22 January 2011

Crist You Know It Aint Easy

Steven Crist's latest attempt to empathize with Horseplayers (Bettors Deserve More After Takeout Hike) falls very short in both understanding, and when it comes to offering solutions.

He starts off comparing the demise of the NY OTB's versus the takeout raise in California, stating that is could be deemed very surprising that the NY OTB story has virtually disappeared, while the California takeout hike story just seems to be getting stronger.

The NY OTB's were in the business of really giving it to the Horseplayer with a 5% surcharge. They killed churn and the OTBs managed to lose money themselves. They will hardly be missed by any self respecting Horseplayer, and in a very short period of time, NY tracks will be much better off. Now, Horseplayers who switched over to ADWs are now getting rewards instead of surcharges. It will eventually become very lucrative for New York racing.

Where does Crist get it wrong or not so right?

....the California takeout increase continues to agitate some vocal fans and horseplayer groups, who claim to be laying off playing Santa Anita as a protest against the hikes.
Horseplayers groups? Why is the DRF the only horse racing site that has not named HANA (Horseplayers Association of North America) by name? As far as I know, they are the only group that has come out in support of the boycott through the site they sponsor (Playersboycott.org). In fact, they are the only Horseplayers group that I know of. Fan groups are not Horseplayer groups though they include many Horseplayers.

...They have claimed victory, pointing to lower handle at Santa Anita.
Who are they, or you mean HANA? And where have "they" declared a victory? A victory would mean that California tracks have rescinded their takeout hike at the very least.

Track officials and state regulators dispute the size of the declines and their impact, saying that their lucrative ontrack business has been relatively stable and arguing that the Hollywood Park fall meeting was showing similar declines before the takeout increase took effect.
The ontrack business will slide over time as Horseplayers have less to churn. Many will quit or go less. The players least likely to boycott are the homers, and that is completely understandable. But ontrack betting is still down a bit at this time. It will only get worse.
Many boycotters I know stopped betting the day Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill, therefore Hollywood's meet was most likely affected by the boycott as well.
Meanwhile, many tracks that have been giving early reports like Gulfstream and Fair Grounds are up in handle so far. And Tampa Bay seems to be doing quite well too.
Equibase numbers for corresponding days in the week from one year to another show declines almost every day at Santa Anita of over 10%. Especially, with a reduction in race days, even with a boycott going, it should be expected that they should be up a little. Not the case. Someone isn't betting the product that used to before.

...It also didn’t help that the two ranking commissioners on the California Horse Racing Board called the old rates “underpriced” and claimed that racing needs to compete with the Lakers and Dodgers, not alternative forms of gambling with lower takeouts.
This is not such a big deal. They had to find a way to rationalize this to the public. There really is no rationale for any business to raise prices because it losing business to competition. What the California powers did is pretend they are not in the gambling business but entertainment business solely. Laughable yes, but
they aren't a very bright or savvy bunch there. Calling any takeout over 14% underpriced is just an attempt to give a reason. The reason comes from people who just don't understand their business.
Oh, and if you want to compare the Lakers to horse racing. The takeout on a Lakers game is 4.6%.

No one from the tracks or the board has explained the rationale for the nature of the increases or adopted a tone of regret about the supposed necessity of them.
This is just badly written. What Crist meant, I believe, is that there was no empirical evidence to suggest that raising takeout would be good for business, and the California boards did not make their decision based on evidence, but gut feelings instead. Their guts were wrong.

Officials also could have leavened the increase by at least experimentally lowering takeout on some pools or on new bets. Santa Anita’s sister track in Florida, Gulfstream Park, quietly raised its exotics takeout from 25 percent to 26 percent this year, the same as New York’s and 2.32 higher than the new California rate. But it also put in new low-minimum pick-five and pick-six bets, at respective 15 percent and 20 percent takeouts, and have gotten 10 times as much positive reaction for the latter as complaints about the former.
Gulfstream did raise takeout last year on triactors by one point, and on supers this year by one point as well. They almost got away with it without anyone noticing. However, it appears they may have lowered their blended takeout hike overall by introducing the new 15% Pick 5. What California did was increase blended takeout by about 9% (Based on every $100,000 bet last year on California product Horseplayers stands to lose around $20,000 this year as opposed to just over $18,000 last year).
It wasn't Santa Anita's mandate to keep the blended rate the same, which is what Gulfsteam's mandate seemingly was.
Throwing bettors a bone of a bet type with a lower takeout while blended rate goes up is totally unacceptable, and Crist should know it, and not encourage it.

