The 2017 business of racing season is almost in the books. This year, for players and the business, we've seen some good and some bad, but things look to be up slightly on the handle front from 2016.
Was it a good year or bad year? I lean that it's been pretty static.
Racing generally sets a low bar, primarily because the handle trend has been down for so long, so any uptick is viewed positively. But, any business which has neglected some basic business instruments - field size, competitive racing, poor scheduling and a sub-optimal race allocation mix - for so long, it should incrementally get better through trial and error, and better management.
I think that's happened over the last couple of years.
We see more and more racetracks look at scheduling better races; we've had the higher handle tracks keep or expand dates, lower handle tracks reduce them; Twinspires, TVG etc have experimented with new promotions, learning new ways to increase churn; the big entities have been running their own rebate shops; signals have expanded internationally more than ever before.
When we add an economy that's had some major zip the last two quarters, and that horseplayer bankrolls have grown marginally through the IRS legislation, I think handle - ceteris paribus - should be up.
But it's not up nearly enough.
What's held racing back, in my view, is the same thing that's always held racing back. It's not a contested market, and these markets rarely take the leaps of faith needed to grow at greater than inflation.
We see this most recently with Santa Anita. Tim Ritvo is clearly firing salvos at the TOC, but these arrows haven't landed. Retention caps are still there, and when they created a "new bet" the new bet was just an old bet at a higher takeout rate. They've added churn killing rolling super high fives, and yes, a post drag. They're Gulfstream Park West-of-the-Mississippi. Minus the middling players able to get lower pricing.
Keeneland, despite being hammered by industry analysts who look farther than the bridge of their nose, players groups and (surprisingly) a good deal of the sometimes sycophantic racing press, has stuck to their high pricing guns. They aren't budging.
Churchill is Churchill. NYRA is political football that tries to not rock the boat.
Where are things going in 2018? It's anyone's guess, I suppose. But, I think the smart money says we'll see more of the same.
The big signals will navigate the morass and try to incrementally increase business. The large ADW entities will grow, through both continued protectionism and incrementalism. So Cal racing will try to break free from the culture of mediocrity and some changes may occur, ,but for the average player - those who've been asking for change for the better - it will probably be pretty much the status quo.
If you're looking for a shining light that makes you want to jump back into the pools you didn't find it in 2017. Unless something changes, I doubt you'll find a reason to in 2018 either.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Most Trafficked, Last 12 Months
I continue to be fascinated with both the press and general football fan reaction to the Bill Belichick 4th down decision in Sunday's ga...
Last night's Uncle Bill twitter spaces, where TVG's Fanduel's Mike Joyce joined some raucous horseplayers was, well, kind of in...
This past weekend's racing proves to me that this game, although, yes, with less public money, with the teams, with the sharps (which no...
Super Spectacular Blog Vol 8 - Preakness Day Thoughts. Rudulph, TVG Actually Doesn't Mention ITP, Go and No Go - Why Sharps Use Board Odds, The Value of Powerful Cards, & You Know You're Ice Cold When You Lose a Mascot RaceWelcome to the 8th edition of the Monday Super Spectacular Blog! It was Preakness week and frankly instead of a horse racing pool, next yea...
I was outside awhile back and noticed some kids playing with the pigskin. They flipped me the ball and I sent one kid on a fly pattern. I ga...
Monday's Super Spectacular Blog Vol 4 - Maloney, Twitter Dust Ups, Seconditis, $111k Scores, A Potential Consistent Judging Sighting, Joyce & ITP Visit Frank Stronach, Probabilities & the Best Wager in the NationWelcome to the fourth edition of the Super Spectacular Blog . I truly appreciate those of you who read this each week. Even when I weed out ...
This was originally printed in Trot Magazine's Horseplayer Issue. The pick 5 is a racing staple with almost every track trying to take...
Monday's Super Spectacular Blog - CRW Symptoms of a Business Disease, Pushing 2YO's, Curious Preps, ITP-Joyce Buddy Movie Update & A Guest Appearance from Kiefer SutherlandWelcome again to the Super Spectacular Blog! Thank you, as always, for reading and supporting our many advertisers. And to the Russian bots...
Sinking marketing money directly into the horseplayer by seeding pools is effective, in both theory and practice In Ontario and elsewher...