Friday, January 28, 2022

Gambler Rants & Appeasing the Betting Customer

I saw the press release from the Meadowlands today. As most know, they are trying to improve their on-track product - eliminating courtesy tucks, rail openings in the stretch, etc - to make it a better spectating and gambling game. 

In contrast, I got this note from a long time horseplayer and owner who concentrates on the WEG circuit. He's like one of those dudes who would be sitting outside at Greenwood five nights a week. As most know (just check twitter) the WEG product has been suffering for some time, and tucks and various rules are more guidelines.  

Here you go (language warning if you're so inclined):

  • At this point racing actually needs some radical changes and there's no way WEG has that type of an agenda on the docket, they are oblivious to any problems and simply don't understand their own business, in reality it's questionable if there is a collective will to initiate any real change. It seems unlikely the inertia needed for a directional change could gather a headwind, the people running the show see no problem and make money, the commission that polices the sport has no one (ie WEG) pushing them to enforce any of the rule violations that have become ubiquitous, the Horse people are generally contented with what suits their individual needs and has no understanding how it pertains to the customer, the drivers have absolutely no desire to change anything, NONE, the race office seems to have a singular goal, to get the draw done as quickly as possible...which leaves the bettor who's on a remote island populated by other bettors, they can jump up and down, and scream, and yell but they're only jumping and screaming and yelling to each's a remote fucking island. How can anything change if WEG ignores these remote island fuckers? Why should ACGO play the tough guy when WEG who handles every dollar wagered on racing in this country could care less? Why would the drivers want ANYTHING changed? A hole for everyone, room up the rail when you need it and so on. Horse people would prefer 5 horse fields of the easiest competition for big purses. The Race Office wants to get the draw done by noon and they don't care how many conditions they add to a class or who they open it up for. The worst part is that if you actually try to initiate any change you basically have every faction screaming bloody murder...except the starving motherfuckers on that remote island, where's their sunshine?
If you want to know the state of the every day customer, I hope that sheds some light on what they've been noticing. 

Similarly, one of the races that adds to the above commentary happened last week and it was looked at in an HRU column here. @shottakingtime had a tweet featured in it, and we all know if Buck noticed it must be bad, because he doesn't seem to pay attention to anything but the latest Massachusetts scratcher news and Sam Houston. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, and for those braving the storm in the north east, well, I'm from the Tundra and we call that Saturday. But stay safe and warm!

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Finding Better Prices - A Staple of Other Games

There's an old adage in horse racing when speaking to some executives, "I walk the grandstand and no one is talking about takeout." We chuckle about it, but it's true, because the people who care about takeout are not in the grandstand. A lot of them are probably now sports betting. is a tool some sports bettors are using to line shop, or search for value. Math is hard, and it will tell you not only what line is best, it will allow you to add half points, or compare money lines to spreads with a simple input. As their article linked above says, "pricing matters". 

Line shopping for horse racing does occur, but it's mainly in mature gambling markets, and lies in the win pool only. If you're betting an Aussie race you might get 2.5-1 on betfair or 2.3-1 on the tote or 2.35-1 on fixed odds. In the UK there are edges between bookmakers and exchanges like BetDaq or Matchbook. Professional players have been looking to scrounge pennies and half pennies since forever.  

It's clearly important, just like it is in sports betting. If you make 2,000 bets at 5-2 over a long period and hit them all, you get back $70,000, at 2-1 it's $60,000. 

The North American horseplayer does not seem to think like this, and of course, with late changing odds it's nearly impossible. Here it's more about an exotic hit, or a superfecta score, where we have little idea what the odds even are. 

Because of this, it's even more important to examine takeout rates. A 12% Sam Houston pick 3 versus a 22% one is absolutely massive. A 14% early pick 5 versus a 22% late (I think it's 22%, it could even be higher) in Cali racing is equally huge. 

When or if a decent fixed odds or exchange system ever comes on shore in the new world, perhaps it will swing the modern horseplayer from not thinking about juice, to thinking about it. It can't come soon enough. In this brutally difficult game an edge on pricing means more people stay in the game longer because they win more. 

Have a nice Thursday everyone. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Horse Racing Panic - Secret Meeting Brings No Solutions

I received a hot text on my Blackberry from Cub Reporter late last night. 

Cub said, "The racing braintrust was reading twitter last night and they believe they have, and I quote, ' lost the horseplayer'. They called an all-hands-on-deck meeting to see if they could find a way through this. I text you because a lot of it was focused on your buddy ITP and a few others you know. As usual, don't pass these details around. This is confidential."

"OK" I typed. "My lips are sealed"

Now, I'll share what he wrote me. 

"Attention, attention, I need your attention," said Chair Scott Daruty. "I think many of you have read the twitter tonight, and I think it's time we finally admit it. A lot of customers just don't like us."

"It's just that ITP guy!" said Todd Schrupp. "Yes, he doesn't like our tickets." said Dave Weaver.

