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Showing posts from January, 2014

"Marketing" Racing: It Ain't Like a Super Bowl Ad

Bacon lent some thoughts on slots and marketing in a tweet this week:

He elaborated a moment later......

Then George chimed in......

It's a nice progression of a number of tweets, in my opinion. It has validity.

This weekend a bunch of big brands are going to "market" at the Super Bowl. For $4 million you can buy a Super Bowl ad, and some people think that's ridiculous - even some in the industry who track sales after impressions -  and on the surface it might sound like it. But for some brands is it?  I don't think so.

Super Bowl ads are watched at a higher rate than every day ads (according to the WSJ) because the channel doesn't change and people are geared to watch them. These ads come in at around 3 cents per impression. When you add the hundreds of millions of hits on youtube and in other places, like on Morning TV shows, the impression per dollar spend rises considerably.

By average measures it can be argued they're cheap. Budweiser's cool Pup…

Dumb Money, NHC and Slots

Jose Arias who won the whopper NHC last weekend spoke to the DRF about his big win.

Regarding the possible hedge, or odds-smack down on Fit to Rule rumor and innuendo, Jose said he, or people he knows, didn't have anything to do with it. Later on in the DRF, Peter Fornatale, looked at the situation a little more closely, and said he heard that the late hit Fit to Rule took was from on-track money.

A true Horseplayer or gambler is skeptical for one reason only (some track executive's will give you a less-flattering reason, but they are wrong): Because we have to be or we will never come close to beating this game, or any game. When you see a place-win pool size discrepancy, it triggers what it should trigger in a good horseplayer. The detective instinct.

Knowing how easy it is to i) estimate the final odds on a horse through analyzing horizontals and WPS percentages and ii) to get a bet down in this day and age by a sharp gambler who knows his math, it made some even more sure …

"You're a Bunch of Rich Guys"

In today's snippet driven world - where narratives are borne and fit better on the back of a napkin rather than through proper intelligent debate - once you get framed, it's hard to change that framing. Just ask Mitt Romney, or in Canuckland, Justin Trudeau.

In Pennsylvania yesterday a bill was introduced to add $250,000,000 to the treasury. That quarter of a billion is coming from horse racing.

It's not coming from the groom who makes $11 an hour, or the mom and pop breeding farm down the street, or the feed woman with a new truck with payments of $945 a month, or the racetrack teller or track maintenance person.

It's coming from, you know, those Romney type "rich guys", (and shudder some even with a last name that we stereotypically have a problem with):
In a statement, Stephens was critical of the racing subsides, citing purses won by Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum... and “countless out-of-state racehorse owner millionaires.” When trying to forward your narrat…

Slots Dollars for Innovation: The RDSP Redux, With a Little Bezos and Google

With the relatively (maybe not depending on your perspective) shocking news that it is a possibility that $250 million could be removed from Pennsylvania horse racing, a look back at the RDSP might be in order. It was a prescient, forward-looking plan, not seen anywhere in horse racing (in my opinion). Slots money to grow demand, explore new markets, new delivery mechanisms; a novel concept. One likely never to be embraced, but a plan that was well before its time.......

In 1998, founder Jeff Bezos made a trip to a Menlo Park, California garage.In that garage, which was a make-shift office and workshop, sat two kids who were trying to sell a new way to search the Internet.They were seeking seed money for their venture.

Bezos almost immediately obliged. He invested $250,000 of his own money into the concept. Those two kids were Sergey Brin and Larry Page and the concept they were working on was Google. This year, with Google’s stock hovering around $600 a share, that inves…

NHC Chatter: Smart, Greasy or None of the Above?

In Sunday's final table at the NHC, the eventual winner Jose Arias picked a losing horse, but held on when his nearest foe's winning pick (the one horse, Fit To Rule) fell $1.20 short. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

What would be the end of the story wasn't, however.

