The Topsy Turvy World of Betting & Betting Business

If you are a bit of a betting and business of betting geek, the past twelve months have been pretty interesting.

In racing, we've heard from every nook and cranny in the landscape what's been going wrong.

Early in the year, handle losses, at say Churchill Downs, were due to falling foal crops. Then we heard a lot about polytrack from the usual suspects; i.e. when they get rid of the plastic, the roads will be paved with handle-flowing lollipops. Then we heard a little about those dastardly college football playoffs causing a ruckus in the betting landscape.

First off, I'm a guy who had to ask on twitter where Murray State was (I know the 50 states, and I am sure Murray is not one of them), thought the hashtag #BBN was in reference to the Backstreet Boy Nation, and watched some of the last Tennessee game only because I really like that mascot dog they have. His name is "Smokey". Anyhoo, I am certain my handle has not dropped 60% this year because of that. So let's extinguish that one.

Oh those falling foal crops. Well, handle is up at some tracks, down at others. I'm pretty sure there are not more horses having horse sex in Franklin, Kentucky (Kentucky Downs was up), than there are in Louisville (Churchill was killed). There may be a horse sex Maginot line, but I haven't heard about it and I suspect if there is one, it does not bisect Kentucky. Help me out in the comments section if I missed it.

That dreaded Poly! The evil plastic. Oh goodness, we've been telling you people this for years: You might not like polytrack; that's fine, to each their own. But the handle numbers prove someone likes it. In fact, tracks this fall that did well were 1) Woodbine 2) Del Mar and last evening 3) Turfway Park, aided by large poly fields, was up over 41% year over year. Meanwhile, Keeneland, who turned their meet into Churchill Downs dirt-east after removing polytrack, was down mightily. Please stop.

Horse racing's flowchart is an odd duck.

Handle Down > Look for strange excuses > Do more of the same without figuring out what has gone wrong and hope no one in the turf press notices

It's clear that the quality of racing (no I don't mean "Grade I's" silly goose's, but bettable racing, that allows us a chance to beat the juice) has been a real issue.

It's clear the mantra of CDI/Troutnet/Stronach/Tracknet/Monarch, or whatever such moniker that's being used now to describe a high rake, competition-stifling consortium, has not helped, but hurt gross handles.

It's clear those goofy ADW taxes in New York and Pennsylvania (and soon to come in Florida and probably three other states because horse racing likes to follow bad policy when the leaders do it) have done nothing but harm to bettors.

It's clear that states like Michigan, and Texas and Virginia, (and maybe even Murray) which have not liked the whole "internet wagering" thing and blocked it in some form, are causing a handle problem. No word if they are blocking iPhones to protect rotary dial, but it might be coming.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, other entities and businesses are taking advantage of the betting landscape the best way they know how. In fact, it is the only way to do it: They are competing for customers.  (unless you live in Cuba; there if you know someone in power, and throw good parties, your business can succeed and you can crush the little people).

The NBA has a ticket revenue problem, and its been going on for awhile. If you travel and want to go see an NHL or an NBA game, you know what that article is talking about. Adam Silver, NBA head honcho, knows it and is beginning to explore new ways to increase the NBA's popularity. He's taking a big chance with something that other leagues do not want to touch: gambling. Not only has he come out for gambling on NBA games, state by state, he has signed deals with "Daily Fantasy Sports" sites to encourage such pursuits. The thinking clearly being, if money is bet on a game, interest in a game goes up. He sees the writing on the wall and has to do something.

In micro-terms, these DFS (daily fantasy sports) sites are using the UIGEA carve out to their advantage, and they are acting like real businesses act. A new entrant into the space, "Fantasy Up" is offering no rake until April 1, 2015, and $300 signup bonuses. Think about that for a second: That's like TVG offering no rake and a free $300 to bet. Hell, my handle would be up 10,000% if that ever occurred.

The sports entertainment world is dog eat dog and survival of the fittest. The companies who earn a living off such, in myriad ways, are under the same marginal cost, burn the marketing budget, earn your business method of business operation as any good company is under in a capitalistic ecosystem. There's no talk about what's handcuffing them, no consortium's protecting slices, no talk about college football or poly or foal crops. It's about noticing a problem and trying to fix the problem.

That's one big reason why they're winning and horse racing is losing. And with the headlines in racing that we've seen the last month, they're going to keep right on winning.

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