Indulto

"Players Up" blogger Indulto is a retired computer programming residing in SoCal and has been betting Thoroughbreds since the days of Kelso, cashing his first ticket at Saratoga while in college.

Indulto is well known in racing's cyber world as a participant on the Ragozin Sheets message board, the PaceAdvantage Forum, Paulick Report, and has made important contributions to the industry's audience as an HRI Readers Blog contributor.

Indulto was active in the formation of the Horseplayers Association of North America and with former HANA colleagues worked on the Players' Boycott of California racing when takeout rates were increased by the legislature there.

Taking his nickname from the King Ranch color-bearer of the 1960s, Indulto now devotes his time to advocate for the recreational player and hobbyist, but prefers lower takeout rates for all rather than subsidized rebates for the few.

Indulto supports the creation of a centralized racing authority to establish uniform rules for racing and wagering and for those standards to be enforced consistently.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Playing With Partners


LOS ANGELES, December 18, 2012--To bet or not to bet.

One issue unaddressed by the New NYRA board members--once they understood that they themselves were not considered corporate officers and therefore would not be prohibited from wagering--was why shouldn't the new CEO, whoever that might be, be a horseplayer?

As good a start as David Skorton made in his debut as Chairman of the Board the New NYRA, the suspension of executive wagering privileges sends a sorry message to NYRA customers: The NYRA Board wants horseplayers’ business but they don’t want their executives engaging in the consumption of the product which might otherwise enhance their understanding of customer issues.

As a horseplayer advocate, I resent any restrictions on any horseplayer’s ability to participate in the greatest gambling game known to man, whether it prevents one making a bet in the privacy of one’s home due to State laws prohibiting Internet betting or in a CEO’s office due to a misguided mischaracterization of what it means to be a horseplayer.

Don’t misunderstand: Not all employees should be allowed to bet. The Drexel Frat Boys, for instance, permanently eliminated workers with totalizator access. Mutuel clerks shouldn’t be able to bet on credit or evade taxes as they once did at NYRA either.

There is a practical solution to this issue, however, which is simply to require all NYRA employees permitted to bet to do so through NYRA Rewards accounts, thereby subjecting them to the same scrutiny as their customers. Indeed, the opportunity and capacity to partake of the product via wagering should help NYRA executives understand and improve it.

I’m sure Churchill Downs thinks they improved their product by offering the Twinspires Player’s Pool which allows their customers to collectively conquer a Pick Six, even if they can’t brag about either their own handicapping skills or the return on their investment.

Indeed, on the day after Pearl Harbor day this year, the Aqueduct Pick Six carryover pool was attacked by a an undisclosed number of bettors -- each contributing whatever he/she was comfortable with -- toward the $21,704 total wagered on their behalf. (The actual tickets and a payout breakdown are available here)

The good news was that they took down the entire 6 of 6 winner’s share of $259,488 plus 71 5-of-6 consolations worth $169 each for a total payout of $271,487 and a gross profit of $249,783.

The better news was that everybody will be assessed only their fair and legal share of taxes on their respective winnings. There will be no "ten-percenter’s" services required, as was recently
described there.

The not-so-good news, however, was that after a 25% tax of $21,623.50 was withheld from each 6 of 6 ticket, the net profit was $206,616.50. Each Player’s Pool “share ”paid $95.19 for each $10 wagered, in effect odds of 8.5-1 odds. (One might assume that participants eligible for cash rewards/rebates did slightly better).

The bad news is that only three handicappers were privileged to have their participation paid for. If any CDI employee, including any of the three accomplished handicappers profited from an investment in that pool, directly or indirectly, then perhaps this ethically dubious situation is just what Skorton had in mind.

The worst news for the winners is that without the ability to form partnerships that legally distribute tax liability, law-abiding players, who share payouts requiring IRS form-signing in order to cash out, must find a way to balance each other’s liabilities. (This is especially difficult if only some, but not all, are subject to state income taxes that don’t allow gambling losses to be deducted from gambling winnings).

There is a larger ethical conflict here, to wit: Was an even larger carryover prevented due to a corporate bet-taker’s creation that gives it an unfair edge over the competition, which not only works against the best interests of competing bet-takers’ customers participating in that pool but also that of the host track that might have lost had the additional handle that might have chased that pool on site?

