JC / Railbird

Day 2 Post-NYC OTB

Aqueduct numbers year-to-year, week-to-week, and day-to-day:

On the second day without NYC OTB, on-track attendance was still up, and on-track handle spiked by almost 11% over Wednesday, 12.8% over the previous Thursday. Interstate handle declined from the day before, but was up a tiny 1.3% over last Thursday. The ugly number is intrastate handle, which was down 4.6% over Wednesday, and almost 39.1% from last Thursday. How much of that was money moving? The difference in on-track handle from Wednesday to Thursday is plus $53,125; intrastate handle minus $40,000. If most of the upped on-track dollars were formerly intrastate wagers, then NYRA made gains, even if small. Over on LATG, Alan Mann estimates that NYRA needs to “capture one-third of the wagers placed on its races at NYC OTB in order to break even,”* and it does seem as though they’re doing all they can to grab those bettors, if the flurry of press releases sent out today is any indication, offering double points to customers signing up for NYRA Rewards before December 31, opening up Belmont for simulcasting beginning this Sunday, and looking for a way to get the races back on TV in the city.

In a comment yesterday, EJXD2 said, “I wish people would stop lamenting the death of NYC OTB and instead celebrate that a corrupt system is no more.” Fair enough. Huzzah! NYC OTB is dead! But there’s not much time for lamenting or celebrating. John Pricci called December 7, “the beginning of the end of the modern era of racing in New York,” and while we may not look back on that as such a bad thing, given how troubled the era passing became in its latter days, there’s pain ahead due to lost livelihoods and inevitable structural changes. The bright side (really) is now that closure has come to pass, and action is necessary before the whole industry goes broke, New York has an opportunity to blow up the dysfunctional OTB system and replace it with a streamlined operation** better suited to supporting racing in the contemporary market, which means efficient management and an approach to customers that’s less get-your-fix and more have-great-fun. It won’t be easy, but it must be done.

*8:15 PM Update: Talking to reporters in the Aqueduct press box this morning, NYRA CEO Charles Hayward confirmed that’s about right: “Hayward estimated that NYRA has to try and make up for 35 percent of what NYCOTB handled at its parlors because only 2.4 percent of each dollar wagered at an OTB parlor goes to NYRA, compared with 10 percent of each dollar wagered ontrack.”

**12/10/10 Update: Writes Jerry Bossert in the NY Daily News: “I’m all for it, but it will never happen as there would then be only one President, one vice-president, one director of marketing, etc. It will never fly as there are too many patronage jobs out there currently occupying all those seats in the other five regions.” I fear he’s right — political considerations have held up past attempts at reform — but maybe NYC OTB closing was just the shock needed to make this time different. (Via @BklynBckstretch.)


I’m with Ed, I can’t believe that it took getting OTB out of the way to be able to allow things like the ability to instantly sign up for an online account, and MAYBE now the legislature will clear the way for them to be able to stream live races? Good riddance to the “customer last” institutions of racing.

Posted by dana on December 9, 2010 @ 6:10 pm

While it was sad to see OTB close because of the immediate short-term impact, there are some good things that can come out of it:

Obviously, the most notable is NYRA (and the other OTB regions) finally being able to stream their own races and those of others on their account platforms. It’s is utterly ridiculous that people IN NEW YORK are not able to view live streams of races the way those of us outside New York in (almost) the rest of the country can do so.

The other good thing that can come out of it is perhaps NYRA will finally be able to really reduce winter dates, as the days of having to run 95 days between December 1 and April 1 (or April 30) is very much outdated, and in an era of horse shortages needs to change.

Monmouth Park proved people want to bet big fields, and with that in mind, if NYRA needs to run in the winter to keep horsemen who can’t afford to ship elsewhere and come back in the spring in the mix, this is the kind of schedule I’d be looking at for the winter of 2011-’12:

December 2011 (up to the Christmas break): Racing stays on the main track up to the Christmas break (in a change from recent seasons), but with racing cut from five to four days a week, Thursday through Sunday. First post would be 1:00 PM on Thursdays and Fridays as part of an overall change to where even after racing returns to Aqueduct in late October/early November, first post remains at 1:00 PM on weekdays with such cards cut from nine races to eight. Weekends would be 10 races with first post at Noon. December 18 would be the last day of racing before the Christmas break.

After the Christmas Break into January 2012: There would be eight consecutive days of racing from December 26, 2011-January 2, 2012. All cards during this period would be 10 race programs with first post at Noon daily. After January 2, racing would be on Saturdays and Sundays ONLY for the rest of January, plus racing on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 16). These would also be 10 race programs with first post at Noon until it stays light out late enough to add an 11th race to such programs. Mondays would be held as a reserve day if racing has to be canceled on Saturday or Sunday (except Monday 1/16 since there would be racing that day, with Tuesday 1/17 the reserve day that weekend) and such canceled card carried over in its entirety under such circumstance.

February and March 2012: Racing is four days a week on a Thursday-Sunday basis, plus Monday, February 20 (Presidents Day). First post throughout would be 1:00 PM on weekdays (eight races) and Noon on weekends (11 races thtough Monday 2/20, except for nine on Super Bowl Sunday (2/5/’12), then 12 races the last Saturday and Sunday in February (2/26-27) and the first two weekends in March, then 13 on Saturdays and 12 on Sundays). The four-day race week (eight Thursdays/Fridays, 1:00 PM first post and then a noon post with 13 on Saturdays and 12 on Sundays) could then continue through the end of the Aqueduct main track season in April.

Obviously, the focus on racing in this version would be on weekends with many more races on Saturdays and Sundays as opposed to during the week. That to me, regardless of what happens otherwise is crucial, as weekend handle is far more than weekday handle nowadays in most cases (unless you’re a niche track like Philadelphia Park or Delaware Park, which has its biggest handle on Mondays and Tuesdays). Some might not like suddenly have 11, 12 or even 13 races on a Saturday at Aqueduct or Belmont outside of the major race days, but Monmouth did just fine with 12-race programs three days a week this past season, and those of us who have dealt with Harness Racing are used to 12, 13 and in some cases even 15 race programs on a normal basis anyway (even though some of us who put in a lot of work preparing for a card have to do extra work when we have those much longer cards).

Just some thoughts from someone who grew up in New York and knows how important racing is there.

Posted by Walt Gekko on December 10, 2010 @ 11:48 pm