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Showing posts from September, 2015

Customers Lose in Illinois

Live harness racing in Illinois has been scrapped at Balmoral Park and Maywood Park. The dates have shifted to Hawthorne, a Thoroughbred venue. Harness Racing Update has the full story.

I am the first to admit that - other than what you and I read in that piece as well as others - I know little about the machinations of the decisions, the politics and the bedfellows. But I do know a little about being a customer of the racing product, and in my view, this is really going to hurt.

Balmoral Park has built a betting brand, much due to the work of Michael Antoniades, and this brand is very strong. It is not uncommon to see million dollar handles at the venue, with less than $70,000 purses given out in an evening. The pick 4 has been branded well. When they dropped takeout from 25% to 15% they went to work promoting the bet, and its average pools increased from around $7,000 to $30,000 during that time. If you are a harness fan and you want to make a bet in a decent sized pool, Balmoral w…

Tuesday Notes

Good day everyone.

Mohawk's closing night of the meet is tonight and they're discontinuing the jackpot pick 6, with a mandatory payout. That bet, more or less, flopped. Replacing it is a 15% takeout pick 5 from races one through five, beginning October 1st, when the meet flips over to Woodbine. The Woodbine standardbred menu for non-rebated players is poor, so this bet is welcomed for those looking for a higher payout than the 25% pick 4 offers.

They are not having a mandatory payout for the Super High Five tonight, so beware of that. Amazingly, the Super High Five, with shorter fields and little hope to hold a single ticket chugs along when the pool reaches $200,000. I understand the want for a big payout, I get the fact that rebated players can play this with some sort of contrarian skill, I get that some lottery players throw a few dollars in, but the pool generating $40,000 an evening is still a little confusing.

I often wonder what would happen if bets were protected by …

Millennial Gamblers, Hats, Clubs, "Action" ..... or Value?

Jeff Hwang at the Motley Fool (h/t to @derbyologist) analyzed gamblers in his demographic in a lengthy piece anyone interested in the topic (read-horse racing) should give a go.

We often hear young people won't bet the races, attend racetracks. They don't have the attention span, you see. They also don't want to bet slots. They're a different breed that wants different things. Vegas, racetracks and others have tried parties, lots of interesting action betting, hats, and concerts. Although some of that might work to get them in the house, they are still not gambling.
The problem is, virtually all of the discussion regarding millennials has centered on abstract explanations seeking abstract solutions, when the biggest problem is likely far more fundamental than that. Few if anybody discussing the millennial problem have discussed it in the context of the declining economics of gambling itself. What he speaks of is what we've spoken about here often enough - metaporic…

Moving the Wagering Needle

Yesterday Kentucky Downs had a nice day of handle.

Kentucky Downs, despite bad weather, card cancellations, moved cards and spots of bad luck, set an all time meet handle record in 2015. Almost inexplicably, California only allowed races 4 through 12 to be shown and bettors could not take advantage of low takeout, carryover pools, so that certainly hurt the bet too.


At around $5.8 million for the biggest card of the year in Pennsylvania (with millions in purses), it barely beat the Franklin, KY all turf track.

It's neat that the power of Chrome is what it is. I made a crack months ago, only half joking, that in terms of moving handle I think Chrome is more powerful than this year's Triple Crown winner. I think a case can still be made he might.

Regardless, one track is dependent on carding good races, with deep fields at lower than average takeout rates to grow, slowly and with purpose. The other needs a Kentucky Derby winner on their biggest day to move the needle…

Marketing Spend Delivers If....

Hey, have you seen the Draft Kings commercials?

Unless you are stranded on a desert island,


"What's the biggest superfecta you've hit in your playing days PTP?"

"I hit one at Keeneland that paid $195,847." is my answer.

Although, in racing, what you hit it for versus what it's reported as is often pure folly. There wasn't $195,847 in the pool at Keeneland. But there it was, reported as such.
@ABRLive@BobEhalt Superfecta $1.00 $146,964.90 WO 9/13/15 4 You must stop deceiving people.Pool was $38,797 after takeout! #integrity? #BS — Eric Poteck (@Epo13) September 15, 2015 I don't blame Bob for his article at ABR. It takes a calculator to figure out what something really pays, versus what it's reported as. In horse racing, reporting life-changing scores that aren't really life-changing scores is something that just happens.