It’s my understanding that, perhaps for that reason, the Player’s Pool is not permitted to operate on California races.

According to Brisnet, ’access to the insights of its own expert handicappers, a huge bankroll, and a little bit of luck, makes the TwinSpires.com Player's Pool a must play. "I can't wait to help TwinSpires.com players take down another Pick 6,"’ said one executive.

But what happens when the Player’s Pool, having a big advantage over serious individual players, isn’t as profitable? It could result in a windfall for the successful competition. The more common result, however, is it likely will lower the rate of return to its own syndicate members because fewer participants will diminish economic leverage.

Larger questions remain: How did this result stack up against prior plays? Should prospective participants be privy to the Player’s Pool’s long-term performance? Do customers have access to those historical results? , but I was unable to locate, My own Google search failed to locate any summary of how the Player’s Pool has performed over time.

Of course, any player, betting anywhere, should be able to form an ad hoc partnership with any combination of other players with each individual taxed only on his/her designated fair share. After all, if such a pool is allowed at one ADW it should be allowed at all without restriction.

Unfortunately the Federal tax code remains unfair. Withholding status is still not determined by the gross profit instead of the cost of a single combination. Now it appears that “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations could negatively impact a horseplayers’ ability to deduct gambling losses against winnings on his Federal return. The NTRA is on that case.

Obviously, technology already exists to support what should be considered an enhancement to the social aspect of racing, which would by extension make small bankroll players more competitive with whales in exotic pools. Now is the perfect time for a grass-roots movement that bonds individuals together to better compete with whales of any stripe.

Written by Indulto

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Monday, December 10, 2012


The 2013 Prep Season: A Gift That Keeps On Giving


LOS ANGELES, December 9, 2012--When the American Graded Stakes Committee announced a net reduction of 8 graded stakes for 2013 to 457 -- 111 G1s (-1), 148 G2s (-3), and 198 G3s (-4) -– they earned the DRF’s seal of Good Grading from publisher, Steven Crist, who wrote:

"Defenders of some of the downgraded races will have their quarrels, but at least these were thoughtful and defensible decisions made in consultation with a wide-ranging and geographically balanced group of racing officials, owners, and breeders. That is a sharp contrast to Churchill Downs’s new Kentucky Derby qualifying system, which threw the graded stakes system out the window in favor of a corporate-driven marketing plan to boost the importance of races at tracks owned by Churchill while punishing its rivals The idea that winning the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby is literally 10 times more important than winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is utterly preposterous to anyone not employed by Churchill, where officials have said they consulted with no one else about the new scheme,"

"The Graded Stakes Committee swiftly acknowledged it made a mistake with the Hopeful after just one year. With any luck, Churchill Downs will do the same and come up with a more fair and reasonable Derby-qualifying system just as quickly."

I must commend Mr. Crist for keeping the Illinois Derby Issue (IDI) alive, albeit indirectly, as the preceding was at least the second time he has weighed in on the subject. What I find preposterous, however, is that earnings were the basis for Derby eligibility for so long, and that the ability to win a single race as a two-year-old could guarantee a start in the Derby as a three-year-old.

At least that error in judgment has been corrected.

What I find shameful and embarrassing to the sport is CDI’s having eliminated the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course as a Kentucky Derby qualifier which was no error but rather a deliberate act.

The main problem with Churchill Downs controversial changes is not the way points are allocated – or even that most previously qualifying races were eliminated – but that the single glaring exception to the strategy for elimination of races appears to have been designed to disrupt the operation of a business competitor.

Doubts that eliminating Hawthorne’s signature event as a traditional stop on the Derby Trail was somehow related to competition for racing dates with CDI’s Arlington Park were dispelled when Hawthorne officials subsequently offered to move their race to a date accommodating CDI’s newly defined points assignment intervals, but were rebuffed by CDI officials.

Assuming a National Horse Racing Commission (NHRC) existed, should it, and would it, have addressed CDI’s IDI? Consider this hypothetical: "Conduct detrimental to …" is a familiar phrase used in conjunction with disciplinary actions by major league commissioners in other sports … why not in racing as well?

The lack of a centralized racing authority prevents uniformity which is the key to fairness in racing. Since support for it has been elusive, some are seeking Federal intervention, seeking a means of possibly establishing policy in advance of a commission’s existence.

