28 December 2009

What If The Mob Ran Horse Racing?

I'm a huge Sopranos fan. I miss the show. And I wasn't happy with the ending. But that is another story.

What if Tony Soprano was the racing czar? How would racing look today?

He might charge the mooches (horseplayers) a vig (takeout) of 20% or greater.

He might allow his mob friends and his best clientele to have access to gamble at a reduced vig, as long as they keep it a secret.

He might start up a side business where he can negotiate fees track's charge for their signal. Of course he would expect a good cut for his service, at the expense of the mooches and even the good clientele.

He might turn a blind eye to people who might bet once a race starts.

He might expect and demand a cut from bets that aren't made on horse races.

He might take an extra cut from gamblers who cash winning tickets.

He might make it difficult on tracks that don't want to pay what his side business is asking and then exclude them from the mainstream until they wised up.

He might show a loss on race tracks that have close to $10 million in handle a day, and then give the Feds a hard time when they want to look at the books.

He might charge a higher vig to certain people than the track actually charges.

He might give high percentage trainers a slap on the wrist if they get caught with a positive.

He might give trainers a two to five year head start to use performance enhancing drugs that aren't being tested for.

He might make it easy for customers to bet on credit, who would be charged 20% plus if they don't pay back on time.

He might complain publicly that anyone competing against him his acting illegally, even though they are not.

22 December 2009

Ontario Government Thinking Of Privatizing Slots

What Happens If The Ontario Government Sells Off Casinos?
The Ontario government is thinking about selling their Crown assets. These include Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation, The LCBO, and the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.). The OLG runs all casinos in Ontario.

There still is no decision as to whether some, none or all of the Crown's assets will be sold or when they will be sold.

OK, lets look at the possible repercussions. First off, I can see the Niagara Casino and Windsor Casino being sold outright to a large Vegas based company. A company without any experience in gaming isn't going to buy the casinos. This would be good for the customer. We will see more perks. Free drinks for the shooters as well.

Now what about racetrack slots? One thing to keep in mind is that the OLG does not own the slots or the buildings where the slot machines are found. The individual tracks own all that. The OLG owns the slot machines, and their most important asset is the right to make money from those slot machines. For use of the track's building and because of the known fact that slots cannibalizes horse racing, the OLG pays all expenses to run slots and pays the track 10% and the horsemen another 10% of the profits from slots, as well they pay the township where the slots are located another 2-3%.

The best possible solution is for the OLG to sell the rights to operate slots to the individual slots. Owners of tracks have already undergone major background checks before the ORC allows them to operate a race track.

Secondly, bringing in a third party to run the slots could cause major hardship to the racing industry. Right now the OLG is pretty complacent when it comes to potential customer crossover. But get a slot operator that has its only source of income coming from gamblers losing at slots, and we might see more aggressive behavior towards potential crossover. For example, if Joe Smith loses $200 playing slots, the casino winds up over $150, the track and horsemen get $20 each. If Joe Smith loses $200 at the track, the track and horsemen wind up with over $80 each (and the casino gets nothing). It is to the tracks best interest that the gambler playing horses, and it is to the casino operator's best interest that the casino player doesn't even know horse racing exists. This could cause a hostile environment.

I'm not sure that the government can just give racetracks first right of refusal when it comes to buying the slots operations, or if they have to take the best possible offer. But it does make sense that tracks will be willing to pay the most for the operations since they can potentially cut down their labour costs and other operating costs by running both operations under the same management.

The government can simply give the tracks a 10 to 20 year mortgage to pay for the slot's operations, while still getting around 3-4 cents on every dollar wagered through the machines in the form of a tax.

Racetracks will wind up making more than the 10% they make now. Most of the extra will be used to pay down the mortgage debt. They might be in a position, in the case of Fort Erie for example, to offer a bigger cut to purses (than the mandatory 10%) if the racing game continues to sink.

The government will still have rules in place, including the 10% of slot profits that goes to purses, and they will hopefully enforce the rule that if there is no racing, there is no slots.

Teen Arrested For Having Sex With Horses
Happened at the oldest active track in North America; The Goshen Historic Track. "This guy makes Michael Vick look like a charter member of PETA," Village police Chief James Watt said.

