Friday, June 27, 2014
Recreational Players Finally Getting Takeout Message
LOS ANGELES, June 26, 2014—Churchill Downs will be the focus of many horseplayers this weekend as it closes out the track's spring meeting. Unlike the situation earlier this year at Gulfstream Park, however, the pursuit of a mandatory exotic payout will not be a motivating factor.
Instead, horseplayers, and the industry itself, will be looking at the final handle numbers in light of revenues gained or lost because CDI’s decision to increase takeout rates. Going into the final weekend, the home team is losing.
Compared to the previous player's boycott in 2011 of California racetracks--in response to a legislated takeout rate increase by the state--the current action against CDI tracks has garnered far greater support from bettors.
What remains to be seen is whether the results will lead to a desired rollback in rates.
Such was not the case in 2011. The only “concession” that player representatives negotiated at that time was the addition of a new, lower-takeout, lower-minimum, exotic wager, the Players Pick Five.
The bet was ridiculed initially by some who considered it a “tossed bone” to horseplayers. Instead, it proved to be a successful example of what lower takeout could accomplish and bolstered the argument for more study of optimal takeout rates.
Negotiations at that time revealed to players that the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) was in control, not track managements, and that TOC was putting the squeeze on customers, aided and abetted by those TOC members who also serving on the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).
Indeed, the failure to force a rate roll-back in California probably encouraged Churchill's own onslaught on the wallets of its customers, but this time the message from the folks at http://playersboycott.org/
was more aggressive than the approach taken in 2011.
The boycotters’ most potent weapon this time is the analysis of Churchill's daily and meet handle figures. Recall that Churchill was the first track to stop providing total attendance and handle figures in results charts. This time boycotters were armed with data collection and analysis skills honed three years ago.
The results are striking as presented by Jeff Platt, President of HANA:
through the first 34 days of their meet:
DOWN $46.8 Million (-11.69% “
“What happens if we break the Kentucky Oaks Day Friday and Kentucky Derby Day Saturday cards out as special event days - and remove both of them from ... [consideration]? “
“... handle has fallen for 30 of the 32 regular race days so far this meet:
• Total handle? DOWN $45.6 Million (-26.90%)
• Avg Handle per Race? DOWN -$111,316 (-21.68%)
• Avg Handle per Day? DOWN -$1,424,385 (-26.90%)”
“Could everyday horseplayers be saying "no" to higher takeout?”
This begs several more questions: Who are everyday horseplayers? Are they more likely to be professional bettors, or recreational ones?
Turf writer, Nick Kling, suggested in a comment here at HRI that “20 percent of the bettors wager 50 percent of the handle.” The ratio is probably even greater than that.
Rebated bettors are not affected by takeout increases to the extent their non-rebated competitors are. My surmise is that these bigger players are probably continuing at or near their same level and that the missing handle is more attributable to grassroots players who are sending their action elsewhere.
If this is true, then those of us who have been spreading the lower takeout gospel over the last three years are starting to make some headway. What mustn't happen once the Churchill meet ends is for horseplayers to give up the good fight.
As horseplayer activist Andy Asaro reminds industry A-listers in his daily e-mails: ”We never quit.”
Whales Feel Entitled
One reason professional horseplayers are generally able to make a living is because they are able to exploit inexperience, lack of skills and motivation, and underfunding among recreational players.
I have no objection to that providing the playing field is level for all – as it once was in racing and still is in honest casino games. Neither do I object to casinos “comping” high-rollers, which is more a marketing tool than a subsidy.
The presence of big players at the tables stimulates more action from less affluent customers and helps to attract new ones. This is not the case in racing. If anything, racing’s whales are less visible whales as are the amount of rebates they receive. In my view, this discourages smaller-bankroll bettors and drives recreational players away from game altogether.
In response to a prior Players Up blog piece
mentioning rebate subsidies to big bankroll bettors, several comments were posted by a former NTRA Players Panel member.
His observations were informative and, while some were accurate, they nevertheless showed a level of contempt for those forced to play without rebates, opining instead that everyday players bet unrealistic amounts or change their state of residence. The following remarks should be viewed in their original context:
“... I haven’t seen any studies that show that rebates make you a smarter bettor but clearly smart bettors get rebates. ...”
“... You don’t have to be a huge bettor to get rebates. But wouldn’t you agree that a person who reduces their cost of betting by getting a rebate is certainly smarter than one who doesn’t? ...”
“... Rebating, in and of itself, does not give a bettor an advantage. Being a smarter bettor gives one the advantage. Being a smarter bettor with rebates just increases the possibility of making a profit.”
'... Racing needs “dumb money” in the pools so the smart bettors can continue to prosper. If that doesn’t happen the effective takeout rate will not be low enough to keep the whales around. “'
“… the vast majority of players ... have neither the skill nor the knowledge to recognize overlays.”