My previous remarks requesting greater transparency from Horseplayers Association of North America also apply to Bladerunners, another "grass roots" racing reform movement, this one to establish an NHRC.

I haven’t signed on yet because the only issue I ever see their point man, Sean Kerr, pursuing publicly is the medication issue from an anti-Lasix posture. I hope this is not another case where a self-appointed elite group is determining objectives without sufficient feedback and support from those who would be affected most by their policies and actions.

Perhaps a representative from Bladerunners might interact with HRI readers publicly regarding the IDI to discuss whether or not it would make a good candidate for advancing their agenda. Maybe he/she would also consider discussing whether plans include level playing fields for horseman AND horseplayers through a) uniform medication rules with consistent enforcement and b) uniform rewards to all pari-mutuel participants by lowering direct takeout while simultaneously eliminating rebates for a privileged few.

Some wrongs can’t be righted but when trying a universal solution chances of doing the right thing are increased. The Genie is already out of the bottle with regard to alternative legal gambling and off-track wagering. But surely the equitable and impartial aspects of the game can be shoved back in.

The first Saturday in May is now less than five months away. Can enough outrage at the IDI travesty be encouraged by the media to force CDI to alter its stance in time for Hawthorne to move its race backward? Probably not. The Illinois Derby will likely morph into this year’s most lucrative Preakness prep not called the Kentucky Derby. They could run it on the same day Churchill opens with its Derby Trial, offering a two-turn alternative with a larger purse.

Thus, the Hawthorne situation would still be news on the day of the last Derby qualifier when all eligible horses resulting from CDI’s grand experiment will have been determined.

By moving its race forward, Hawthorne could provide the media some fuel to expose some of the CDI rhetoric in the final few days leading up to the Derby, inviting comparisons between Derby winners in such far flung regions as Illinois, New Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. The ramifications of the 2013 prep season could linger long beyond May’s first Saturday.

Written by Indulto

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Saturday, November 24, 2012


When Trees Fall in the Forest… Does Anyone Care?


LOS ANGELES, November 23, 2012--I might never have seen the well-written, caustic rebuttal to my initial blog piece on Derby eligibility point systems that appeared at "Fugue for Tinhorns" if a friend hadn’t sent me a heads-up. Hoping to fuel some debate, I added a comment to the piece with a link to Glenn Craven’s article.

I also enjoyed an entertaining exchange with the author at his site. Eventually, I addressed some of his points in comments to his rebuttal. It was a very positive experience, to say the least.

So when no response was forthcoming from the author of the HANA blog piece I rebutted "here, I emailed him a link to his contact address as a board member on the HANA website.

(The return email was sent from his personal account, and so I didn’t consider it as coming from a representative of HANA).

He politely acknowledged the material at the link but without specificity. The extended discussion of funding that I desired seems unlikely to take place. Since no one else from HANA has shown any interest, I doubt that we’ll see those accepting dues under any of the conditions proposed by either myself or Mr. Pricci.

[Ed. Note: While there was a modicum of support for Indulto’s proposal at HRI, the response was extremely disappointing, especially considering the level of vitriol expressed here by horseplayers when they feel they are underappreciated. This is an example of the kind of indifference the industry has depended upon for years].

Resultantly, time may have arrived to consider an alternative to HANA; an organization that could utilize HANA’s expertise, if available, but with a more effective mission, structure, and a leadership that would have been determined in a more democratic fashion.

Despite having been launched at an interactive forum, HANA has not, to my knowledge, continued to promote real-time public discussion among ALL its members. There seems to be no way for non-board members to meet one another spontaneously, no outlet for independent, public discussion that others can participate in and expand the conversation.

I’ve heard rumors that a message board exists for HANA board members. Perhaps some non-board members have been invited to access it but I’ve never seen any specifics. The HANA blog allows comments, but each is delayed by required approval prior to being displayed.

Consequently, a membership has been created that generally can’t find out what other like (or unlike) minds they might be involved with, what issues are being addressed, what input has been provided, and whether it had been accepted or ignored.

Knowing the status of outstanding issues should not be a luxury but a requirement Does anyone else see this as an inhibitor to growth?

