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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Takeout Redux and Substance Abuse in Racing

There is an interesting article in the June edition of Hoof Beats regarding reducing takeouts.  It talks about how most tracks want to lower takeouts; at least on some of their wagers but some just can't since their wagering volume is too low and there is no alternate income stream (such as slots).  I would suggest the problem lies with too much racing.  If we had a sensible industry-wide schedule for racing, there would be no tracks with volume so low that they couldn't afford to cut takeout rates.  We need to adopt racing schedules similar to the way it is done down under when tracks are assigned certain days on a regional basis to ensure handle is sufficient at all tracks to support their racing program.  Until then, we will continue to lose racetracks; tracks willing to make the necessary changes but find themselves unable to do so.

The article talks about how  Pocono Downs has not increased their handle when they reduced their takeout rate on the Superfectas and Trifectas from 35% to 25%.  The reason for this is simple.  How do you expect to attract people to your racing product when you cut your takeout rate on a wager from a grossly obscene rate of 35% to a merely obscene rate 25% when your competition is offering a 15% rake on the same wager?  You need to price the product correctly.  Then you have the attitude of  Dale Rapson, Vice-President of Racing at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs, who  said, "I get a lot of people saying they won't bet certain wagers at certain tracks because of high takeout.  But if you really like something, I don't think takeout will stop you from wagering on it."  Well Mr. Rapson, that may be true for your on-track customers, but considering the vast majority of your potential wagering dollars comes from off-track sources; those people aren't even looking at your product to find something they 'really like'.  If you lower your takeout on Superfectas to the new industry standard of 15% , watch your handle grow.

Another interesting point in the article is the fact some tracks may be considering offering discounts in the takeout rate for on track customers while charging a higher rate for off-track customers.  Being tracks get a higher profit margin on on-track wagers, it makes sense.  Would it cause customers to return to the track?  Answer the poll question on the left of this blog entry to voice your opinion.

I chuckled mightily this morning when I read Frank Cotolo's latest blog entry for Hoof Beats, titled Conspiracy Theories, I think I knew Delaney, he hung out at Freehold Raceway, Monticello Raceway, Yonkers Raceway, and just about every other track I have been too.  Good thing photos finishes are typically in color these days, but then Delaney would likely say they used Photoshop to put the proper drivers in the sulky.....

Toxicology reports showed Jockey Michael Baze died of an accidental overdose of Cocaine and Oxycodone.  The reason why I brought this up?  You can meet a guy like Delaney at many a tracks and hear them talk about certain drivers as being 'cokeheads', and you can see more often than we would like in the fines and suspensions list drivers that failed a drug test or a breathalyzer.  Perhaps it is because horseplayers are looking for excuses for their losing a race; perhaps suggesting a driver threw a race to support their drug habit.

Yes, we have drivers (and trainers and grooms) that suffer from alcohol and drug abuse, but when was the last time you heard about someone tossing a race to support their substance abuse issues?  Why should horse racing be different from any other segment of society?  The worst thing is these very same critics will say nothing when their favorite celebrity gets caught abusing alcohol or drugs.  Having a teenager in my extended family lose his life to substance abuse, I can tell you substance abuse is a societal issue.  No, we shouldn't let people who get caught abusing narcotics or alcohol continue to driver or ride a 1,000 lb animal in a race until they get their addiction under control, but to label someone a cokehead or some other derogatory term is wrong.  When I hear of someone having such problems, I say "There but for the grace of God...".  Rather than ripping a person for a problem we all could easily fall into, people should be more sympathetic. 

Racing understands the problems and has programs to help these individuals with  abuse issues and attempts to get them back into their chosen careers.  Of course, there comes a time when the industry has no choice but to ban someone after numerous chances.  Some are successful in their treatment, others are beyond hope, but the key is whe have an obligation to help them..  

1 comment:

JLB said...

I had the exact same reaction as you did to the attitude expressed by Dale Rapson-who should know better, as he was there through the days of $ 800 purses, and, for that matter, bullring t-bred racing for $ 1500 claimers. Why Pa. can't change the takeout to an attractive level, a la Tioga Downs, is incomprehensible. There is so much money at Pocono, they card four $ 8500 non-betting races for maiden trotters and pacers each week after the Thursday qualifiers. No, Mr. Rapson, people do NOT bet simply because they "really like something". With all the publicity for tracks which have reduced takeouts, Pocono should finally jump on the bandwagon, esp. since the quality of their cards is competitive with most major tracks.