Canadian Harness Tracks Gets Proactive: Canada One Racing Looking To Get More Bettors In North America To Be Exposed To Canadian Harness Racing

Not surprisingly, Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) has decided not to participate in the project. For one thing, if Canadian harness racing is put on the map, Woodbine and Mohawk would benefit regardless, and secondly and most importantly, horse racing has become a necessary evil over at WEG. WEG is now only concerned about taking what they can without spending much money. They realize that they are not offering a product that the general public wants, and with their high takeout rates, they know by now, they just can't attract new people anymore. They've given up on horse racing. Instead of changing prices and being an industry leader, their focus is now staying afloat so they can expand their profitable business (slots and potentially other casino games).

Canada One is potentially looking to embrace exchange betting. Exchange betting or not, Canadian harness racing is in a position to become a leader when it comes to lowering takeout rates collectively (can we say 12% across the board?), and getting a tremendous head start versus their thoroughbred industry rivals.

More Cuts At Woodbine
Besides recently firing the parking lot staff a few weeks ago, I also heard a rumour that Jennifer Morrison was released from her duties of odds making (including the Winter Plate Book). She will also not be giving handicapping seminars either. I emailed Jennifer and she confirmed the rumour is in fact reality.

What a stupid move by Woodbine. Jen's Thoroughblog is a source for many Ontario thoroughbred horsemen to get a daily dose of what is happening pretty much at Woodbine. Getting her to spend less time at Woodbine will cause her to have less insight on the daily goings on there, and it naturally gives her less incentive to give Woodbine positive advertising (something you won't find my here at Cangamble). Hundreds of people (mostly from Ontario) visit her blog daily. I guess she can afford to be more controversial now.

Like I wrote earlier, Woodbine is giving up on horse racing. I wonder if the Score and racing SUN TV will be affected too. Last year, Woodbine cut the talking heads from their HPITV telecasts. Woodbine may have been up 6% in handle but their real income was most likely down, and the way it is going, the trend will continue.

If you want to complain to Woodbine about Jennifer Morrison's dismissal, call 1-888-675-7223 or 416-675-7223.

17 December 2009

Fort Erie Will Race For At Least Three More Years

Great news out of Fort Erie. The show will go on.

Here is how it will happen in a nutshell:

Nordic Gaming (the current owner of Fort Erie Racetrack) has agreed to lease out the track for $100,000 the first year, and $650,000 a year for the two subsequent years each.

Nordic Gaming is responsible for all severance packages and any incurred liabilities prior to January 1st, 2010.

The government of Ontario has stepped up to the plate, and will give the consortium $5.6 million per year for three years, in lieu of the 10% the track was receiving for their share of slots revenues (which has been around $4 million per year recently). The Town of Fort Erie is also adding $500,000 per year.

A new management team is to be implemented (approved by Nordic Gaming) as of July 1st, 2010.

EDIT: I must have heard something that wasn't said. All approvals will be made by the Consortia, not Nordic Gaming.

Quarter horse racing will be added. The extent of this has not been determined yet, but monies to fund these races will come from OHRIA's suplus. This is a potential new revenue source for Fort Erie, as they get to keep their share of monies bet on these races.

The plan right now is to run 8 thoroughbred races per day (and perhaps one or two quarter horse races), three days a week, for 78 days per year. This represents a drop of one race per day. The budget stands at around $100,000 a day in purse money, which means around $7.8 million will go to thoroughbred purses.

Essentially, the horsemen will get around $4 million from wagering and $4 million from their share of the slots (as long as slots revenues hold). This covers the purse structure.

The Consortia will have an extra $2,000,000 the first year to cover operating expenses (which means that they know that the losses that Nordic claim are really $2 million a year or less in actual operating expense losses). In year two and three, the Consortia has an extra $1,500,000 per year.

The bottom line, is there will be racing, and horsemen and fans need to thank people like Jim Thibert of the EDTC, Sue Leslie of the HBPA, Herb McGirr and Daryl Wells from Nordic, MPP Kim Craitor, and especially the Honourable Dwight Duncan, the Minister of Finance, who recognized the need to keep Fort Erie alive (he is the one who changed the deal on slots that made this happen), oh and cub reporter Perry Lefko, for keeping the story alive in Toronto.

Going forward, there are quite a few initiatives that can be done to increase betting at Fort Erie.
Lets see what happens.

15 December 2009

Woodbine Cares More About Quebec Racing Than Fort Erie

In an interview yesterday on The FAN, Nick Eaves showed complete indifference to the plight of racing at Fort Erie race track.