As "Q Racing" explains here, Fit To Rule took a late hit on the odds board, knocking him down from 8-1 to 6-1. At 8-1 Mr. Arias loses, at 6-1 he wins. This led to some speculation that Mr. Arias or someone in his camp bet $10,000 to win as a "hedge" or to knock down the odds enough so he was a winner. First place was $750,000, second place was $200,000; a big difference.

Former NHC Champion Michael Beychok said:

"The whole possibility of some sort of nefarious hedging being done by Arias is a non-starter with me. Of course he hedged. I would have and my cast members on Horseplayers discussed this possibility ad nauseum during the three day contest and immediately bef…

Social Media in Racing Is Far From Useless

The criticisms about social media's reach and ability to generate new fans are palpable, and they likely aren't going anywhere; probably because some of the shortcomings of social media are true.

It's very difficult to reach new fans through a medium like, say, twitter, and that's pretty obvious. However, I feel that's just a small part of the story: There is more to an industry's revenue stream than just filling the sales funnel with new fans, bettors, or what have you.

Although they are 33% more likely to spend money with you, supply referrals with 107% more sales, and it costs 600% more to sell something to someone new than old,  customers who have done business with you before are often forgotten. "We need new blood", the "game is too old", the "fan base is dying" are far more sexy than "I went to the track one time last month but I would go three times this month with a little push", I guess.

Social media helps brid…


Back in 2007 at a gaming conference an astute observer mentioned that he expected state by state gambling to have a life cycle, just like every other product. He thought the first to take a major hit were slots and believed that within ten or fifteen years, slot revenue would be a shadow of itself.

It wasn't really because slots are overly boring, it was because more and more gaming (including internet gambling) would spring up in state after state - in some sort of 'what can we pass next in gambling' death match - and the landscape would get so saturated, it had nowhere to go but down.

In Pennsylvania, this editorial seems to agree. 
In July, the state Gaming Control Board reported that for the first time since casinos opened in Pennsylvania, gross slot machine revenue declined in fiscal year 2012-13. That's because people realize that when it comes to gambling, someone's going to tap out. Probably the players. Government is encouraging citizens to gamble away …

Is CRM a Lost Art in Racing? Gene-o, Crist, and errrr Drones!

The Meadowlands has had a bit of a resurgence of late. on-track handle has been trending higher for some time, and this year that number has continued to do well, with the addition of a new grandstand.

There was an interview with Jason Settlemoir, the Meadowlands CEO in the Horseplayer Monthly released yesterday.

From the interview:

"Our fans have also noted much better fan-friendly service and how clean our facilities are, I pride myself with these operating principals and also integrity in everything we do. We have made a concentrated effort on fan friendly service and people see we are responding to all our social media posts, media e-mails (, as we return every one of them and we return messages as well. Our fans say to us sometimes I never thought you would respond to that e-mail or call me back, it never use to be like that. Fan-friendly service is the lifeblood and cornerstone of any good organization and without it you might as well pack your …

A Re-Monopoly in Ontario?

Yesterday it was announced that Rod Phillips has stepped down as CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. 

Phillips was in charge of the modernization plan to increase per capita gambling revenue in the Province, where it lagged behind several other jurisdictions with gaming. That plan - to proliferate online gaming, more and bigger casinos and otherwise - was lauded by government insiders as a way to bridge the deficit and fund government initiatives.

However, so far it has failed to resonate (we surmised this might be happening last year). Casino votes in Toronto and Vaughn, for example, were not exactly pro-casino. It is reported in the piece that other municipalities will be looking at it. I guess there are some cities out there who will want a casino, but they probably won't be where the government wants them to be, to ensure max revenues.

What is going ahead with the OLG, is the amalgamation between it and horse racing; proposed in the initial brief almost two years ago.…

Horseplayers Hate Everything Don't They?

Horse racing; it's a place where the other 'half' (which is probably about 94%, since purse money comes from their betting) complains. Takeout sucks, Twinspires is greedy. You're all a bunch o' cheaters with my money. He stiffed the six horse. Blah, blah, blah.

That's stereotypical of course, but it's a narrative.

