Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday Wrap

Some quick notes this Wednesday.

Saturated Slots

Pompano Park is cutting purses 35% starting this week, and cutting a few racing dates.

As we have stated on the blog, and I think we are correct in stating it: Gambling dollars are not unlimited. The more casinos that are in play, the less money we have for harness racing. This will only get worse, in my opinion. Slots will never be a long-term fix for this business - never.

Ben, oh Ben

Words from trainer Ben Wallace today in a story at

"We've created a scenario where when young people win a race, he must have cheated," Wallace said this morning. He also went on to say that research can be a dangerous tool in the hand of a regulator.

I am not sure who "we" is. The story says it is the industry itself. Then he speaks of gamblers.

"When a gambler loses his bet, very rarely does he say, 'I made a bad bet.' When an owner gets beat, maybe it wasn't drugs - maybe he bought a bad horse."

Fair enough, I guess. The problem with this talk though, is that sometimes they are right. We are track and field. We are bike racing. Like it or not, we have problems - big ones. And they started happening a hell of a lot earlier than the Aminorex press.

Ben might want to read Bill Finley's column this week about the state of the game with these matters.

Cheaters ruin this game, not the people who talk about them.

Let's Get Dem Whales

Another story from the industry meeting in Florida this week focuses on the bettor - the whale - and why they have left for greener pastures. This talk happens every year. I think they should just cut and paste quotes instead of getting new ones.

Nick Eaves of Woodbine Entertainment said that racing created the problem it now faces.

"Racing relinquished control of its pari-mutuel product," he emphasized. "We abdicated our responsibility. Five percent of our customers make up 60 percent of our wagering. We have to regain control of our product distribution, product pricing, and to whom it's sold to make sure that the whales [major bettors] don't beach offshore."

The only thing the above spells to me is "higher prices." It reminds me of an Andy Beyer column where he was speaking about a track exec talking about protecting the customers, and he replied (paraphrasing): 'I find it hard to listen to a racetrack executive tell me he is trying to protect me when he takes 25% out of trifecta pools'.

Are you like me? Do you find that asking racing to fix this themselves is tantamount to hiring a plumber to do an appendectomy?

Our pal Maury is there though, trying his darndest again to get these guys to realize what the problem is, and how to attempt to fix it. Poor Maury is there every year and he always ends up being ignored:

Racing economist and long-time major bettor Maury Wolff noted that the horseplayer today has "quite a few more options" than in past years. He stressed that the price of betting, or takeout, is a driving factor in determining where those wagers are placed.

"Pricing is everything," said Wolff. "You cannot consistently beat that 25 percent takeout on a Trifecta."

Wolff said that racing was not a good steward of its product in years past.

"Racing has had trouble competing on its own, and its answer to that problem is to get a slots license."

Don't worry Maury, your message will get through. Maybe after we open that new track on Mars.


Anonymous said...

"Five percent of our customers make up 60 percent of our wagering."

Is this not where the solution
to increasing handles lies?

Pull the Pocket said...

I think so.

As we mentioned in our takeout post - this is a winnable game. The 5% show send it in usually get rebates. Before they got rebates, they bet smaller. Lowering the prices turned them into bigger players. The more you lower prices, the more people bet and at least have a shot to make it a high vlume low rake game.

Poker would not have players who play for years if they took 25% of every pot. It is impossible to beat a 25% pot rake at a poker table and there would be no players, imo.

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