The fan groups have their heart in the right place and are correct in arguing that takeout increases are always counterproductive because they provide at best a short-term bump before the inevitable plunge due to lower churn and customer dissatisfaction.
Fan groups? Huh? Again, Crist didn't write this very well (he might have a career in blogging though). What he meant was HANA has their heart in the right place. And when he talks short term bump, he means that tracks have historically seen a slight bump in revenue (profits for tracks and horsemen to split) before takeout increases cause revenue to slide.

Still, their efforts to make a statement have been blurred by a haphazard call to action: It’s unclear when they wanted people to send a message about the issue, what pools they were targeting, and what specific countermeasures they would like the tracks and state to consider.

Did Crist even attempt to contact HANA? Did he read the specific solutions that are on the Playersboycott site? So is Crist really saying that HANA has done a terrible job at pointing Horseplayers and the industry to the Playersboycott.org site? Because the answers to all his blurriness can be found there.

It does little good to keep lecturing people about how the optimal takeout rate is somewhere between 8 percent and 12 percent. There is zero chance that any track in California – especially in the absence of any hope for racetrack slots, which are going to begin in New York later this year and will probably come to Kentucky eventually – will reduce its takeout revenues by 50 percent in the hope that handle will double.
These lectures are an attempt to educate racing execs and horsemen groups about their product (betting). Hialeah recently dropped all wagers to 12%. Unfortunately, the largest ADW, Twinspires, refuses to put them on their betting menu, probably in hopes that the takeout increase will show mixed results at best.
It is the hopes of those lecture about optimal takeout (which includes me), that the horse racing industry will edge towards them like Tampa Bay has, and not away from them like California has.
Calling this educational process to be of little value is really mind numbing coming from Crist who professes to be a bettor's friend.

What the tracks can do, however, is better explain their plight, rejigger the rates, and give something back to the players in the form of new and cheaper bets. It would at least be a start to telling those customers that they are heard and they are valued.
Tracks have done a great job explaining their plight. It is just the solutions they pick to try to fix their plight are just plain dead wrong. New bets aren't important, but cheaper bets are (and I don't mean the price of the ticket but what the takeout rate is).

I still recommend Crist's book Exotic Betting. It is very helpful to bettors. His latest article however was not.

I don't know what is going on with Horse Racing journalism these days. Yes, I understand that advertising dollars are hard to come by, and these publications don't want to upset the breeders, tracks, etc. that advertise, but it seems like responsible journalism can be found more on blogs these days.

First, you have Ray Paulick buying into nonsense that the perpetrators and supporters of the takeout hike want him to believe. At least he does some interviewing. Then you have Crist who did what appears to be very little interviewing or investigating before writing about the motives of the boycotters. At least Paulick allows commenting, and it enables the truth to eventually win out, and he also has no problem printing that four letter word, HANA.


The Turk said...

I read the Crist Blog this morning and felt the exact same way and I think its chickensh*t he won't name HANA by name.

Anonymous said...

Has any track ever cut takeout after getting slots?


ITP said...

It's obvious that you have some sort of personal agenda against in your questioning of the brilliant horseplaying journalist Mr. Crist.

Thankfully you have your own blog as this vicious attack you wage on him would never be allowed on any other horse racing dominated site.

Anonymous said...

"At least Paulick allows commenting"

Crist could have easily put this piece on his blog for comments but chose not to.

If so,he would have found out who HANA was.

Cangamble said...

RG, does Tioga count?

Anon, Crist knows who HANA is, but maybe he doesn't want to lose his self appointed title of King of the Horseplayers. HANA might be a threat to his thorny crown.

Anonymous said...

Self appointed? That's the word that came to mind when I read HANA was representing my interests as a horseplayer.

Cangamble said...

Anon, you are obviously not a member, so HANA doesn't represent you unless you want them to. Same with the NTRA Horseplayers Coalition. Are they self appointed in your mind to, to represent you?

Anonymous said...

HANA does not represent horseplayers. They represent their own egos and this blog exemplifies that. According to you, and others I have read, the message isn't important, all that matters is that HANA wan't mentioned. Too funny.

And sad. Horseplayers deserve better. A lot better.

Cangamble said...

Anon, very constructive comment. The fact HANA wasn't mentioned is only one thing Crist got wrong. Now try to read the post over again, and this time concentrate.

Anonymous said...

You are a board member at HANA and you behave like this? How unprofessional can you get?

If HANA wants any crediility they would distance themselves from you immediately. If they were really interested in affecting change, and not merely massaging their own egos, they would hardly be concerned with their names being mentioned, and they certainly wouldn't allow a board member to write the kind of garbage you have printed here.

Horseplayers deserve a voice. They also don't deserve the likes of you posing as their representative. Go ahead, take another shot at me, but remember that while you do it you put another blemish on HANA. They deserve better just like horseplayers.

John T. said...

