The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency will begin testing for regulated anabolic steroids in horses beginning June 1, the agency recently announced.

'According to the agency's manager of veterinary services, Dr. Mike Weber, the testing program is being launched in June to give trainers and veterinarians time to adjust to rules that only allow for the therapeutic use of four anabolic steroids: boldenone, nandrolone, stanozolol, and testosterone. Like almost all U.S. racing states, the Canadian regulatory agency recently adopted rules banning all but those four anabolic steroids, which are permitted to be used only at least 30 days before a race.'

I'm not sure who is more nuts: California or Maryland?

Normally, I would put these stories at the start of my blog post, but the idiocy that goes on with horsemen groups and racing execs seems to be a daily event as they continue to drive the game to new lows.

We are in a recession. A big one. And racing interest and fans have been dwindling way before the economy turned to crap. Put on the news, and you'll likely hear one or two stories about stimulus packages. An economic stimulus plan in the real world is when consumers are encouraged to spend money. You know, like when taxes are decreased or other incentives are given by retailers (buy a car and get a fee trip to the Caribbean, where the trip is sort of a rebate to the consumer).

I'm not sure if racing gets it, but the bettors are the consumers. Racing execs, if you are reading this, write it down BETTORS ARE THE CONSUMERS.

So lets see how racing's top vizuzus stimulate betting:

Questions Raised on California Rebating

This was put on Bet America's (an ADW in North Dakota) web site:
*** Special Notice about our Santa Anita January Rewards ***
Our right to carry racing on Santa Anita requires that we receive the consent of the race track and of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the horseman’s group at Santa Anita. The Thoroughbred Owners of California notified us this week that it is their policy not to allow any marketing incentives on a California thoroughbred race track in excess of 2% of the amount wagered. As a result, we have reduced our January Santa Anita Rewards promotion from 3% to 2% for the balance of January.

Why does the TOC care if an ADW rebates to its customers 2%, 3%, or 12% ????? California gets its signal fee cut no matter what the ADW gives back to the customer. What is with the anti-stimulus package that will result in less revenue for California horsemen bottom line?
Is the TOC (or one or two of its high up members) protecting Elite Turf Club and RGS which rebate between 10-12% on California racing? Is he protecting other ADWs like Youbet or XPress Bet which choose not to rebate most players more than a couple of points?
How does California monitor whether Elite or RGS is giving rebates to only those who bet over a million each? And again, why does it matter?
Something stinks (if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it is usually a duck), but getting back to reality, this does nothing for the average consumer who might bet where they get a bigger rebate (therefore ignoring California), and lets not forget, the bigger the rebate, the more likely the player will continue to be a customer.

See also Pull The Pocket: No Sales Allowed

Now for some more maddening bs:

'(The Maryland Racing) Commission granted a request by the Maryland Jockey Club to raise the takeout on two types of wagers, the Pick 3 and the Pick 4, from 14 percent to 25.75 percent.'
All I can say is that HANA is growing, but just not quite big enough YET. If we were, I could see us formally boycotting Pimlico and Laurel. I do think most of the members will do so anyway.

Is it any wonder why racing is dying in North America, but it is growing in Britain and Australia?

For more on this topic, Pull The Pocket once more. Also, ThatsAmoreStable.net sums up the decision to raise takeout in three words, Stupid Stupid Stupid

Just another reminder, the reality series Jockeys will debut on Animal Planet in Canada Saturday at 9:00 PM. Richard Eng calls the first show riveting.

North America's top 20 bettor friendly countdown continues.

Bloodhorse has picked up the Top 10 Countdown

HANA continues to grow quickly:) Sign up if you haven't already (it is free). You could also check out the HANA store and order something. We could use the dough to steam roll ahead.

2 February 2009

Does Dutrow Know How Speed Figures Are Made?

Richard Dutrow upset over Beyer article
Yes, there are ways to improve horses, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. But Dutrow looks like an idiot when he says, "And his whole premise was made on the basis of his numbers. Who said his numbers have to be right?"

Dutrow shows complete ignorance on how Beyer, or any other speed figures are computed. It makes me wonder about his overall knowledge of the game, which makes me tend to believe he is in fact a juicer. Then again, I believe anyone who hits consistently at over 18% as a trainer, is using something undetectable, or something that isn't tested for.

FYI, Brisnet and Ragozolin numbers confirm that This Ones For Phil ran between 12-20 lengths faster than he ever ran before.

Andy Beyer speaks about his controversial article on Dutrow and "super" trainers in general. The audio is around an hour long, but it is well worth the listen. He also gets into the $20,000 he got screwed out of, at the bankrupt New Hampshire ADW, at the end of the interview.

50 more layoffs at Fort Erie-many of them mutuel clerks
The government should just OK the $3.2 million Nordic is trying to extort. The economy is in dire straights, and unfortunately Nordic is in a position where they can basically negatively impact a whole town of 30,000 people.
If there is a workable solution, find it, but stop keeping the horsemen hanging. Giving the owner (Nordic) and the horsemen an extra 7.5% each of the casino winnings, seems to be a no brainer at this time. Even if it is for 2 or 3 years, and then open for review thereafter.

Wasn't slots put in to help the racing industry? And I just can't see slots remaining open if there is no racing. That means another 200 plus casino jobs in the toilet. And it also means that the government will be out the 80% profit minus expenses that the government rakes in from the $40 million in slot revenues.

The track isn't worth anything close to $35 million, and I think the EDTC made this issue worse by offering that price. It gives Nordic the idea that there are dupes out there who might pay an outrageous price for the joint, and it will probably keep Nordic hanging on to the track, when it would be to everyone's best interest if they just got the heck out of Dodge.

Missing cabbie in Dartmouth blew a lot of money gambling, racked up huge debts, went bankrupt in 2006

Veteran Alberta Horseman Rod Hennessy still has hope for the industry's future. He does realize changes must be made:
"Maybe we have to take 5% of our purses, or some amount like that, and spend it totally on promotions. We have to get younger fans and younger owners interested in what we do."

I feel sorry for the harness racing industry. It always will be in the shadow of the thoroughbred industry. And the numbskulls calling the shots in that industry are like captains of a sinking ship, who just don't want to come to the realization that they need a new boat.

116 year old race track in BC looking at eviction notice
H/T Equidaily

Reality show Jockeys set for debut on Animal Planet. Chantal Sutherland is one of the jockeys featured on that show.
Here is the longer version promo:

Canadian born comic Norm MacDonald is addicted to online poker

How the recession is affecting the gambling industry
"People have not stopped gambling, they just are not gambling in traditional casinos. They are gambling online."

Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) continues with the top 20 bettor friendly tracks countdown. Today's featured track is Fairgrounds which comes in at number 12.