"Dbag" added Rachel McLaughlin. 

"No it's more than that, they don't seem to like us. I can't figure it out, but they don't." Daruty added. 

"I hear you, it's not nice to be not well liked, we must do something," said Bob Baffert. 

"Who let Baffert in," grumbled someone. 

"ITP is a catalyst, but the others are getting boisterous", continued Daruty. "They're all speaking up now. They want things like better pricing, us to compete with sports betting, drug rules, they don't want split samples to be lost in the mail, things like that."

"They even want us to be consistent," added steward Scott Chaney. 

"I believe we need a new bridge to the customer. We need to find someone on our side to bring them around. To set them straight. Any ideas?"

"Buck Swope on the twitter is a great guy," said Andy Serling. 

"What about that new kid, Ryan Willis. He's a celebrity handicapper that everyone is talking about and he's like 30. A unicorn," said Belinda Stronach. 

"Mike Maloney? I like Mike", offered CDI's Bill Carstangen. 

"They all seem to like Jason Beem", said Ron Nicoletti.

"No, no," said Daruty. "Buck Swope wants better drug rules, he's tweeted he doesn't love the NYRA calls on herding, and he sometimes tweets about porn which could hurt the horse racing brand. Willis in his DRF Harness piece said he wanted lower takeout and hates jackpot bets. Maloney wants lower takeout, too."

"Those three are dbags anyway," said Rachel. 

"And Beem? He's the announcer at Grants Pass, Colonial, Tampa Bay, has an awards show, plays on twitter, does like 12 podcasts a week. Plus I think he wrote a book where he said he doesn't even bet anymore."

"Hold it," said Todd Schrupp. 

"Are you saying these people just want us as analysts to help people win more money, that lower takeout would be better than what we have in the new sports betting world, that we need consistent judges that call rules unformly from coast to coast, that we need drug rules that punish cheaters swiftly and things don't get lost in the mail, and that we need to get better data at an affordable price into the hands of customers?" 

"Yes," said Daruty. 

"Well I am all for that," said Schrupp. 

"Me, too," added Weaver. 

"Damn, I am for that," said Serling. 

"Me too! Well, except the lost in the mail stuff." said Baffert. 

"If I really think about it, most of this is not really that dbaggish" said McLaughlin. 

"Is it possible we can make this happen for our customers?" asked Daruty. 

"Probably not", said Carstanjen. "We like the way it is, and our share price says Go Baby Go."

"No. We love jackpots and high rake is good for the betting teams so they can crush the little people", added Belinda. 

<In walks Ray Paulick, armed with his hits count for the Paulick Report website for January, which is a new record>

"Listen to yourselves", boomed a fired up Paulick. "You want everything the horseplayer wants, but you do nothing! You just waddle along with the status quo, blaming them for your problems. Wanting everything to stay the same in a changing world. You, you must do better, you must make change! You must be the catalyst to turn this ship around! I could go on with a harsher critique, but most of you are advertisers."

"Paulick speaks truth," said Daruty. "But let's face it, we're not fixing this today. Let's table this for say, what, next year's meeting? Let's get out of here and get some grub."

"Seconded," said Baffert. 

And that's the way things ended. The status quo once again looks to prevail, despite the efforts of the newest insider horseplayer advocate Ray Paulick. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Betting Competition is Better Pricing, Except in Canadian Horse Racing

I was perusing some tennis bets this morning and did some comparison shopping in the Great White Tundra. 

In Canada, as some may know, the market is grey, but more and more companies are taking single game wagers. Last year, this was much different, as the only onshore site accepting bets was run by a First Nations tribe, where the Feds appeared to look the other way. 

For customers of that website, the prices are, ahem, pretty bad. Comparing today's tennis matches to Pinnacle, each and every bet doesn't approach their juice. It's a non-starter. 

As more and more single game sites come online when it becomes legal, this website will clearly have to change or, over time, go broke. 

In horse racing land in Canada, this is also the case, minus any new competition. Woodbine's wagering arm - HPI - continues to hold a monopoly and as Erick points out on his twitter feed - the prices are atrocious. 

The highlights (lowlights) are eye opening, with as much as 5.32% juice added to the Los Al tris. That's over a 20% increase to a Canadian bettor. 

For big days, like this past year's Breeders Cup, we see even more of it. 
Unlike for Canadian sports bettors, there is no White Knight riding in on a horse to provide competition to Woodbine's ADW stranglehold on beleaguered customers. It's all bet it or forget it. 

It's easy to see sports betting being a success in Canada over the next decade. The US experience proves that with investment and competition it can be done, and consumers can get a great product at decent pricing. Canada will follow suit and we can expect to see betting exchanges, large global sports betting enterprises and others enter the landscape, making the system work. 

In horse racing, unless governments step in to protect consumers and allow the market to open up to encourage competition, I think the racing consumer will be looking at 29% tri juice for a very long time. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 

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