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Showing posts from October, 2015

Oh No Ontario

Here's where we juxtapose.

"The one point that I want to discuss is your future and what it depends on," Buchanan said. "It is more than about the money, it is about the customer. And today we had some serious horseplayers in the audience… they are your customers, they are your future… your future depends on how many people are coming to the track and how many people are coming to the track and betting… The government is going to support you based on how many customers you have and how much money they [wager], so that's your future… Everyone, collectively, has to think about how you attract bettors and customers to the track and regain interest in the industry."

Buchanan went on, adding, "I said this yesterday: two years ago if we had one of these (industry consultation sessions) I don't think we would have heard 'customer' or 'horseplayer' mentioned. It would have just been about how much money there was and how we were …

Big Things in the Works for TVG2

There were a couple of announcements in TV land today, one insignificant and small - AMC's Breaking bad is back for season six - the other huge - HRTV is being rebranded as TVG2.

You can read the TVG press release, but not much is elaborated upon. Fortunately I have the inside scoop from Cub Reporter regarding what's in store with everyone's new favorite racing channel - TVG2.

Look, no one reads this blog so disclaimers are not needed, but if one of you is reading this and would like to share it, please do it on the dark web or something. Both Cub Reporter and the big wigs at TVG2 don't want anyone to know these details.

Here's what I got.

The new tagline for the network was hashed out. "We felt it was appropriate to call the new network "the second TVG, that was once HRTV", said an unnamed executive. "We don't want to confuse fans, and ever since Philadelphia Park changed its name to Parx their handle has been getting killed. We ain't…

DRF Survey, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

I enjoyed taking the DRF survey - which was mainly about drug use and lasix - a few weeks ago, and the results were released today. The results pretty much echo similar surveys released over the years on similar issues.

Tonko Bill, Something Borrowed - The bill that has been pushed by the Jockey Club which would allow the USADA to control testing, and provide some federal oversight for the sport, received solid support in the DRF survey. The numbers are near the HANA survey of its membership for such federal oversight, and also near the poll the Jockey Club commissioned themselves. Those numbers are old hat.

What's most interesting in this, in my view, is the frustration from fans and players. The DRF survey showed that even if signals are pulled, people want something done. Like it or not, the Jockey Club, and whomever else is pushing this, have a strong mandate to act. There is no denying it, and opponents, again in my view, better come up with an alternative rather than the pow…

Make Things Harder, Not Easier to Handicap & Good Things Can Happen

This fall's Keeneland meet had handle drop once again. This meet, favorites won at an almost unprecedented 43%.

I thought I would print this article written for the TDN earlier this year. I think the thesis is sound, and the sport should always look at making things more interesting for the handicapper. When the art of handicapping is deeper, with more angles, with more chaos, it makes the game easier to beat, not harder to beat, and that attracts betting dollars.

No Easy Money, A Gamblers’ Diary, written by UK horseplayer Dave Nevison is a dandy read. For those of us here in the New World it provided us with an interesting, eye-opening glimpse into the day in and day out machinations of a UK horseplayer. The book followed Dave’s quest from the 2008 Cheltenham Festival right through to the last flat race of the year, the St Leger at Doncaster, and detailed his day to day bets, his ups, his downs, and the method to his madness in trying to beat the races.

What struck me most about …

The Wholistic Racing Experience

The "racing experience" and its importance to cultivate and satisfy customers is often spoken about. The ABR Live Bus, the bands, the bars and night club construction, filling up time between races with games or contests, are all things that tend to be universally praised. I don't think there's much wrong with this view, because you are trying your best, in a live setting, to get people to enjoy themselves, tell their friends and come back to the track at a later date.

On-track marketing and customer service is looked at 'wholistically'.

Meanwhile, over on the Internet, it's not embraced in nearly the same fashion.

One thing I like about DraftKings and FanDuel is that when you log in, you are taken to a world of fantasy sports betting. There are easy to use rosters, yes, but there are links in and about the site to news, real time stats, line-up help, proprietary statistics, and a way to socially engage. When you're in, there's really no reason to…

Cannibals & Control

The CHRB meeting yesterday yielded the usual gems. This time about "fantasy horse racing".
"I view fantasy horse racing as a very significant threat to our existing business model," Daruty said. This is horse racing codespeak for "I view something we can't control as a threat." It's what horse racing does, or runs to, over and over again. Considering the existing business model - falling handle, falling revenue and a reliance on slots or government help - is no great shakes one wonders what one is protecting, but that's neither here nor there. It's simply the codespeak.