Like most things like this in racing - will pays, probables, etc - everything should be by the book and uniform. In fact, if a casino reported a $2 million dollar slots payoff, or a lottery reported a $22 milli…

Fascinating Parallels

Horse racing, cycling, track, football and other sports are in a very unique position. They are all forms of "clubs" where if you own, train or participate, you are handled in a different way, than say, a worker in a factory, or a white collar Wall Street type.

These "clubs" depend not on a rule of law, but on a rule of the club. Without this, the clubs are unable to function. It costs a lot of money to catch and penalize a track athlete, or horse trainer, or cycling team, so things like moral suasion, peer pressure from within, and other tactics are used, and have been for generations.

Examples of this in horse racing might be a trainer who starts magically winning at huge rates. You, me and the fencepost know what's up, but they are uncatchable. The authorities are handcuffed, so this trainer might be told "we see the cloudy tests, we see each horse at 35.5 mmol's, we hear the whispers, we saw the hippiron bill, we know you are pushing the envelope. …

Carryover Madness

Yesterday we saw more with the power of carryovers and mandatory payouts. When money is added to a pool, the chance for a higher payoff and the chance to make a serious score increases. That's the big-pools lower takeout formula the sport needs (although the sport doesn't like you to know about the latter half of that equation).

The carryover at Saratoga in the pick 6 attracted $2.7 million, and paid $46,440.

The mandatory payout at Gulfstream attracted $2.0 million and paid $261,743.

The carryover at Del Mar attracted just over $1.0 million and paid $694,742.

In an Andy Beyer interview at the Horseplayer Monthly, he said 'I even play carryovers at Assinboia Downs'. Well they had a small $4,300 carryover in the Super High Five yesterday and handled over $44,000 on the bet.

The good news is a lot of people play these bets. The bad news is that almost 100% of them ended up losing. The money is spread around to very few, and churn doesn't happen.

The exact opposite ha…

Pennsylvania versus Kentucky: Your Betting Pools Are Your Brand

Yesterday was an interesting day. The Del Mar and Saratoga meets were winding down with some decent racing, and together they did well over $30 million in handle. Expected. These are your summertime signals.

Meanwhile, over in Franklin, Kentucky, a newer track (I say newer because it has been making noise for only a few years) was up against those two strong signals: Kentucky Downs.

Many hundred miles away, in Philadelphia, Philly Park Parx had a Saturday card going. It was a part of their "Fall Festival", with juiced purses and plenty of promo.

Kentucky Downs, who was not up against those two strong signals last year, would be expected to see a handle shortfall. One would expect, anyway. They didn't:
@JerseyTom@GregReinhart@Pullthepocket@mikedorr77 couldn't have predicted being up 36%. — C.J. Johnsen (@ceejayjohnsen) September 6, 2015 Up 36% to over $3.6 million, is well done. Especially when a few short years ago this track averaged less than $900,000 in handle per…

All About the Cash

In this social media age sometimes Adam Smith seems like an anachronism. Greece, bailouts, 16 ounce soda bans, so much muddies the airwaves. But in the end, its always about the free market.

I have been speaking about golf recently, and how those players and that game lives in a culture where the rules are the rules. Just yesterday when the Tom Brady news came out, Jordan Spieth was giving his news conference for this week's Tournament.

He told a story about when he was a kid playing in Texas at a junior tourney. He got upset and threw his putter to the ground. It bent, but he played the last several holes with the putter, and made a few birdies, to win. He told his dad the story on the way home and his dad knew the rule - you can't play with a bent or broken club. They went in the next morning, told the tourney director what happened and young Jordan disqualified himself.

Compared to the news we see in sports in general of late, Brady clearly deflating a football and running …

The Bet is Sleepy

Crunk noted August's handle on his twitter feed yesterday. Races were down by about 450 races, and handle was about flat (up 0.5%). There was one fewer weekend day. This has pretty much been the story this year.

What makes August's handle a bit blech, is that Saratoga, Del Mar and Gulfstream make up a bigger percentage of racedates than in the past; and that's where the handle is. As well, Saratoga has had a perfect storm of good fortune this summer - few days off the turf, perfect weather, and a Triple Crown champ on national TV for the Travers (in fact, Pharoah raced two times in August to much fanfare). Del Mar, who had an atrocious meet last year has also been blessed with no turf or main track issues.

I was one of those folks who believed fewer racedates, done correctly, could increase handles overall. This was the case when Ontario got rid of slots a few years ago. The poorer meets were culled, and handle was up over 20%, with a simultaneous racedate reduction of 20%…