We've always been a Paulick fan here because he tends to covers some tough issues. The thoroughbred trade press, who gets most of their revenue from breeders and other insider groups, can not be very controversial, for obvious reasons - i.e. they know where their bread is buttered. However Paulick's site in its early days was nothing of the sort; he seemed to not care who he angered, or who he praised.
But today, it looks to this observer like the Paulick Report has jumped the shark.
In an editorial titled "California's Push for Purses", he extolls the virtues of a purse increase in California which reads almost like an advertisement in itself - which I guess is fine. However, several quotes are not up to his standard.
i) "Anecdotal evidence shows that wagering does increase with a lower takeout, but to my knowledge no studies have proven the point that reducing the cost of a bet will increase the revenue to tracks and purses."
ii) "What is most amazing about the legislation projected to raise purses by 25% is that racetrack owners agreed to channel every dollar from the additional revenue to purses."
iii) "There is an enormous investment to put this game on, from the standpoint of the racetracks and the horse owners. It’s not poker, where the investment is a deck of cards or a web site."
In looking at each comment -
Of course there are studies on take reductions doing some good, both theoretically and in practice. Places like HANA, Maury Wolff, Barry Meadow, The University of Louisville (hell, Ray Paulick walked there last week) Jeff Platt, Eugene Christiansen and Wil Cummings (people who either gamble, have Phds or consult with gambling) all have listed them, or authored them. The old Ray would have sought them out before writing the piece for their opinion, instead of taking the CHRB's word for it. If he did he might have noted that a doubling of purses increase handles only 6%.
The "raise purses" line is even more old school. As Roger Way, commenting on the Paulick piece pointed out :
"Money was given to the horsemen for purses a few years ago via SB27($40 million) with the promise that it would solve the problems of racing. Here we are again with the same promise(2-3%increase,$70 million) for bigger purses."
The old Ray would have challenged the CHRB by asking "you raised purses $40 million several years ago to fix the same problems and now you are back doing the same thing. It did not work before, why would it work now, especially when you are going after overtaxed customers for it who have been leaving the game in droves?"
The old Ray might have looked at harness racing in slots states, where purses are obscenely high but handles barely break $100k a day and there is very little spreading of horse ownership apart from super-stables. The old Ray might have looked at the fact that vet bills and hyperbaric chambers and adequan and supplement costs all go through the roof causing every purse rise to go to suppliers and not doing a thing to grow the game. He might have noticed and asked about super-stables, with $5k a month bills, or factory like claiming outfits running vetted up 30,000 claimers for 10 to win a juiced up purse, turning horse owners off even more like has happened in dozens of jurisdictions with an artificial (and unsustainable) purse hike.
As for the "investment in the game" it is the whole 'cost to put the show' line that people in the industry like to use over and over again. Some of the above people tackle that line in the pieces that Ray seems to think are anecdoctal.
The old Ray might have asked "It costs billions to buy and run a casino, but takeout on video poker is 0.43%. It costs billions to cut down a tree, mine for sulpher, truck it and process it to make a pack of matches, but they are less than a dollar. Every wagering economist calls such logic specious at best. Why do you in power in the industry keep feeding us this non-economic demagoguery? "
You can usually tell the quality of an article in racing by the comments, and in the comments on the piece, and on chat boards, there is what I would call a dismay, but not from some of the usual suspects.
I notice Caroline Betts, who holds a Phd in economics and teaches it, poignantly challenged Ray's point by citing the Los Alamitos takeout increase stats, in more than one post. I can virtually see her pulling her hair out while typing.
"ITP" who is a California horse owner and large bettor who posts at Paceadvantage, was none too kind to Ray by typing: "When you repeatedly posted Fred Pope’s ramblings about revenue generated from wagering, I knew you had absolutely no idea about betting, gambling, horseplayers, etc. With this article, you now have removed all doubt to everybody that you know nothing about the betting aspect of racing."
Another poster said "I wonder what would happen to the Paulick Reports advertisers if he raised his rates above what is considered the norm."
I wonder myself. And looking at the Paulick Report's front page today, maybe these people are answering their own question.
Yep, a full blown paid ad from Cal Racing. Right underneath an "opinion" article about how great California will be with a takeout increase.
The first sign of being considered trade press has always been, to me, when you start editorializing like your advertisers. If that is the least bit true, Mr. Paulick's once daring and unapologetic site might now be considered just another part of the industry "trade press". If that is not true, well one thing is for sure - the Paulick Report's readers deserve much better editorial articles, because this one could have been written by the California Horse Racing Board.