Eaves (Woodbine's Big Cheese In Waiting) actually said to host Mike Hogan (who admitted knowing next to nothing about Fort Erie or Quebec's current situation) that "I don't know anything you don't know," in regards to the future of horse racing in Fort Erie. All I can say is WOW. He went on to say that the future "doesn't look terribly bright."

Actually Eaves may be correct about Hogan knowing as much as he. Eaves stated in the interview that Woodbine sold Fort Erie because they had the foresight regarding competition coming from Niagara Falls and Buffalo. The reality is that the sale of Fort Erie came around 2 years before slots came into the picture at racetracks in Ontario. Reportedly, Fort Erie was sold for $10 and the assumption of $1 million in debt.

Woodbine was simply consolidating their operations at the time. And the sale of Fort Erie looked horrible on Woodbine once slot machines were added to the tracks. The new owner's (Nordic Gaming) share of slot revenues peaked at $17 million in 2001. Woodbine gave away a lot of revenue for next to nothing.

It makes me wonder if Eaves is either ignorant of the sale or if he was being disingenuous (by trying to sugarcoat Woodbine's past moves) in the interview.

Had it not been for 9/11 and SARS, Fort Erie's stream would have been much higher in the next few years. Even Willmot and Eaves couldn't have predicted those two events:)

Had Woodbine still owned Fort Erie today, they would not be in trouble of shutting down, and I doubt the operation would not be losing money because the revenue streams would be much different.

Getting back to Quebec. What does WEG have to gain by Quebec racing? For one thing, they get back the revenue they have been losing because Quebec gamblers cannot bet through a Canadian based ADW (ie HPI). WEG is losing half a million in handle per month right now.

Quebec gamblers do have options. They can play on Betfair, William Hill, offshore bookies, and even US based ADWs that take Canadian customers.

I find it funny that Eaves sticks to the line that all other betting (outside of betting at HPI) done by Canadians is illegal. Again, it is not the case. William Hill (a large bookie across the pond) even advertises on The FAN radio station. The only thing that would be illegal is for a company in Canada to have its server in Canada and take bets from a Canadian (unless of course we are talking about an Indian Reserve in Canada, which is not considered to be in Canada as far as the law goes).

It is clear from the interview that WEG cares about one thing and one thing only: How much they can take from whatever source they can take it from. When speaking about growth, Eaves attention was on Woodbine Live, which will do zero when it comes to growing horse racing, other than give WEG a bigger revenue stream so that they can inflate purses from non horse racing betting.

Weren't slots introduced to racetracks in Ontario to help sustain the industry in Ontario?

How is putting Quebec ahead of Fort Erie helping Ontario's industry?

The harness situation firs. For one thing, there are 20 harness tracks in Ontario, and without slots there would be one or two. So yes, slots do create quite a few jobs on the harness side. If one track were to close, there wouldn't be that much of an affect when it comes to the job situation, as the industry is leaning towards less dates anyways right now. And many tracks don't race that many dates to begin with. But to my knowledge, no Racino is looking to close up shop at this time on the harness side anyway.

Why should Fort Erie be a major concern to Woodbine?

Again, lets go on the assumption that slots at racetracks are there for the purpose of helping out the horse racing industry in Ontario. This is something that WEG has lost total sight of.

Woodbine runs 8 months a year and this allows for many full time jobs to be created at the racetrack. From trainers to their staff to those in the feed business to breeders to those who work inside the track, horse racing allows people the opportunity to make a living.

There are three major sources of revenue that keeps the operation going: Revenue from betting, revenue from slots, and the amounts lost by owners collectively (a number that isn't as high as it used to be thanks to slot revenue enhanced purses).

In Ontario, the big show is Woodbine, but the reality is that many horses bred and/or owned in Ontario can't compete there. Some horses simply hate the polytrack, while others are just inferior or become inferior over time. Every horse is a split second away from an injury, minor or major, that can affect whether or not it can race at Woodbine competitively.

Owners of race horses know this, especially the smaller outfits.

So what happens if Fort Erie were to close down?

There would be no B track, and no dirt track in Ontario for owners to have as a safety net. When the horse is either a bad form or just not good enough for Woodbine, their only choices are to sell the horse for next to nothing or ship them down south and try a cheap dirt track there.

This will create less owners at Woodbine, let alone all the B horsemen that will be out of work if Fort Erie were to shut down.