Racing has always lived with a mix of entitlement (we were here first as a monopoly, so gamblers are ours), fear (anything new is something we need a piece of because it will destroy us), and stagnation (anything fresh offered in the space needs to be looked at as "cannibalization" and should be immediately stopped).

This is nothing new.

Exchange wagering is a good…

Tuesday Notes

Good morning folks!

The Big M, for 2016, will be running dual cards next September. Harness racing and Thoroughbred racing will both take the track.

Politics sullies just about everything we do, or see nowadays, and I expect the state of Indiana and horse racing is not dissimilar.
The firing of Gorajec “for focusing too much on regulating the industry, the commission made an unethical decision,” she wrote. “As a lifelong Hoosier who loves Indiana, I find myself, once again, disappointed and angered by the lack of ethics exhibited by too many public officials in our state. We can do better.”“Any ethicist worth his or her salt will tell you good promoters do not make good regulators. Giving the promotion responsibility to the regulator is a bad idea. That's a fair point from the congresswoman. Horse racing is a hodgepodge of regulation, and unlike other gambling games or sports, has unique opposing supply and demand forces that can run afoul of each other. Because of that, ke…

Always B Miki - Great Horse, Great Story

On Saturday night at Woodbine, a horse you probably know well from following the blog - Always B Miki - wowed them in his Breeders Crown elimination. Although he seemed to have some trouble on the turns, he exploded to victory, making some very nice horses look like 20 10 claimers. You can watch the race below.

This horse has captured the imagination of some - many more now - because not only is he fast, never seems to get tired and wins in a flashy fashion, he has done it with a ton of problems. As most of you know, before the Breeders Crown last year (and I suspect in his elimination race where he only won by a head and was running in), he fractured a bone and was scratched. Then this year, in May, making his comeback, he fractured another pastern while training down again.

An interesting point on the latter break, the new trainer of the horse - Jim Takter - liked him so much training down that he asked to buy a piece of him, at a fairly good sum. The ask from Takter was right befor…

The Whirlwind of Gambling Market Machinations

The whirlwind regarding gambling skill games, oh, I think we can call it gambling again, has been eye-opening of late. It certainly has been frustrating for those who wish to see pursuits like horse racing wagering, fantasy, or sports betting gain more of a foothold in the North American market.

In reality, it's an uphill battle and the Daily Fantasy discussion illustrates this perfectly.

In the beginning - and it would always get to this point - it was about "regulation". The activists in newspapers, the folks who do not lean libertarian in pursuits like this, and the well-meaning who want to see the environment improved for customers, pushed this narrative and wished it as a goal. There's really nothing wrong with that wish. Calling for ADW's, DFS, anything that does business on the web moving money or with a game involved (e.g. Ebay), to have some basic rules is not remotely radical.

Even for those of us who generally prescribe to Adam Smith's, "Virtu…

Lottery "Integration", Things are Better Off in the Backwoods & Friday Notes

I don't blame you for reading this press release from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp and shrugging your shoulders.

"The horse racing industry in Ontario is being asked to provide input on a long-term financial model with respect to the ongoing integration and modernization of gaming in Ontario.

Rigby's letter notes that OLG is "developing a co-branding marketing strategy" that involves the launch of "horse-themed products through our Lottery and Internet business channels." He went on to state that the next area of focus for horse racing's integration within the province's gaming strategy is developing "a financial model to provide a long-term funding framework," exploring options and avenues "that help create economic confidence in a transparent and accountable way, beyond 2019."

Rigby noted that he has discussed this focus with Cal Bricker, OLG's Senior Vice President of Horse Racing, and has asked him to …

Gambling Innovation: Killing Something Before it Begins

Back in the 1860's a new invention was starting to be marketed to the UK public - the steam car. The steam car allowed for obvious benefits over the horse-drawn carriage, and was beginning to catch on. A shift was occurring in a mass market.

Stagecoach owners - powerful, big businesses with big businessmen - were none too pleased. Failing to see the market was innovating and shifting, they lobbied hard, and clung to what they knew - doing things the way they had always done them.

Friends in the media and in the government began writing dire stories and preaching warnings about these new machines: They scared the horses, they were dangerous, they were job killers. In response, the government began regulating these new machines out of existence. The "Red Flag Law" was passed in 1865 which mandated a top speed of four miles per hour, that two people had to be present to operate the vehicle, and that a third man or woman had to march forward to any intersection with a red fl…

More Optics For Racing Talk. I Think it Means Just About Everything

I was posting this link to an article a little bit ago (pdf, p4):

Draft Kings and others like them have brought a lot of these issues on themselves. Despite them knowing many were waiting in the weeds to pounce, their structure, their lack of controls, their desire to grow at breakneck speed and their inexperience still made them gloss over what’s most important: Transparency, the integrity of a gambling game, and how such is perceived. That’s something that never gets old and they’re getting a lesson in that truism. 