So, I guess horseplayers must've hated "Horseplayers" on Esquire TV last evening?

As far as I can tell, that's a big fat nope.

Here in the frozen tundra we did not see the show. None of the cable or satellite companies carry this Esquire channel you all speak of. So, I followed along on twitter.

There I saw complaints about Groupie Doll not being twenty to one. I saw the artistic license questioned at times. There were some little things. But on the whole, all I noticed was a bunch of folks watching who seemed to be having a little bit of fun.

As my pal Dan says this morning:
Reactions from horseplayers to @Horseplayers seems ove…

If Horse Racing Went Richard Sherman

As mom's and dad's sit around breakfast tables trying to reinstill the long held sports tradition of winning with class after last night's polar vortex of the antithesis, it got me thinking........

What if Richard Sherman was ported back in horse racing history?

After winning the Triple Crown, Affirmed to Alydar: "Lionel Ritchie is gonna write a song about you, "Once, Twice, Three Times a Loser."

Shug McGauhey to Todd Pletcher after Orb's Triple Crown win: "Hey expensive-tie-boy, you can talk smack with your five entries, but you suck in the big one."

Calvin Borel to Javier Castellano after a BC race at Churchill: "I'm gonna pop you one in the nose" Whoops.

The Phipps Family to Sackatoga Stable: "Get these commoners out of the turf club, and take that gelding with them."

After Zenyatta won the Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita, John Shirreff to the DRF: "Eat my west coast bias, Mofo's"

Larry Collmus after…

Sunday Notes

It's like Rachel versus Zenyatta.

Today's early NFL game has New England traveling to Denver with the winner heading to the big game. All week, and even before then, the Brady versus Manning narrative has filled both the airwaves and in print. If you read some of the inside football press there is an us versus them narrative. You can't be a Brady fan and a Manning fan. You have to pick a side.

I'm not sure who the "synthetic specialist" is, or whether its Brady or Manning who "sucked at four", but it's out there.

In the mainstream press - e.g. the AP - it's different. This is one of the more well-balanced articles I have read on the two, and the game itself.

In Harness Racing Update today a letter talked about 'kicking':

"We have a great opportunity to present harness racing as the exception to the public's perception that horse racing is animal abuse controlled by petty criminals who win any way they can. Leo Burns is the …

Handle Goes Up When You Create a Better Gamble

In HRU today:

"Making horse racing a better gamble has a lot to do with the price, but it’s more than that. Look at last week’s carryover in the pick 5 at the Big M. Over $100,000 additional dollars were bet into the sequence. It was not because of a free food offer, or a promotion was going on, or the Jets cheerleaders were trackside, it was because with the carryover, the pick 5 was a better gamble. It made the racing roulette wheel not have twelve zeroes, but potentially four or five of them."

The full article is here (pdf)

Mike Dorr looked at similar, in a kind of fun way yesterday on his blog. What's a more likely press release?

Where's DeRosa? There are plenty asking. I just started following Ed a few weeks ago and he leaves twitter. Coincidence? I think not. Sid looks at the story. 

7 Days of @itstheJHO Fashion Pictures on PTP's Blog ® continues today, for the very last day. For all other JHO pics, just scroll below.

Here's Justin relaxing at home with a…

Happy Friday #BostonMarket

Good morning everyone!

Today's social media tip: Use #BostonMarket on twitter when wanting to promote something. Example: The Sunshine Millions is today #horseracing #Gulfstream #BostonMarket . Or, I once visited a #Bostonmarket to mull breeding my mare to the best ever, #WesternIdeal. Or, visit the Paulick Report. #DRFPlusstinks #Cummings. #BostonMarket. Landers might want to see a story on an NFL tight end getting lost and doing something that Larry Collmus talks about, but screw em; it's dog eat dog for traffic out there.

Money for aged horses is pretty bad, when compared to that of the glamor division. Slowly that's changing a little bit, and the Quebec Jockey Club threw their hat in the ring with a $200,000 Prix d'Ete for four year old pacers only. If you want the Captain at your track, this is a good way to do it.