Less owners means less demand for horses in Ontario. This means breeders will suffer even more, to the point that many will just have to close down shop. Less farms will be caring for horses as well. There will be less horses to feed.

This will also cause less betting and less interest in horse racing, as many B owners especially like to form partnerships and come to the track when their horses run, and many of them bet too. They also bring friends. This is one of the biggest angles to actually growing the game.

Meanwhile, Woodbine has done an excellent job in getting Kentucky breds and US outfits to come to Ontario. Again, is this what slot money was supposed to do? Give many of the big purses to foreign entities? And now Quebec's situation is more of an issue than Fort Erie's?

Doesn't in give Ontario horsemen a warm and fuzzy feeling that revenues from slots and potentially from Woodbine Live mainly go to $2 million races that are won by foreigners, while breeders and B horse owners continue to get the shaft?

The reality is that Woodbine must know that losing B horses will be devastating to the Ontario thoroughbred industry, and it makes me wonder if WEG wants Fort Erie to die so that Ajax Downs can host the B meet.

Ajax Downs is not going away, so no matter what Woodbine will have to split betting revenues form their home market. But if Fort Erie goes under, they get the Fort Erie home market to themselves. It might not be much, but either is Quebec. But both situations only add to Woodbine's revenue, and that is all it seems that WEG is about these days: How much more they can grab for as little cost as possible.

There is no question that Nordic's refusal to ask fair market price for the track has been a major obstacle and extra cause for uncertainty regarding Fort Erie's future. The government must tell Fort Erie "No Racing No Slots." This will take Nordic out of the driver's seat.

It is ridiculous precedence to have slots without racing. What is to stop any track from giving an ugly looking set of books in order to make the same claim in the future? I'm sure there are some harness tracks that are close to break even right now. If they were to show a loss thanks to the racing operations, does that mean the track owner can close the track and keep the slots thanks to this new potential precedence?

One more thing, regarding yesterday's interview. I don't think the proposed auto track in Fort Erie would be competition against the racetrack. In fact, it would cause more Americans to get passports or Nexus cards. As well, it would create more jobs in the area.

More people would visit Fort Erie Slots and maybe even the track, because many people will want to kill time here instead of waiting in a lineup to cross the border, plus for real big races, many fans come days in advance to camp out.

OK, so if you want to hear Nick Eaves for yourself, click here.

If you want to read more about the interview, click here.

13 December 2009

Handle Up: Why Woodbine Bucked The Trend

Woodbine execs probably know better, that their recent announcement about the handle increase for 2009 for thoroughbred racing, isn't as good as it seems, or maybe they don't.

"All-sources handled totaled $361,435,208, compared to the $337,660,570 from the 167 dates in 2008. The daily average handle this year was $2,164,282.....Most of the $23.7 million increase came from U.S. sources. TVG, the national racing channel, offered Woodbine racing for the first time beginning on June 19."

Now let me give you the rest of the story.

Handle at thoroughbred tracks in North America in 2009 will show a drop of around 10% when final numbers come out in early January, so Woodbine's increase of 7% was against the trend.

Bad economic times is most likely to blame for the drop, however, even during the economic upswing prior to the bursting of the bubble, horse racing was barely holding steady from year to year when it comes to total handle.

So why did Woodbine do so seemingly well? There are a few reasons, and all of them helped.

1. Being featured on TVG definitely increased Woodbine's exposure. Horseplayers tend to bet races that are shown on TV. When a track gets featured, players become more familiar with the horses, jockeys, and trainers.

2. Probably the biggest plus for Woodbine was that they were not involved in signal blackouts, and other games that were being played out in 2009 by racetracks and horsemen groups. Woodbine's signal was available at every major ADW in the USA without disruption. When a player can't bet on a certain track, they will gravitate to another track. Tracks like Woodbine and Delaware were major benefactors in 2009.

3. Woodbine's seeded Pick 6 experiment caused handle to increase during its short run, and may have helped Woodbine's long term exposure in the USA. Woodbine lost money on the deal, and even with the increased handle and exposure, their bottom line has suffered.

4. Field size of 9.1 horses per race (up a little from 2008) is attractive to almost every bettor on the planet. It leads to bigger payoffs. And if a bettor hits something really big, he or she might actually overcome Woodbine's monstrous takeouts (their Win Place Show and Exactor takeouts are reasonable in today's market, but that isn't what I'm talking about here).