Anonymous 8:05, I've been reading the CanGamble blog for a while now and HANA should be proud to have him on their team.
What have you done for us? Complain about HANA complaining about not having their name in Crist's crappy self-indulgent piece?
As CanGamble points out, that was NOT the only one thing Crist screwed up on. I've been following the boycott, and CanGamble is right on with his blog piece. Crist did no research. It is probably above him.
Maybe he should try to figure out how to lower the price of the DRF to lower the cost that horseplayers have to pay, instead of writing crap off the top of his head.
Better CanGamble represent us horseplayers than Steven Crist any day of the week.

Anonymous said...

I checked the board members and it seems there is no one named Cangamble on it.

Cangamble said...

Thanks for your support John.

I think you were a little too hard on Crist though. Crist could be a fine addition to HANA, once he educates himself on what HANA is all about.

I think once he understands, he would definitely be an asset.

As for Anon, if he/she keeps up with the rhetoric, I will be deleting his newer comments.

Notice, there is no refuting in his comment, he/she just called it "garbage," and still won't acknowledge that there is much more to the post than questioning why Crist made no mention of HANA.

He started with bashing HANA, and has not added one thing of substance as John points out.

And he/she is upset that I took offense to his/her comments.

BTW, this is my blog, I am representing myself when I write here. HANA wrote a piece on the story as well but didn't mention Crist's omission, instead it focused on what Crist got right, but also cleverly corrected him in a different manner than I used.

HANA, like me, doesn't care that Crist didn't mention HANA (the HANA board are not the egotists this troll believes us to be), but just find it very weird/odd that the DRF is the only source of horse racing news out there that has yet to acknowledge HANA.

So much for it being the Horseplayers Bible. They are missing a few books.

southfloridaracingjournal said...

Hialeah recently dropped all wagers to 12%. Unfortunately, the largest ADW, Twinspires, refuses to put them on their betting menu, probably in hopes that the takeout increase will show mixed results at best.
Actually I am sure the reason Twinspires refuses to take Hialeah is becasue they are suing Hialeah, about 10 miles from Calder, to STOP the installation of slot machines. They failed.

Slot Machines Coming To Hialeah Park

HIALEAH, Fla. -- Construction began Sunday at Hialeah Park Race Track, as big changes are underway that could bring thousands of permanent jobs to South Florida.

In December 2010, Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina announced that the Florida Gaming Commission has approved the installation of slot machines and card rooms at Hialeah Park.

"Hialeah Park has received from the state of Florida their slot license," Robaina said.

The owners of the 77-year-old Hialeah Park have faced an uphill battle. The track has hosted quarterhorse racing for the last two years after closing from 2001 to 2009, but the park's business is not sustainable. Slot machines are expected to give the track much-needed revenue to reach the owners' final goal.

"To bring thoroughbred racing back as it was initially founded at Hialeah back in 1925," said track owner John Brunetti Jr.

Last week, a judge shut down part of a lawsuit by Calder Casino and Race Course, Flagler Dog Track and Miami Jai-Alai trying to stop Hialeah Park from getting slot machines.

Hialeah Park could have its new casino up and running a year from now. The owners plan to install a 90,000-square-foot luxury casino with card rooms and 800 slot machines.

Robaina said that the project will create permanent jobs in addition to the 3,000 construction jobs.

"Preserving what's there and adding new buildings, new casinos, new entrances, new areas of entertainment that in the long run will bring additional jobs -- over 8,000 permanent jobs," Robaina said.

For a city with a 15 percent unemployment rate, job growth is hard to come by. State Rep. Steve Bovo called the project "a job creator, an economic stimulus that is homegrown."

The Brunetti family already has spent about $9 million renovating the park, and they plan now to move ahead with a privately funded $85 million expansion.

Unknown said...


You were generous in not pointing out anonymous did not use a name.

If someone is going to comment/criticize, they should be willing to go on the record. Doing otherwise on this topic suggests they are either not a horseplayer, someone representing an entity in favor of higher takeout, or one of Steve's knee-jerk defenders.

Nick Kling

Cangamble said...

South, yes I am aware of that, but I believe they took the Hialeah signal last year, so it could have been a combination of the two. It does look like an anti-trust situation though if it is all about geography.

Hi Nick, very few comments on the blogs or journals, as you know, have real names associated with them, and I don't use my name on this blog, though many of my readers know who I am, so I can't throw stones on that basis.

But you are probably right on what makes that commenter tick.

Unknown said...

A screen name is fine, because it establishes a thread which readers can follow over time. To use anonymous smacks of cowardice.

Nick Kling

Anonymous said...

Even with all the praise that was heaped on Beulah for coming up with the Fortune 6 it now looks to me like it is dead. Who needs mutuel pools?