“... The vast majority of players lose year in and year out. Do you need more evidence than that?”
“... Losers at the track need to be victims so that they can believe that it is the big bad rebates that prevent them from winning and not the fact that they lack the skills and know how. ...”
Recreational bettors are not only under fire from incompetent or corrupt government officials, greedy horsemen, and self-preserving racetrack management, but also from predatory gamblers benefitting from the rebate status quo.
Horseplayers will take an edge they can, which is what gives definition to the term parimutuel wagering. But Beware the Pied Piper unconcerned with fairness and balance for all.
Written by Indulto
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Coburn, Espinoza Easy Prey for Critics
LOS ANGELES, June 9, 2014--To many observing the 2014 Triple Crown series, the Belmont Stakes wound up a bigger and better show than the Kentucky Derby, and a more rewarding handicapping challenge to boot.
Sadly, another Crown desired was another Crown denied, and sportsmanship took a hit in the process.
Indeed the owners of California Chrome had been providing a view of racing as the Sport of Peasants, but the initial pleasantry was replaced by futility and frustration that fueled a co-owner's unflattering allegations that the fight wasn't a fair one.
Steve Coburn's remarks set a new standard for the “sore loser,” eclipsing the shock value of Barry Irwin's “sore winner” statement following Animal Kingdom's Derby victory.
And to think it took the “fickle finger of fate” to expose this side of Coburn by failing to follow the script of phenomenally good fortune to which he felt entitled.
Coburn has since apologized but the damage to racing, to the Chrome fan experience, and to the remaining connections, has been done. Still, his message was not without merit.
Chrome's conquerors all had four or five weeks rest going compared to the Preakness winner’s three. It was also his third race in five weeks and fourth in nine weeks.
Coburn's demand that only horses that ran in the first two legs of the Triple Crown should qualify for the third and final one is unworkable and more than unreasonable.
Only 14 of 20 Derby runners could contest the Preakness, anyway, and how many that already had run three races in five or six weeks could add a fourth run over an eight or nine week period without suffering possibly debilitating long term effects?
If there is no move to alter spacing between legs AND provide a bonus for horses participating in all legs, answer possibility might be to restrict the Belmont to three-year-olds that have previously run at least twice in graded stakes, particularly at 9 furlongs during a five-week interval beginning Kentucky Oaks Day.
Rachel Alexandra and Rags to Riches would have fit that scenario, the latter beating Curlin. (Now there's a breeding match worth exploring)!
The NYRA could move the Dwyer to the Sunday following the Derby and the Peter Pan to the Sunday after the Preakness, thereby creating tow qualifying paths to the Belmont Stakes that provides a race over the track in addition to a bonus for participation.
The problem is that each Belmont starter this year ran on Lasix which dehydrates them and requires longer rest between starts to reach a suitable energy level.
We can keep running these amazing animals into the ground to satisfy trainers—as opposed to horsemen--but only a hypocrite would claim they were doing what's best for the horse.
The Coburn debacle didn't deter the jockey’s critics from making their self-appointed rounds. In my opinion the race was lost when ‘Chrome’ veered sharply out of the starting gate and slammed severely into Matterhorn, suffering a minor injury in the process.
But many others disagreed, blaming double Triple-Crown-losing rider Victor Espinoza, a dubious distinction he shares with Kent Desormeaux.
Andy Beyer, stating nothing we haven’t heard before
said that Espinoza committed a “gross tactical error.”
While his justification for that conclusion was certainly entertaining, it was hardly enlightening given the brutal bumping at the break and Espinoza’s own description that the colt was “empty,” also acting uncharacteristically quiet in the paddock by several trusted sources.
Beyer's buddy and fellow handicapping author, Steve Davidowitz
, less elegantly echoed that assessment with “... it can be argued that Espinoza strategically contributed to the horse's defeat.” Maybe, maybe not.
More objective opinions
were available from ex-jockey Eddie Delahoussaye and trainer Bob Baffert, whose triple Triple-Crown-misses (including one each with both Espinoza and Desormeaux) possesses a truer understanding of what's involved.
Baffert absolved Espinoza’s tactics, saying “[rival jockeys] were going to get him; they were going to go after him,” he said. “I think the horse didn’t respond [because] he didn’t have the horse. That’s why the Triple Crown is so hard; it wears on the horse. The horse was a little flat, but you don’t know that [until the race starts].”'
Said Delahoussaye, “...I know when a horse gets cut like he did at the beginning of the race, because of the adrenalin they don’t feel it as much. But once they start relaxing, they’ll feel it. It was just bad racing luck. Victor couldn’t have done anything.”