5. Mine That Bird put Woodbine on the map in a few more households in the USA in 2009.

6. $2 million races might help with exposure a little bit. But horseplayers collectively are more into bigger fields and reasonable payouts in the long run. When you do the math on days that have the big races, sure handle is up considerably, but the reality is the track loses a lot of money on those days if one looks at their cut of takeout versus what they give out in purses.

7. CHANTAL SUTHERLAND! The series Jockeys put her on the map. Male bettors (and maybe a few female bettors too) are all aware of her stunning good looks now. The fact she was the second leading rider at Woodbine this year, and brought home some nice prices, especially earlier in the year, definitely got more Americans playing Woodbine. I get lots of hits daily because certain individuals search "Chantal Sutherland nude."

8. Woodbine dropped their takeout on triactors from a whopping 28.3% to a whopping 27%. Now this probably didn't get US players to play more, however, the limited details announced regarding Woodbine's handle seem to indicate that domestic handle was close to even versus 2008, and dropping the takeout definitely helped. The increased payouts Canadians received when cashing triactors were most likely churned back on Woodbine races. Not so much in the USA, where players were more likely to churn the monies back into a race at another venue. As an aside, is it coincidence that tracks that increased their takeout in the past 18 months or so like Calder, Aqueduct, Belmont, Pimlico, and Laurel have seen high teen decreases in handle in 2009, almost double the trend?

9. Another thing that prevented domestic (on track and HPI account wagering) numbers from following the downward trend in North America was the fact that Woodbine were reportedly more aggressive in giving more of their biggest bettors large "secret" rebates in order to keep them from betting offshore or with a US ADW (most don't take Canadians, but some do) and even perhaps Betfair. This definitely increase churn on their own product domestically, maybe even by enough to make up the difference of losing 10% versus staying even in domestic handle. I know that when I receive a rebate in the neighbourhood of 7%, my handle increases three or four fold. But keeping big customers doesn't increase real growth. What Woodbine needs to do is give their smallest players the same rebate. It will keep them in the game longer, and then and only then do you have the foundations of growth. See "The Pie" over at the HANA blog.

10. Woodbine appeared in the US version of the Racing Form. Of course, this will help handle. It is amazing they were only up 6% when considering everything on this list.

Lets keep things in perspective here. Woodbine's $2.1 million daily handle isn't very good when compared with Hawthorne's $2.7 million daily handle. Hawthorne gives out less than half the purse money Woodbine does, so it deflates the racing quality argument that Woodbine likes to make. Hawthorne is available not just at major ADWs but all ADWs, especially the ones that give larger player rewards that savvy bettors tend to flock to. Hawthorne having a traditional dirt surface probably helps Hawthorne's cause at least a little as well.

There is also no mention about whether betting was up or down when it comes to Woodbine's customers playing other tracks. My guess it that it is down. Their practice of ramping up takeouts on triactors and superfectas, etc. at many US venues, which wind up shortchanging Woodbine/HPI customers, can only hurt them in the long run. Many players will avoid such bets, and may inevitably be driven offshore by Woodbine's utter callousness on this issue.

Woodbine with their quasi monopoly on Canadians should be doing a lot better. Perhaps, with David Willmot finally stepping down and being replaced by a younger and brighter individual (Nick Eaves), more betting incentives and initiatives will be made to attract more Canadians to play the horses.

For more on the topic of Woodbine's increase, which includes comments of players who either like or dislike betting Woodbine check out the 3 pages of comments at Pace Advantage. Here is a sample, by this dude named Dean:

"I lost respect for Woodbine several years ago when they raised their takeout from 14.75% to 25% on their pick 4. They did not tell anyone; it was a takeout raise of the worst kind.

But, their product is good, and this year let us remember that they offered out that huge seeded pick 6 (probably not a good idea with a $2 pick 6 and lack of whale money) but they did offer that low take bet. If next year they offer out a reduction in take, or a few other horseplayer centric items, I will gain a lot of that lost respect back (just personally as a player).

I think about six years ago now I think it was Maury Wolff, or maybe Andrew Beyer; they were speaking of Tampa bay downs. The quote from them was something like "excuse me about Tampa but with their huge takeouts I don't think they want me as a customer"

But now look at Tampa because they lowered takeout (and have for several years) and had a sea change in horseplayer respect. A lot of players love Tampa for what they have done and their handle is doing really well.

