Canterbury Park Pushes the Right Buttons for Opening Weekend

Canterbury Park - the Shakopee, MN racetrack that lowered takeout's this season - had a very nice weekend opener. Friday through Sunday, handle was up over 30%, year over year.

Although the weather cooperated, and on-track wagering was up, it's still (by any measure) a super result for the track who had hoped to generate some buzz with simulcast players. Wagering outside the state via ADW and other racetracks was up 34%.

Canterbury debuted an HD signal (to a couple complaints on social media, mainly regarding the lack of visibility of the odds in full fields), and odds that update every ten seconds, giving players a pretty good experience for a smaller racetrack. They also flew in Katie Gensler to help with the two new candidates for paddock analyst, and the pre-game show had a professional feel.

The track catered to both its on-track and off-track customers by doing the right thing with the takeout decrease -- they promoted it. It's messaging is on the starting gate, the track announcer mentions it, and during the pre-game show the analysts talked about and explained that lower takeout means their customers' tickets pay more. "When you win, you win more" is a strong message to patrons. 

They seemed to push all the right buttons to set the table for a decent meet. 

Canterbury, as many of us have learned, is in a unique position as a racetrack. While most tracks earn the vast majority of their wagering dollars from off-track sources, Canterbury has an amazingly strong on-track business; upwards of half of some evenings total wagering comes from people on track. Although many of these bettors are younger and per capita wagering is low -- they have mainly come for other activities and promotions -- it does again set the table for growth. If even a handful of these newbies get that if this new 18% trifecta takeout (with some work) can be beatable, it's again very strong messaging.

While we as bettors can enjoy the perks of better takeout, it's also those of us who are fans and horse owners to be quite excited for the meet itself. Also not left out are the trainers.

Trainer Robert Diordino said things at Canterbury are different, “At a lot of tracks, you feel like you’re walking into an empty bingo hall,” said Robertino Diodoro, Canterbury’s leading trainer last year. “It doesn’t feel like you’re even at a racetrack any more.”

Donna Keen who sent a string to Canterbury last season loved the family vibe and people in the stands, “It's unbelievable. I love seeing the families here and the young people..."

For most of us not at the track, Canterbury's Friday evening races are at 6:30CT (there will be Thursday night racing at some point), and racing continues this weekend with a special Monday matinee for holiday weekend at 12:45CT.

For Canterbury Park on social media during the races, Candice Hare will be handicapping @chare889 as the national handicapping correspondent,  Brian Arrigoni is the on-track paddock analyst @MrB_CBanalyst, and there are others playing on social media with the hashtag #playcanterbury


Andrew S. Offerman said...

Thank you for the nice write up!

One small correction, our win odds are updating every 10 seconds, as opposed to every 30 seconds, with less than 10 MTP.

Some more info can be found here:

Thanks again,

Ron said...

It would be nice if Canterbury broke away from Churchill so their signal would be available to more adws.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ron, I refuse to buckle to CDI's bully tactics of refusing to offer it to my ADW. Don't understand how Canterbury allows this.

Anonymous said...

You don't seem to understand your own math.

In order for Canterbury to break even on selling its simo signal, the simo handle must increase by 50%.

Last year they could maybe sell their signal for 3% to the few who were interested in an unpopular track. (They are not 'strong on track' - they are merely unpopular elsewhere, making their on-track handle look relatively significant. People go there and bet nothing)

This year, with the reduction, they are selling their signal at 2% max.

So an increase of 31% is a net loss.

Furthermore, the bread and butter of any track is live, on-track handle, so the minuscule revenue from simulcast handle would have to somehow offset the income reduction on-track from the greatly-reduced takeout.

And if you 'normalized' the data from the first three race days (adjusting for the extra race on Saturday, and the wet weather a year ago Sunday) then the numbers were even less satisfactory.

This doesn't even take into account the math done on the other ends, where customers who bring, say, $30,000 to tracks all over America to wager exclusively on Canterbury, now give those simo outlets 16% of exotics wagers made on Canterbury (as revenue to the simo outlet), where if the simo outlet turned-off the Cby signal, the same money would retain 17-22% to the host organization when bet on other signals.

Canterbury is a stand-alone entity out in the middle of nowhere, and thus it has no serious bargaining power.

Thus, in harness racing lingo, they are "trapped in the box".

Anonymous said...

CBY is not selling their signal for 2%.

They are branding building, to hopefully double or triple handle over the next 5 to 10 years. This is a good first step, and this weekend's results were good, no matter how you slice it.


Anonymous said...

You are correct !

They likely can't even get 2% for their signal at this point.

Nobody would buy it at that, when they can get much better product from somebody else.

You don't seem to be aware of how simulcast signals are bought and sold.

The place selling their signal gets a relative pittance, and for CBY it is even less now, because the place buying the signal knows greatly reduced revenue from it.

Not only that, but Cby doesn't even get Source Market Fees at this point.

Anonymous said...

Here's an update:

Canterbury's "revenue from handle" realized on Friday evening May 27 was down approximately 23% from the corresponding Friday of Memorial Day Weekend one year earlier.

That was with total handle for the day up 11% (and on-track attendance down 26%).

Revenue from handle is the $$$ on the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

Saturday May 28 update:

Canterbury's Saturday handle performance was such an embarrassment to them that they didn't dare report the tally numbers at the end of the Equibase charts for the day.

But here are some of the numbers:

2015 (Memorial day Saturday: )

WPS tally: $255,173

Exotics tally: $366,138

(total of the pair: $621,311)

2016 (Memorial Day Saturday: )

WPS tally: $147,802

Exotics tally: $178,012

(total of the pair $325,814)

The amount of money taken out of the mutuel pools at Canterbury Park on Saturday was down a staggering 57.5% from a year ago.

That despite all of those who assured everyone that they and all others would be wagering hand over fist on Canterbury's races on this and every race day.

But don't you worry - the actual handle was only down 47.56% on Saturday.

Yet at this rate, the horsemen who are losing such a significant cut of these figures will surely let the crazy experiment continue at least as long as Hialeah stayed open when racing head-to-head against Gulfstream 25 years ago.

Still, one wonders why you and all of the others weren't out there sending-it-in on the Canterbury races on Saturday???

Does anybody even know of a track which takes Canterbury's proud signal?

Pull the Pocket said...

Are you President of the "I hate Canterbury Park" Fan Club?

Canterbury is going gangbusters and have thrust themselves on the national stage with very little risk. Sometimes you just have to pat them on the back and say "well done"

Well done Canterbury!


Charlie Davis said...

I'd listen to what anonymous has to say because he has a lot of facts. But, they're pretty much all wrong. Starting with the "2%" signal fee which is so off it's funny.

He/she did get it right that handle was way off today. Average field size had to be about 3-4 horses less than normal, and attendance was poor due to the weather. Makes sense.

Probably someone from the CHRB or Churchill who wants this to fail so they don't look like even bigger idiots for raising their takeout.


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