Bill Finley writes "If Alex Rodriguez was a horse trainer".  

Breeders Cup dude, fashion-man, and all-around-nice-fellow, Peter Rotondo is …

Competition For Horse Racing Is Always Expanding

Folks on my twitter timeline were marvelling at this year's Japan Cup. I was too. Tons of people in the grandstand and on the tarmac, a good race and mega bucks were bet on the affair.

Oh if it was only like that here, we heard, as we often do.

That's probably about to change. Japan is ready to pass a casino bill, and it's expansive.  The market which primarily is racing oriented (with a dash of some game called Pachinko -  which I thought was the Price is Right game, but it's not), will no longer be, in the coming years.

In North America, there is so much competition for the horse bettor it ain't even funny.

I spoke to a friend last week who was playing a real money game with head to head fantasy football. In a couple of weeks at the Super Bowl, magic squares games, and other bets will surface at bars, at parties or on the web, near you.

Years ago, I worked a little for a start-up that was making real money head-to-head video games a reality.  How's that for …

Top Ten Things That Will Happen After Today's Paulick Report Column

In this morning's Paulick Report article, Paulick looked at the divergent management paths in California between racing and the lottery. The lottery increased handle by increasing payouts to customers. Cali Racing, as we all know, has lost handle since the they decreased payouts to customers in late 2010.

Being in a major publication, this could change the way the world works, and could cause some problems for Paulick. Here are my top ten things that may happen in the future.

1. Ray: "Hi, I am Ray Paulick and I have a reservation for table 11, right by the window for today's Santa Anita Derby"
Maitre'd: "Excuse me, Ray who?"

2. The annual Christmas card from Pegram doesn't come, but it's replaced by a thirty cent Horseplayers Association of North America pen with "Happy Holidays" written on the back of an old program.

3. The chances of the Strub being renamed "The Ray Paulick Stakes" just went down to below zero.

4. When Pau…

Common Sensibilities

Our pal @sidfernando tweeted out a link to a New York Times column today about how we all look at animals in this day and age.

I know what you may be saying: "Ugh, The New York Times and animals....... gee I wonder where this is going". You may be right, but I thought the writer made some excellent points.
Greater scrutiny of food production has prompted keener disgust over the fate of many farm animals, along with state legislation to spare them florid suffering. This is only going to build, because at the same time that scientific advances force us to gaze upon the animal kingdom with more respect, the proliferation of big and little cameras — of eyes everywhere — permits us to eavesdrop not just on animal play but also on animal persecution.  One might think this is just an urban or left of center thing, but I disagree. This behavior is being noticed almost everywhere, and anywhere, with just about everyone nowadays.

I was out last week with a friend I grew up with, w…

Playing With Stats Is Fun, Sometimes

Playing with stats can be interesting, no matter what we do, but these stats always have to be looked at through some sort of statistically significant lens.

For example.....

The NFL playoffs are upon us, and the airwaves are filled with narratives. This weekend, the Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady story is one of them, when the Manning led Broncos meet the Brady led Patriots at Mile High Sports Authority Field in Denver. (I always find curious the who versus who in football, because the two players never actually play against each other, like say one of those MMA fighters do.  Anyhoo, I digress.)

Manning has won 4 of 14 matchups and Tom has won 10 of them. That's the big story in the media. But what if we looked at the last decade, and only examined home records? Well, you'd find out that only three of those games were played on Manning's home turf, and he's "won" two of them. Maybe we can start a new narrative? Tom Brady is 1 and 2 on the road against Peyt…

Big M Carryover and Lower Handle Really Means Less Purse Money?!

Hello racing fans!

Tonight there's a Big M carryover in the pick 5 pool, beginning in race one. I'm on a betting hiatus, so my dead money won't be in the pools lowering your takeout, but that should be a good pool (probably well over $100k) and a good sequence.