Anyhow, long winded crap from me that tracks can change and earn some respect, imo. All they have to do is try."

9 December 2009

How Were You Introduced To Betting The Ponies?

How Were You Introduced To Going To The Track And/Or Betting On The Ponies?
Neat little poll over at Pace Advantage. Not really surprised by the results to as of this writing:
Parent(s) brought you to the track 34.02%
Someone you knew had interest in horse ownership 2.06%
Relative other than parent brought you to the track 16.49%
Friend(s) brought you to the track 26.80%
Corporate/work function 1.03%
Got a job at the track 3.09%
You just decided to play horses one day 16.49%

The days of family and friends bringing newbies to the track is pretty much a dead issue these days thanks to the vast amount of betting competition and entertainment competition available to the general population.

Unfortunately, horse racing hasn't been able to adapt to the change. Back in the good ole days of 20 years ago and earlier, players were able to last longer because they could only bet on one track, the collective takeout was lower as well (triactors were not available much, and superfectas were only available at a few venues if at all), there was dummy money in the pool (that have left for lotteries and slots), and there were actual winners who acted like carrot sticks in attracting the odd new customer.

Horse racing needs to market their product for what it is: GAMBLING. And this means that the game has to be beatable by at least some. Takeouts need to be reduced and rebates need to be embraced in order for racing to grow from here.

Rumour of the day
Woodbine is going to become a publicly traded entity. This gives them the ability to go to the market to raise funds for things like their Woodbine Live project.
Lets hope it is only a rumour because horseplayer's needs will become even less of a concern to Woodbine if this happens. Is this what Willmot meant when he said he is getting out of the way? I was hoping it meant that he is going to get out of the way to allow Woodbine to grow the right way (drop takeouts and create more demand and more growth).

As I've stated before, Churchill Downs/Tracknet operates like Woodbine South. They act as if they are a quasi monopoly, and the horseplayer gets the short end of the stick, as the company is driven to make profits, not necessarily grow the game. The only people who benefit are the suits and the shareholders. Oh, and if Woodbine became a publicly traded company, the horsemen would also start to see what getting the shaft is all about.

Mountaineer To Be Dark in January and February in 2010
The horsemen aren't happy, but it could have been worse, because there was a request made that four months be dark.

Lots of B horses from Ontario grind it out at Mountaineer. They can still race at Charles Town, Penn, Turfway, and Beulah. But the purses at Turfway and Beulah are so low they hardly worth it. That being said, look for full fields at those two venues, and possibly good betting opportunities.

Horseplayersbet.com offers betting on all the above venues, and just added Tampa Bay Downs to the betting menu. Really decent player rewards are available to all Horseplayersbet.com's customers.

Fort Erie Still Up In The Air
Anxious horsemen and fans are still hopeful that Fort Erie will run next year. Rumours that the government is trying their best to make it happen are out there. I can't see the government directly funding Nordic Gaming. There may be ways to circumvent this though.

The obvious way is to give Fort Erie a bigger cut of the casino revenues on the basis that it's survival is necessary to the entire thoroughbred industry in Ontario.

For instance, if a harness track closed down, the impact would only be local, as more and more harness tracks are looking to reduce dates anyway due to terrible demand. If Fort Erie shuts down, where are horses who can't poly or just can't compete for bottoms at Woodbine go? The States? Well that won't sit well with most owners, and many will get out of the game. And this will kill the breeding industry which is already on life support in Ontario.

The government needs to announce that without live racing, the slots MUST SHUT DOWN!
The reasoning is very simple. Precedence. What is to stop a harness track from deciding to stop racing if they are losing money because of racing?

By not announcing what will happen to slots, the government is allowing Nordic Gaming to be in the driver's seat regarding their stubbornness when it comes to overpricing the track. A new owner would definitely solve the problem regarding the government having to do anything on this issue, at least in the near term.

Quit Your Day Job And Become A Stooper
$45,000 a year isn't the worse job in the world. I wonder if Mrs. Dubiel is still alive. She walked around Greenwood Race Track with a cart full of tickets. I think she got me a couple of times, and I was pretty careful.

What is up with Trackus? In the fifth race on Sunday at Woodbine, the second place finisher apparently went faster than the winner. It is possible that Trackus takes into account each individual horse from the time they break the beam and hit the finish. So it is possible that a horse who breaks well will run a slower time from beam to finish than a horse who breaks slower from the gate.