I believe that NOTHING WILL CHANGE to benefit the majority of non-professional bettors unless and until rank and file horseplayers are willing to come together to be counted – anonymously or otherwise -- to express our support for collective representation.

The first step is to prove to the industry that we are out there, IN THE AGGREGATE -- willing to collectively demonstrate our support for reform. How else can we help restore the previous levels of enjoyment and entertainment to the game in which we’ve spent a lifetime pursuing profit with passion under the assumption of fairness?

For that to occur, however, those currently involved in this process need to become more inclusive of others instead of being inhibited by what we’ll call the Internet Anonymity Fear Factor.

There seems to be an evangelical aspect to using one’s given name in cyberspace because I keep encountering some that do while demanding that others do the same; particularly anyone critical of their positions. Their contention is that it’s all too easy to criticize while "hiding" behind a pseudonym.

In our view, to assume that "who one is" is more important than "what one has to say," suggests an arrogance no less defeating than the apathy well-meant activism attempts to overcome.

Times have changed. Unlike the good old days when players were able to meet face-to-face with other like-minded activists at the local track, today’s issues affect horseplayers nationwide via not only brick-and-mortar simulcasts but by an increasing number of players preferring to bet on-line.

Pseudonyms do pose a challenge for those overly concerned with not saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. Is it any wonder that anonymous input providers are treated like lumberjacks in a sound-proof forest?

I wonder whether it’s easier to criticize anonymously or easier to ignore anonymous criticism. The Internet as communication medium is popular because it enables people to speak their minds without fear of off-line reprisals. Consider that the average non-celebrity or non-industry-employed horseplayer just might question sacrificing his privacy merely to provide legitimacy to a handful of bright but increasingly ignored individuals.

No ability yet has been demonstrated to effect changes critical to the majority of the represented. We now know that a volunteer think-tank/social club is not the ideal model to get horseplayers recruited and organized in large numbers. That model might suffice for what has been accomplished but not what’s been left undone.

Takeout: Killing the sport one customer at a time

The above sub-title came from an anonymous long-time advocate I’ve never met but who exemplifies my conviction that good ideas are more likely the product of sources without name recognition. Apathy is our worst enemy but arrogance is no more acceptable from within our ranks then from without.

If a horseplayer advocacy group ever does create an interactive forum for all its members, perhaps it should mandate the use of nicknames for public discussion and provide private messaging for personal conversations, including the exchange of identities or email addresses and the like if desired.

Let ideas speak for themselves. Enable the entire population to indicate their support for action on issues through frequent on-line polling. Leaders will emerge from the free exchange of ideas, confirmed via regularly scheduled on-line elections that would include a provision for funding dedicated for providing the necessary services in order to achieve results.

The preceding was the basis for a concept my friend, Vern, labeled SPARTACUS (Supporters of Player Action to Reduce Takeout for All Customers Uniformly in Stages) to reflect the concept of competitive equals rising up against existing corrupt controlling interests.

The idea was to create a gathering place for like-minded people willing not only to explore common objectives by debating merits and pitfalls but also to determine productive ways to deal with each other on different issues.

If an approach could be found to carefully craft well-conceived goals leading to consensus, leaders providing the most credible support for the majority positions would emerge and be recognized. Together these leaders could convert members and delegate authority for the good of all.

I’ve yet to hear a more practical way for the average horse-betting enthusiast to develop a voice too loud to be diluted by conflicting interests or dismissed entirely by the industry.

More people viewing and participating in on-line discussions would offer more opportunities to forge new friendships. A major concern is, of course, the cost to operate an Internet forum that accommodates in excess of 100,000 players.

Perhaps the founders of such a group could become stock-holders in a for-profit horseracing research data-base utility company providing revenue-generating access to test handicapping or wagering strategies, as well as to fulfill horse breeding, safety, and disposition queries.

Non-anonymous members could buy new shares if desired. Both anonymous and non-anonymous customers could also vote in matters pertaining to horseplayer advocacy; communicating on a forum supported by the aforementioned data-base operation.

Even with technology-experienced practitioners, funding is the primary obstacle to be overcome. What could entice a trusted name to step forward to get things under way? Unfortunately, anonymity doesn’t measure up in such circumstances. Neither does apathy.

Written by Indulto

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