Tuesday, January 01, 2013
A Welcome New Voice in the Wilderness
LOS ANGELES, December 31, 2012--Every once in a while I encounter some fresh thinking in cyberspace that yields a "Butch and Sundance" moment: "Who is that guy?"
Apparently others have been asking that question about a blogger who calls himself The Electric Horseman (TEH), and writes a blog called Horse Racing Must Evolve."
Indeed, it was a friend who asked if I were familiar with that individual so I decided to Google his work.
TEH appears to be addressing racetrack management in a series of pieces he has written, all of which contain concepts worth contemplating. In the earliest one, he looked at the way tracks treat their on-track customers as compared with on-line customers:
"When over 20 or 30 years you create a scenario in which invisible customers and their machines sitting at home and online are afforded all of the advantages, and you do almost nothing to correct that giant, industry-wide blunder, you are dooming only yourselves and the industry you are perceived to want to preserve."
"... [Racing] can sure stand to lift more than just a (the?) single finger toward the new and/or novice fans that bother to pay the extra daily costs required to attend the races live. Horse racing, unlike all other sports, continues to maintain an environment where its on-site crowds are put at a decided disadvantage while in direct competition with those who stay home to watch online or on TV!!!"
"At the root of your parimutuel wagering, you are extracting 14-30% of every dollar wagered on your product. Your "whales" and other preferred customers are beating that number steadily over time, and often by a whole lot. This in turn ratchets-up the effective take-out on the newcomers and the novices, who are left dangling, often with no clue about a sport that demands considerable understanding before a person can be competitive. "
So, I was surprised when he wrote the following: "There is exactly nothing wrong with the core parimutuel takeout at most North American racing venues ..."
Subsequently he revealed an anti-professional player agenda with anti-HANA (Horseplayer Association of North America) undertones:
"This isn't about the mutuel takeout, no matter what is constantly trumpeted by those whose lone interests lie in trying to beat the game over the long haul. Those individuals, who have now become a giant liability to horse racing, can't seem to understand that it is their own very existence amid a game otherwise marketed to numbers- and colors-players, which is maintaining a giant wedge between horse racing and the mainstream gambling public."
"Horse racing has perhaps unwittingly tipped the playing field so far toward its high-volume and repeat customers that the dire consequences will eventually clear-out race tracks all together. In what other arena does a business make things so relatively easy for a small segment of its customers that they STAY HOME in order to maximize their relative perks while at the same time the on-site customer suffers a great disadvantage as a direct result?"
Later, he ventured into the realm of horse racing's future: "... With future audiences so accustomed to having so much done for them, it is exactly WRONG to imagine these same audiences wanting to regress 40 years (into O.T.B. environs?) where they should then be expected to go through the laborious task of being left alone to learn all things Horse Racing, practically on their own.
"The scores and scores of minute tasks which fall under the label of "handicapping" will simply need to be effectively done for them (at modern computer speed) in order to draw significant interest from audiences of the future."
There is much more at that blog that merits digesting and debating. You don't have to agree with him to appreciate his attitude and accomplishment. Interestingly as it turns out, the blogger Pull The Pocket shares some of TEH’s concern for newcomers and gently excoriated the SCORE-64 bet we discussed here recently at HRI.
In his piece, The Jackpot Obsession, he wrote, "It's called the "64" where a pick 6 ticket can be taken but it can have no more than 64 combo's for a dollar.
“The hope is that newbies can participate in jackpot bets, because (as we all know) syndicates and big players tend to shoot for large jackpot bets, and crowd out the little guy. Noble I guess, but this fixation on jackpot bets, especially for newbies, really kind of irks me."
In the spirit of to each his own, one of PTP’s "fixations" is betting exchanges: "Betfair is very popular with new players because you can trade (a version of scalping), dutch, and grind out a little scratch with (if you are good) zero takeout."
I wonder how soon newbies become "very good" at exchange betting. Unlike TEH, though, PTP is a huge HANA supporter and is also one of the good guys.
Roger, who occasionally comments at HRI, interestingly proposed a $1 Pick 6 non-carryover wager capped at $64 as an alternative to the $2-minimum carryover Pick Six bet. Reiterating, the “Score-64” wager offers multiple-tier payouts with no carryover along with the lower minimum and greater transparency on how the bet was won; a teachable moment.
What seems to attract the most opposition to this vision is its proposed 64-combination limit per ticket and the minimum cost for each combination.
Perhaps having the number of combinations alive announced to the public after the fourth leg, similar to what is being done at Gulfstream with its Rainbow Pick 6, would provide a hint as to the potential tiered payoffs and help build further interest. This could help churn via the dutching of marginal contenders in the final two legs of the sequence.
The considerable success of the 50-Cent Players Pick Five suggests that the average bettor would be more likely to play this new wager at that level of investment.
A 25-Cent minimum eventually night make it as popular as the Dime Super, a pool that continues to grow while no longer cannibalizing the Trifecta pool to a major degree. Of course, the downside is limiting the prospects of a life-changing score and watering down potential payoffs at the tiered 4-winner and 5-winner levels. Either way, continued dialogue is a good thing.