New Contest At Santa Anita: WINVIVOR
$2500 up for grabs starting January 1st. Contestants have to pick a winner each day, or they are out. It is free to enter.

Not a bad move. It might attract more people to handicap Santa Anita, and maybe attract new players, but probably not many. Woodbine has had the 123Racing contests going on for a while, and it doesn't appear that they are attracting new customers.

4 December 2009

Why Does Woodbine Race Wednesday Nights?

I just don't get why Woodbine continues to schedule night racing for thoroughbreds. There is pretty much no demand for their product at night, and they could be doing much better if they switched to days.....or could they?

Here is a comparison of Woodbine with Beulah on Wednesday December 2.

Woodbine (Total Handle $1,635,771) Field size 10.78
Race and purse
Race 1
Race 2
Race 3
Race 4
Race 5
Race 6
Race 8
Race 9

Beulah (Total Handle $1,994,441) Field size 9.78 per race
Race and purse
Race 1
Race 2
Race 3
Race 4
Race 5
Race 6
Race 7
Race 8
Race 9

So what does the above prove? Because of lack of competition on Wednesday during the day, Beulah was able to take advantage and have a very good day. Bettors may not care that much when it comes to quality especially if field size is close to 9 horses per race.

Woodbine doesn't fare well on Thursdays during the day either, so the might embarrass themselves going head to head with Beulah during a light competition day. It makes me wonder why Woodbine handle is so lousy, considering their field size and purse structure is so good.

Is it the polytrack? I don't know. In 2005 and 2006 Woodbine only had handle of $1.3 million on each of their last two Wednesday nights of the season. Up until this year, Woodbine benefited from things like common pool wagering and signal availability at many ADWs and tracks.

There is something that turns players away from betting Woodbine in general. Is it that the takeouts are actually being looked at by more bettors? Beulah takeouts are higher for bets like WPS (18% versus 16.95% at Woodbine), 22.5% versus 20.5% for doubles and exactors, but for other exotic bets, Beulah remains at 22.5%, but Woodbine charges between 25-27% on things like Pick 3's, supers, and tris.

It could be a combination of poly, takeout and signal availability. Beulah is available at pretty much every ADW and the one's that give decent rebates may attract the afternoon players who in most cases don't get much, if anything, from Tracknet or NYRA tracks, and in some cases don't even get NYRA or Tracknet signals.

Woodbine made a smart move for next year by switching post times to 2PM on Thursdays. This gives them a chance to woo the dinner crowd. I can understand them trying to hang on to Wednesday nights on the bases that they have corporations that have dinners at Woodbine. But Woodbine is not taking advantage when it comes to converting these potential newbies because of the reputation horse racing has when it comes to beating the race and not the races.

There is no incentive for anyone to learn a game that has no visible winners, and where the only winners are those who get substantial rebates. And players just can't last because of current takeout levels whether they understand takeout or not.

Woodbine is in a position where it won't hurt them to reduce their takeout significantly. I can tracks everywhere inching downward when it comes to takeout rates. Woodbine can be a leader.

Ideally, I think 12% takeout on all bets would be very close to optimal. Optimal being where race tracks make the most money.

Woodbine can do themselves a huge favor by dropping takes to at least more reasonable levels. How about 16% WPS, 20% for exactors and doubles, and 22% for all other bets? See how it goes, and then maybe drop even lower if successful.

If Woodbine does not lower takeout, they might as well run on Wednesdays with a 2PM post.

UPDATE: David Willmot to leave post as Woodbine Entertainment's CEO on June 4th. Nick Eaves, the current COO will take over.

Best news out of Woodbine all year. Maybe Eaves can get racing to grow in Ontario, an impossibility with Willmot at the helm.

It has been known for years that certain horses inspire certain jockeys:


NYC OTB Seeks Bankruptcy Protection

US-Online Gambling Legislation Put On Hold
The legislators just want to make sure that horse race betting isn't compromised at all, so they are being extra careful with how they word the law.

Down The Stretch has some good articles: The case for Chantal Sutherland being Athlete of the Year in Canada.

An interview by Perry Lefko of HBPA President Sue Leslie.
She confirms that Nordic Gaming wants too much money for the joint. It looks like the only hope Fort Erie has right now is if the government changes the 10-10 percentages on slot revenues. Sounds like Nordic can hold out because the province has remained silent on whether the casino will close if there is no racing.