I agree those are two factors affecting handles. Studies show that field size is correlated to betting handle, and as we as players know when you have 3-5 shots that are beatable on paper, but seemingly unbeatable in reality, we tend to skip the race.
However, I think two other issues are at play. And I think racing better learn them and learn them quickly. Both involve trying to squeeze a dry lemon for more juice.
Rumor has it (and it was mentioned in cautionary terms by HANA in December before the meet started) that Tampa Bay raised their signal fees for this meet. This is a takeout increase on volume ADW players, which effects their bottom line. Time and time again we hear of aggressive racetracks wanting to "get more of the pie". There is only one player, and when you take more, he or she bets less.
Second, this year there was a dust-up between Tampa Bay and TVG. TVG is a good promotional arm for racetracks, and if your signal is not out there in a crowded landscape you can get lost. From last December when TVG announced they were not hosting Tampa Bay this season:
- Last season alone, as the Tampa Bay Downs signal continued to increase in popularity, $20.2 million was wagered on TBD through TVG, a virtual 33 percent increase from the previous season. “The ball is in their court,” said Tampa Bay Downs Vice President and General Manager Peter Berube. “They have severely underpaid us for a number of years and we are finally in a position to be compensated at market rates. "
If the seller of the product squeezes, he will get less handle. Tampa Bay, in my opinion, seems to be (in part anyway) living that reality this year.