JC / Railbird


Odds and Ends

Reactions to the updated equine fatality rates released by the Jockey Club yesterday on Twitter: An experiment with Storify. If there was a theme to the chatter, or to the comments left on this post, it’s that the fatality stats aren’t enough on their own going forward. Now that we know there’s a statistically significant difference between dirt and synthetics, deeper analysis is wanted.

Horse owner Ted Grevelis raises a couple of excellent questions about the TJC stats: “If we don’t know the fatality rates at each racetrack, how can there be any action taken on the results of the study or, more importantly, how can horsemen decide where to perhaps avoid racing in the future?”

Over on R2, Dean considers where storefront OTB bettors will go, and the possibility that many will stop playing. An NYC OTB board member suggested illegal bookies would make a comeback, telling WNYC: “It’ll be a local bookmaker or, from what I understand, they now have a lot of places offshore. But it’s not gonna go away.” The AP seems to have picked up on that, reporting in passing, “That betting apparently is headed to illegal bookmakers, regional OTBs that can now handle city bets more easily, and foreign-based Internet bookmakers.” Apparently? Evidence, please, that bookies and offshores are gaining when legal ADWs and outlets are available. If NYRA does open teletheaters in the city — an opportunity arising from NYC OTB’s closure — it seems even more likely that money will stay in the pool.

A field of ten for the Hollywood Futurity on Saturday, the final graded stakes of the year for juveniles. JP’s Gusto has to prove he can go the distance.

Little Money

New York City OTB was big, but it paid peanuts for simulcasting rights, and not just to NYRA (which gets about 50% more from out-of-state ADWs than it did from NYC OTB). In the Courier-Journal, Gregory Hall reports:

The New York City system wagered $9.6 million on Turfway Park races in 2009, resulting in $169,000 in revenues that were split between Turfway and its horsemen through purses, said Bob Elliston, president of the Florence, Ky. track. This year, with fewer Turfway racing dates, the total so far is just over $5 million, resulting in $87,000 in revenue split between Turfway and horsemen, he said.

That’s about 1.75 cents per dollar wagered. Turf Paradise had a slightly better deal, but NYC OTB still wasn’t adding much to the pot, reports DRF:

Vince Francia, the general manager of Turf Paradise, said on Friday that New York City OTB bettors had wagered $3.7 million on Turf’s signal since the track opened on Oct. 1, or about $77,000 a day. Because of New York City OTB’s bargaining power, Turf Paradise only kept 2 percent of that money as the simulcast fee, Francia said, for total revenue of $1,540 a day, an amount that was split with horsemen.


12/21/10 Addendum: New York breeders aren’t missing NYC OTB much either after two years of not receiving payments. “If you’re not getting anything it’s hard to feel like you’re losing something.”

Saturday Notes

NYRA keeps up its efforts to capture displaced OTB bettors, adding dark day simulcasting at Aqueduct and more bus routes from the city to the track. According to DRF, another 74 NYRA Rewards accounts were opened on Thursday, bringing the number of new accounts opened over the past couple weeks to 300. Friday’s on-track handle (which includes money bet through NYRA’s ADW) was $572,687, or $36,327 more than Thursday’s on-track handle; $22,125 more than the previous Friday. Slow, but steady gains? They must be hoping the pace picks up a little. Adding streaming video to the service would be a boon, but making that little change is tied up in the NYSRWB and, quite possibly, the legislature. Brooklyn Backstretch has been keenly following that part of the story.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the state senate Republicans announced the newly formed Task Force on the Revitalization of the Racing Industry in New York. Said task force member senator John Bonacic: “Racing is more than about people sitting in betting parlors. It is about the sport — making the tracks viable as racing entities — not just places where VLTs are played. We need to focus on helping the breeders and horsemen since they are the infrastructure that develops a successful racing product. We then need to market racing in a manner which brings fans to the track and generates interest in the sport overall.” Good luck, New Yorkers. [12/13/10 Addition: Over on ESPN, Paul Moran comments: “But wherever there is a New York politician, there is never the lack of calamity.”]

Juvenile graded stakes racing winds down for the year with the Hollywood Starlet, which drew eight fillies, today and the Hollywood Futurity next Saturday. “A field of 13 or 14 is shaping up for the 30th running of the race,” including JP’s Gusto and Delta Jackpot winner Gourmet Dinner. Joe Talamo, back from injury, will be on JP’s Gusto once again. The jockey rode the horse through his first three starts. Pat Valezuala then had the mount through the Breeders’ Cup, winning the Del Mar Futurity and Best Pal with JP’s Gusto.

What a process, getting Zenyatta settled into farm life.

The Alternatives

An NYC OTB bettor tells WNYC what he’ll do without his favorite parlor:

Now that he has more free time, Lopez says he’ll probably read more books and occasionally make a visit to the racetrack.

Note that he didn’t say he’d take up slots, scratch-off tickets, poker …

Unsurprisingly, OTB customers are cleaning out their accounts. “[S]ources say the accounts have been sharply draining down 48 hours now since the OTB closed its doors,” reports the Blood-Horse.

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.)

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