Conversely, money-rider par excellence Joel Rosario not only won the Belmont, but also the 12-furlong Brooklyn that same day. John Velazquez (who many consider “the ultimate jockey change”) replaced Rosario on Ride on Curlin but he performed as if he were totally exhausted and finished last.
Hopefully, all will have other opportunities to succeed in the Triple Crown’s final leg, and that includes bettors and critics.
Written by Indulto
Friday, May 30, 2014
Whales Disproportionately Dictate Betting Policy
LOS ANGELES, CA, May 29, 2014—Recreational bettors and industry management were both taught an important lesson last Sunday when a smart, well-heeled horseplayer boosted the entire Gulfstream Rainbow Six pool of $6,678,939 while other whales were simply watching and waiting.
Dan Borislow, previously on racing fan radar as the owner of Toccet, told the Daily Racing Form
'he spent $15,206.40 to win the jackpot. He fashioned two nearly identical tickets using the "all" button in five of the Rainbow Six races. He played four horses in the sixth race, two on each ticket, …' costing $7,603.20 apiece for a payoff exceeding 438-1.
Luck was also on his side, however, as despite having the last race covered, his unique-ticket winner barely beat a carryover-preserving 2nd place finisher by a nostril.
Borislow also provided several noteworthy revelations:
"I've probably played the Rainbow Six about six or seven times over the past several months ..."
"I handicapped the races and liked one race in particular, the sixth. When I made out the original ticket, it cost $3,600. So instead of playing a regular ticket, I just decided to take an all in the five other races."
"I’ve probably been one of the bigger horse bettors in the country over the last 15 years."
"I guess if you work at something long enough, eventually you should get it right."
Inferring from the above that seven prior "regular" plays hadn't hit to the cumulative tune of $25,000, elevating his play by a factor of five for the last chance prior to a mandatory payout actually makes a lot of sense for someone playing with monopoly money. I wonder how long it will take Borislow to churn those multiple millions?
What is assumed but hasn't been revealed is whether a portion of those bets were being returned as rebates, which could have amounted to about $4,000 from all that action from subsidized bettors. What should be clear now, though, is that – with rare exceptions – this wager is simply a funnel for transferring funds from the pockets of small bankroll bettors into those with comparatively huge bankrolls.
A truly equitable People's Pick Six might have a 10-20 cent minimum, no consolations, and a seeded jackpot to start. Takeout should be low enough to preclude rebating. Management might consider a mandatory payout the first Saturday after the jackpot reaches $1,000,000.
What surprised me were all the negative comments that followed the announcement of this one-man betting coup. It takes one hell of a handicapper to accurately predict chaos and it takes one hell of a horseplayer to manage it once identified. Players like Borislow have the wherewithal to do it all on their own; most need partners.
The industry is missing the boat by not enabling partnerships outside the "Players Pool" that can distribute tax liability to individuals based on their specific contribution to the total wager. This is another way to level the playing field for small bankroll bettors while reaping the benefit of the resulting higher collective handle.
Does anybody think Borislow is any less deserving of accolades than the ultimate little guy, Graham Stone, who had the lone winning combination for the 2003 Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick Six
with an $8 ticket?
Coming on the heels of the "Fix Six" scandal of 2002, Stone was forced to undergo vetting by Breeders’ Cup to establish the legitimacy of his play (and perhaps prove he wasn't a time traveler). Stone played the three Richard Mandella-trained winners, with a horse ridden by Jerry Bailey, with a pick by Andy Beyer, and a selection of his own.
I can't knock any strategy that utilizes knowledge of the game -- especially one proven to have worked -- but I suspect very few others could apply it successfully. If Gulfstream doesn't make some changes, however, Borislow clones will be cropping up with regularity.
That would be good for Gulfstream, a track that purports to be customer friendly but, like any American track, or corporation for that matter, is a slave to the bottom line. As such, it’s unreasonable to expect them to alienate their whales for the benefit of rank and file bettors.
I’ve noticed several comments that perhaps Gulfstream management should have funded two plays with all combinations on each of the final days leading up to the mandatory payout in order to guarantee it wouldn't be hit ahead of time.
Also, some opined that Borislow's score was proof of management's integrity, but how could we know whether or not such fraudulent pool manipulation did occur?
Greater transparency in this regard should augment earlier reforms driven by the Rainbow Six. Ideally, all states should uniformly outlaw such practice with very serious consequences for offenders.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau is already vetting cashers of tickets using "ALL" in more than three legs in order to discourage money laundering. If so, they should also be checking possible jackpot payout avoidance.
I am not among those for whom the missed opportunity for attacking the long-awaited mandatory payout left a bad taste. As far as I'm concerned, Borislaw performed a public service in exposing yet another weakness in a wager that some thought had the potential to create a holiday on which the action world would focus its gaze on horse racing.
Written by Indulto