[Meanwhile] racing depends in large part on public money, and government support, and make no mistake, like with Fantasy Sports, there are many in the weeds waiting to pounce. That is all the more reason to be hyper-vigilant with these issues. If any rule change looks bad – no matter how well intentioned - it must be scrapped, because optics mean everything. 

 Just after linking it, I saw the sad news about BC Sprint contender Rock Fall.

The past week we've been speaki…

Skill Games

I was chatting recently with a racetrack insider type. I say that with reverence - this fellow, although now in breeding and racing, has done just about everything in the game, including gamble on it. He told me that within the business he can talk to others in power about virtually anything, but , "Trying to have a rational discussion about racing as a gambling enterprise and what it needs to do is like pulling your hair out."

Add gambling to almost any conversation, and at times, it's like you are speaking Swahili.

The DFS headlines have abound of late, and for those of us who love the pursuit of skill game gambling - racing, DFS, fixed odds wagering etc - it's been like pulling your hair out on what seems like an hourly basis. The misinformation, the lack of (if you will) skill in reporting about gambling in the media - much of the media with their knives out regarding these pursuits - is astonishing.

One of the most insufferable narratives about the skill game ma…


"A different kind of political massacre is unfolding in horse racing at the local level, though it will have ripple effects throughout the country. Shockingly, Joe Gorajec, who for nearly 25 years has been executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, has gotten word he is being fired this Saturday by his politically appointed superiors."

If horse racing wasn't a rudderless ghost ship, governed in an anachronistic regulatory morass, Joe would probably getting yearly awards, not fired. But it is. And it's shameful.

Great piece by Paulick. Please give it a read if you're interested. 

The DFS & Racing Brouhaha's & My Pal Joe Drape

It's been a fun time to be a fan of the machinations of old versus new, new versus old, horse racing and the new kid on the block, Daily Fantasy Sports.

Seriously, when we get twitter memes from tweets like these about Joe Drape, it's a pretty exciting time.

What would we talk about without Joe around? We'd probably just get mad at Richard Dutrow, and he hasn't been around since Nicolas Cage's last good role.

This DFS "scandal" which involved an employee posting ownership values too early on the interweb (in this case twitter), has Joe fired up. Maybe there is more to this story, who knows, but he's fired up. However, getting all excited about this doesn't really fit when it comes to horse racing land, and consistency.

Back in the early 2000's, racing had the "Fix Six" scandal. This involved changing tickets after the races had been run - pure fraud - to take money from others in a game. This DFS thing, at the present time, is nothin…

Gambling is Bad

There's been quite the brouhaha in Daily Fantasy Sports this past week. You see, some employees of the major DFS sites can see large scale big data about what lineups are taken for a given week, and some was "inadvertently published". Employees can not play on a site they work at, of course, but at the present time that doesn't stop them from playing at others. There's no hard evidence anything wrong has been done with this "data leak" (not to mention seeing lineup percentages are not much different than projected) but the optics are bad.

When a site, or a gambling game gets big in the new world, it's PR that they have to worry about. The purse strings for everything related to most things are controlled by politicians, and politicians love to regulate. It's even worse for gambling because gambling - something you and I happily do with our after tax dollars - is constantly attacked from the left and the right. They don't agree on many things…

45% Hit Rates With Chalk? Big Keeneland Opener, Pick 5's, Suffolk Downs

Good morning racing folks.

Earlier this week at the TDN, Younger gamblers - Millennials - and horse racing was examined.  Today, in Harness Racing Update, the phenomenon was explored with a focus on harness racing. It's a long piece, but I hope you read the harness version and let me know what you think.

It did dawn on me that millennials who are smart, educated, like playing games of some sort, are not unlike anyone, any age, who is smart, educated and likes playing games of some sort. Really, if you fix one issue, you fix others.

One of the examples used in the piece was hit rates for favorites driven by a top driver, in this case Brian Sears and Jason Bartlett at Yonkers. Those two win at 45% rates with the chalk at Yonkers, over the last two years. Their ROI's are somewhere around -15%. That's the type of win proposition you are giving people who are smart gamblers, and it's just a non-starter.

Conversely, the industry constantly tries to attack "lotto players…