17 March 2010

When Will Woodbine Stop Hindering Growth?

Real life story. Many friends of mine know I'm a handicapper. I may not be the best, but I'm pretty good. I don't use a computer program either. I generally use either Brisnet or TrackMaster past performances. I have charts that convert Brisnet and Trackmaster speed figures to my scale of figures, if I'm dealing with a track or race that I don't have my own personal track variant on (I do track variants for 6 tracks and the Kentucky circuit).

A good friend of mine emails me on Saturday around 21 minutes before the 7th at Santa Anita (the race Zenyatta is in). I've got 4 past performance charts opened up on my computer, but Santa Anita is not one of them. It is not a track I tend to bet for various reasons.

My friend tells me in the email that his friend is with a few buddies at a Toronto teletheatre and he wants me to email back him and cc his friend my picks for the last four races.

I proceed to download the past performances for Santa Anita and within 7 minutes, I email back my selections 8,7,4-6,8,1A-4,5,6-7,9,12,8

I was tempted to throw some money in my HPI account, but remembering it is Santa Anita and the fact that Woodbine grossly underpays exotics, I stuck to my guns and didn't do it. I played Santa Anita twice this winter, and when I hit a pick 3 that paid around $100 and got underpaid by around $5, still, I felt like an imbecile. Seriously. It isn't the money, it is the principle.

I watch the races, hoping my friends will win something, and maybe a bit of hoping I don't look too bad with my picks.

Number 8 (Zenyatta) won the 7th, my other horses were no where. Same thing happened in the 8th race. In the 9th, my second choice won, the other two horses didn't hit the board. At least I don't feel like my picks are horrible, but they are hardly useful so far.

I then got distracted, got up and checked what was happening in the kitchen, turned the channel to watch real TV after watching horse racing all day.

About 20 minutes later, my friend calls, he could tell I didn't watch the last race and then tells me what happened. Picked the triactor, not only that, but the super.
He told me he cashed a few thousand (hit the pick 3 & pick 4 and had the triactor), and his friend at the teletheatre and his buddies all hit the tri at least (also at least one had the pick 4). He said they were all on cloud 9. No one hit the super though.

I asked what it paid, and my friend said $4,000 for the triactor, he then paused and said, oh yeah, Woodbine doesn't pay track odds on triactors from Santa Anita (the payoff at Woodbine and its teletheatre network and HPI was $1,844 for a buck instead of $2,018).

Word was quickly spread to the new players that they got ripped off on the payoffs. It has been four days, and outside of a very sincere thank you, nobody seems interested in coming back too quickly. Not that they won't be back, but their enthusiasm was definitely tampered with. And if they didn't get a full education, I will make sure they read this post.

Horseplayers are rarely stupid, and now with the internet becoming more and more prominent, results can be seen by everyone. Lets say, the newbies don't have an HPI account, and they want to look up the results. They go to Equibase. But Equibase has different payouts, bigger payouts, then what they received because of Woodbine's larcenous behaviour.

Woodbine's explanation:
Why might payoffs on some pools differ from that of the host?
Since some U.S. tracks have extraordinarily low takeout rates on some pools (e.g. Triactors, Superfectas) that do not accommodate the high mandatory deductions in Canada, WEG will use a minimum of 25% for the total takeout on these pools. This is a very common rate that is used by other U.S. tracks.

Extraordinarily low? The takeout on California exotics is 20.68%. Woodbine does not mark up WPS bets from California, which have a takeout of 15.43%, so how is 20.68% extraordinarily low (I know, low for exotics, but it just makes non sense). As for mandatory deductions, the government only takes 1.3% on every dollar wagered, and horsemen get an extra 2% on triactors than they normally get on WPS. The important point though is, if a track can't afford to pay what the host track pays, it shouldn't take the signal.