Great question (page three, pdf)

"Why would any sport, any business, for that matter, any society, stand by and do next to nothing when its rules are routinely violated?"

The kicking stuff is truly one of the more bizarre situations you will see in any regulated sport. How it has not been addressed is a scourge on the business, and it gives no one any hope virtually anything positive can ever get done.

There's also a good update on the horrific harness racing accident at Freehold yesterday. You don't wish this on anyone, but what a shame for a class driver, Cat Manzi.

I got a poignant email from a seasoned every day player yesterday about why he has not been playing racing so far in…

Western's Handle Resurgence, Some Stones, and Nice Work on Customer Segments

Good morning racefans!

From Harness Racing Update (page 4 PDF)

"On Friday January 7th 2011, Western Fair brought in a nightly handle of $108,640 and gave out close to $70,000 in purses. Last Friday evening they handed out a similar $70,000 in purses, but garnered a handle of $531,000. That was the highest handle night at the oval in over a decade."
In Ontario (and many other places with smaller tracks and slots) you'd often hear - when a track with $200k in handle was racing for $100k in purses - that "the handle doesn't even cover the purse".  This metric is intertwined in the fabric of racing. The takeout from the handle does not just have to cover a purse and its much more complicated than that, with fingers in the pie, other costs associated with a dollar in handle, the way its split, slots etc, but that number stands the test of time. Several years ago Standardbred Canada even added handle to purse numbers in its reporting. 
At little Western Fair, handl…

Neat Ideas, Rolling Doubles and Some Transparency

Hello racing fans. A good Thursday to you all.

Last evening the Meadowlands issued a press release speaking of "Cobalt". I am unsure this is really about cobalt (it may be about loading B12 to get the red blood cell count up so horses do not get tired as quickly), but a couple of tests showed sky-high readings recently. This prompted Gural to boot those trainers from his tracks.

Interestingly enough this is apparently nothing new (if you read the chat boards or talk to some backstretch types), but this drug was not on the list of drugs tested for. I am guessing, but it seems that with Gural sending these samples to Hong Kong, the labs test for more than the drugs that are simply on the list.

Why is this bad? It appears it turns horses blood into sludge, like EPO does, with prolonged usage.

Anything for an edge, I guess.

There is a new petition going around with a horseplayer asking for Rolling Doubles back in California. What happened was this: Cali racing has been having a to…

Where is Handle Going in 2014?

2013 handles are in the books. There was a decrease in racedays, a decrease in field size and flat handles.  Purses, which generally have little to do with overall handle, were also flat.

Like we've seen over the past several years, the decrease in racedays causes handle to fall. A decrease in field size causes handle to fall. The other main driver of handle - the price, or takeout - has generally been falling, because rebating has not been a bad word like it was early in the decade.

What will happen in 2014? Well, we are likely to see a further reduction in racedays. With slots revenue falling, as well as handle stagnating and foal crops receding, we aren't pulling out our pocket Kreskin to make that proclamation. Some tracks have finally concentrated on field size, like Keeneland, and made it a go-to metric, but overall (see NYRA or So Cal), short fields continue to be something this business seems to crave and cling to. I can't see that going up either.

The last metric …

Integrity, Western Fair, Short Fields and a Little Football

Hello everyone.

In HRU today, a second look at the phenomenon of "not trying in a race" with a well-bet horse was examined, via some reader comments. (pdf page 4)

The NFL supplies perfect information to bettors so they can handicap and decision-make, based on a spread. In harness racing this does not occur. A “no try” or “try” effort does not occur with such perfect information. It simply occurs based on the connections view of the race, or a driver’s decision making before, or right behind the gate. Did you know for sure Market Share was going to the back on a speed favoring track at 2-5? For sure? Of course you didn’t. But you did know the Chiefs were sitting their best players. Industry insiders like to say “well, its buyer beware and that’s why they call it gambling.” That’s nonsense. You’re not running an industry where customers have to guess if a magician is pulling a rabbit out of a hat, or if a little spinning ball will land on six, it’s a betting skill game with st…