"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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Monday, September 26, 2016

Impending Danger: Industry Needs to Heed Worrisome Trend

LOS ANGELES, September 26, 2016—Horseplayers didn’t just lose an advocate this week, they lost an activist. Motivations vary, but activism generally requires passion, dedication, commitment, and sacrifice to be effective. There is a price to be paid for such expenditure of personal resources, and Lenny Moon finally decided that price was too high.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Moon didn’t pass away or even fade away. Though not explicit, his final blog piece, "Crossing the Finish Line, suggested he succumbed to his obsession with the game.

The volume of sympathetic comments to that piece, including some from well-known internet voices, were not only a testament to his popularity but also indicative of how frequently horseplayers struggle to balance their passion for the game with their family responsibilities.

Among what he counted as his successes, he wrote:

"The organization that most resonated with me and my belief system regarding horse racing was HANA, the horse player founded group that is the voice of the customer in the industry. I wrote for their free monthly newsletter for the past several years, which provides more value than anything else the industry puts out and it’s not behind a paywall. I helped get out the word when they convinced a few tracks to lower their takeout rates. Most importantly I worked hard with them to punish Churchill Downs for raising their takeout rates. The tens of millions of dollars in lost handle that first year and each year since are proof that I was on the right side."

That wasn’t always the case.

I first became aware of Moon’s work in 2012 in an early Equinometry blog piece through a link from the HANA blog. In it, Moon used his interpretation of an older op-ed piece of mine at the HANA blog to help make his point:

That the results of the Players Boycott of California in 2011 were less than they could have or should have been. Naturally, I went back to read all his previous blog entries to see what he had been doing during that period.

I found that Moon started blogging in October 2011, focusing on the Breeders’ Cup, and then Handicapping Tournaments. He didn’t start addressing takeout until February, 2012, so I concluded he was a relative newcomer to the takeout wars in his 30s, but that he the energy and determination to make a difference if his perspective outside of HANA could be maintained.

Obviously, it couldn’t, and the reinforcement he found there for his passion arguably might have led to his inevitably unbearable circumstances.

I know from personal experience that the initial exposure to the thoughtful analyses and arguments of Jeff Platt, or the far-ranging insights and positive thinking of Dean Towers, can be invigorating.

Further, I found that communicating with them, if only on-line, and receiving positive feedback in that process can be intoxicating; particularly in the absence of meaningful dialogue, reform and action elsewhere.

With such encouragement, it is easy to understand how Moon’s involvement and love for the game increased the level of his horseplayer advocacy.

Ironically, even with Moon’s solid contribution to the 2014 boycott of Churchill Downs and HANA’s application of lessons learned from the 2011 boycott of Santa Anita, the results were strikingly similar.

There was little loss in revenue despite lower handle and takeout was never reduced. That led me to suspect that there had been no significant increase in HANA membership in those three intervening years:

Horseplayer selfishness and apathy has helped fuel the indifference that the industry has towards its core customers.

Today I would agree with his criticism of the initial 2011 effort. Yes, it took a takeout increase to spur the first wave of activism. It wasn’t so much the amount of the increase as it was the justification offered for it, coupled with the dismissive manner in which it was orchestrated, implemented and defended by the self-interested Thoroughbred Owners of California and the unaccountable California Horse Racing Board.

Lamentably, Moon and others did not get meaningfully involved until Churchill Downs exhibited the same behavior.

I always had wondered whether or not Moon was a rebated player. He was certainly in favor of lowering takeout but it wasn’t clear whether or not he supported a level playing field for all, i.e., equal direct takeout for every parimutuel pool participant.

In my view, rebated players have dominated the HANA Board of Directors in the past, declining to pursue policies that would terminate their advantage over fellow members who did not receive rebates.

Indeed, one director envisioned the process used by AARP as an appropriate model for HANA. I interpreted that to mean that his preference was to work within the status quo; not rocking the rebate boat.

In his later writings however, it became clear to me that he, too, preferred change to the way things are now.

Either way, let me add my condolences to those who showed empathy for a shortened career of passionate pro-action that was compromised by the kind of circumstances that could consume any of us.

Wishing only good things, and the very best of luck, to a proud racing voice forced into silence by a greater passion for life that for the game.

It’s a very sorry state when passion for the game has become too much of a burden on players. By now, the larger message should be resonating with racing’s power broker elite: Two choices: Reform or die.

Written by Indulto

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