Here are the $1 payoffs from Saturday's 10th race (Woodbine's rip off payoffs on the left, Santa Anita's real payoffs on the right):

Pick 3 $678.75 $722.70
Pick 4 $1,140.60 $1,214.40
Triactor $1,844.50 $2,018.00
Super $13,238.30 $14,094.80

So what is the end result. My friend was reminded to be careful what to play through his HPI account, and I'm sure he took some of the money out on account of this. His friend and the newbie buddies all learned something new about takeout and Woodbine's nefarious ways. Maybe they'll bet some of their winnings back....at Betfair.

And me, I'm really happy that I helped make a bunch of people some money. Do I regret not playing Santa Anita at HPI myself? Honestly, not really. I know in the long run, I'm much better off avoiding being ripped off like this if I want to be a successful gambler.

The end result for Woodbine is they cost themselves probably $15,000 minimum in churn from me. Probably another $8,000 in churn from my friend. And this is regardless of whether my friend's friend and his newbie buddies bet a cent back or not. Plus, it leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

Way to go Woodbine, keep it up. It is a shame what Woodbine has done to hinder growth. From higher than average takeouts (despite slots) to their practice of increasing the takeout on many simulcast tracks, it is no wonder that is firing employees instead of hiring them. They have done their darnedest to ensure that Canadians aren't interested in betting on horses.

As an aside, they also hurt tracks that have a lower than 27% takeout on exotics, like California tracks. I know I'm not the only person who avoids them in Canada. These tracks should stipulate in their contracts that Woodbine pays track odds on everything.

UPDATE: It finally hit me what is happening here. Not only are they making money for facilitating the wager, Woodbine is taking a cut from the winnings. In other words, they are a partner in the bet without taking any risk. Who said the Mafia is dead?

Ed Bain is baaack! Ed is a strong systems handicapper who relies mainly on trainer patterns to come up with value picks. Check out Edbain.com.

Undercover Boss featured Churchill Down's COO Bill Carstanjen on Sunday's show. HANA did a very humorous take on what if Carstanjen would have seen what it would be like to be an Undercover Bettor. Yep, tracks sure take gamblers for granted. And lets see, it is the bettor (horse and slots where applicable) who pays for the track operations, including boardroom furniture, as well as the purses.


That Blog Guy said...

Woodbine's statement why they use a different takeout rate makes it sound like it is the government's doing, not theirs. Is that the case? If so, they should get after the government as they are hurting them. If they are lying, shame on them.

I am a small time bettor but I stopped going to OTB in NY due to their 5% surcharge. In my case, it doesn't amount to much, but I still felt like I was getting a prostate exam. If I need to get a prostrate exam, I prefer a doctor do it.

Cangamble said...

Nothing to do with the government. In Canada the government only gets 1.3% on each wager. The government has publicly stated, they don't care what the takeout rate is.

Woodbine isn't lying about it either. Their excuse is just ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

On the Pull the Pocket blog bettors in the comments section have been asking about this for a long time.

It is a simple question that the "whip" person asked the other day: Where does the extra money go?

No one seems to know the answer and it is shameful that Woodbine does not feel their customers worthy enough to respond to.


Tom said...

Another "beautifully"written scenario about the short sightedness of WEG.

Railbird said...

Being ripped off by weg is an outrage i get real track prices @ william hill for my exotics,its tough enough beating the take out without weg grabbing more when you cash!my win bets go to Betfair where the prices are usually 30%-50% more that the race track gives out.oh Woodbine opens April 2nd good luck to them,they really should open April 1st,to kick start April fools day,because that would be poetic justice as you would be a fool to take their prices!

Anonymous said...

is there any charts of takeouts across north america...

a wager ticket should itemize takeout for each race so you know what you are "actually betting"...

Cangamble said...

Anon, here is a takeout chart of North America via Google Map

Anonymous said...

hey cangamble...i checked out the new woodbine site and checked the takeout or levy section...the numbers they have posted are lower than the ones on the google map...is it right???...are they listening???

Cangamble said...

The numbers posted at the Woodbine site are a bit deceptive. Read the fine print on the bottom. The numbers don't include the 2% that goes to horsemen (4% on triactors) and the 1.3% that goes for taxes.
Add 3.3% to all bets except add 5.3% to triactors and you get the real takeout rates.