Fixed Odds. Free Data. Horse Racing Industry weighs changes to compete with sports gambling

The sport has a long tradition of pari-mutuel wagering where the odds fluctuate and nothing is set until the horses leave the starting gate. But with the legalization of sports gambling in the United States and its gradually expanding implementation around the country, adding fixed-odds wagering could be a way for the horse racing to adapt and compete in the changing landscape.

“When we had a monopoly, we certainly benefited from that, but it made us very lazy and it’s time to get moving,” said Craig Bernick of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation that recently raised the possibility of adding fixed-odds betting in horse racing. “If we don’t adjust, I personally think sports betting has a very good chance to destroy most of the horse racing gambling because the price, the familiarity that everyday people have with those sports that they grew up with, the free access to data and the type of bets allowed all favor sports betting over horse racing. We really need to innovate.”

Rich Nilsen’s article about FREE horse racing data

This isn’t the first time horse racing has needed to fend off challenges to its longstanding betting monopoly. There was the addition of lotteries across the United States, then came the proliferation of casino gambling that in some states partially funded horse racing and gave a boost to a fading business model.

The impact of legalized sports betting seems to be heading in the opposite direction.

Even though places like New Jersey’s Monmouth Park have championed the cause and embraced it, it’s not expected to be a financial windfall for horse racing.

Century Mile the horse racing future in Edmonton

Bye, bye Northlands Park. Hello happiness.

For several years, horsemen have been unhappy campers at the century-long home of horse racing in Edmonton. But not now. Not as they get ready for Opening Day of a new era of horse racing.

The first-ever thoroughbred race card at Century Mile goes to the post Sunday afternoon at 1:45 with high hopes of good times ahead for the industry.

“We all saw Northlands deteriorate to the point it was beyond sad,” said trainer Tim Rycroft, a veteran of 30 years on the track including a lengthy spell at Toronto’s Woodbine until returning to his hometown 13 years ago.

“You could tell the writing was on the wall. Nobody seemed to care there toward the end. It was once a really nice thriving place with a proud tradition,” he said of the track that once owned the title of being the per capita betting capital of the horseracing world.

“They were just letting it slide into the abyss,” he said.

“I loved it at Northlands Park. It was a great racetrack. Over the years it just deteriorated and deteriorated and the horsemen were told one B.S. story after another. It became terrible the way the horsemen were treated.

“They let the barn areas go to hell. Instead of fixing bathrooms and stuff their idea was just to slap a piece of plywood on the door and put up a big closed sign.

Britain’s Jockey Club has enlisted Marvel comic book artists …

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Jockey Club has enlisted Marvel comic book artists to give the superhero treatment to some of the country’s all-time wonder horses in a bid to win over a new generation of racing fans.

The 24-page book “Magnificent Racehorses”, penned by artists from the stable that created the likes of Black Panther and Spider-Man, was being published ahead of the Grand National at Aintree.

It tells the stories of 10 crowd favorites of the past including three times National winner Red Rum, super stallion Frankel and Cheltenham Gold Cup great Desert Orchid.

“Horseracing is the second biggest spectator sport in Britain and we want to ensure a new generation of fans are constantly discovering the drama and excitement of its stories,” said Jockey Club Racecourses chief executive Paul Fisher.

The Jockey Club, founded early in the 18th century, runs Liverpool’s Aintree racecourse as well as other leading venues including Cheltenham, Epsom Downs and Newmarket.

Tiger Roll, last year’s National winner on a photo finish, was the 7/2 favorite to repeat the victory at Aintree in a 40-horse field over 30 daunting fences.

Last year’s race was watched by an estimated worldwide television audience of 600 million.

Barry Irwin Discusses What Horse Racing Needs

by author Barry Irwin

In the last 31 of my 50 years in horse racing, I have earned my livelihood forming racing partnerships. I have been able to do this because, in spite of the obstacles and challenges, enough people still want to race horses, so I have been able to continue with my enterprise.

I am involved in one segment of an industry that provides many folks and entities the opportunity to also make a living with Thoroughbreds.

But the number of people interested in the game is shrinking.

As a keen observer as well as a participant, I feel confident in saying that the ongoing contraction of the game is a direct result of cheating by the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs that tilt the playing field in favor of crooked trainers and owners interested in dominating over their rivals by illegal methods.

All of the enterprises in which folks are involved within the industry: breeding, pinhooking, sales companies, racetracks, training, writing, advertising, acting as agents–all of it–is dependent on one simple thing: the integrity of the race. Horseplayers have to feel good about the honesty of a contest to want to bet on the outcome…

As horse death toll grows at Santa Anita, fans and foes of racing see a hard battle over sport’s future

The CHRB has called a special meeting Friday, April 12, at Santa Anita, and could take action to move racing dates to another track for the rest of this year’s season, which is scheduled to continue through Sunday, June 23.

Larry Levine, a Los Angeles-based political consultant who said he has been a horse racing fan since visiting Agua Caliente racetrack in Tijuana with his father at age 14, said he would be surprised if legislators put a racing-ban measure on the ballot, a move that could mean lost state revenue and attracting the ire of racing supporters. So any such move, he said, would be up to activists.

“In California, it comes down to ‘Do you have enough money to pay the signature-gatherers the $2 or $4 or $6 or $10 they want (per signature)?,” Levine said.

“Then it comes down to the political moxie of the industry to fight back,” he added. “Nobody can show me (the racing industry) has shown a lot of political moxie in recent years.”

But the racing industry nationwide, and related industries and labor groups in California, would spend money to protect their interests in a major racing state. Levine said such pro-racing spending would make any racing ban proposition “a very expensive campaign.”

The problem for those arguing for keeping racing, Levine said, is “How do you overcome the emotions (about) a dead horse?”

The 23rd and most recent fatal breakdown during the current Santa Anita season, which started on Wednesday, Dec. 26, occurred in the San Simeon Stakes on the hillside turf course Sunday, March 31, when the 5-year-old gelding Arms Runner fractured his right foreleg as the horses crossed the main track near the top of the stretch. Arms Runner and jockey Martin Pedroza fell, taking La Sardane and rider Ruben Fuentes down with them. Arms Runner had to be eunthanized

Senator Feinstein calls for suspension of races at Santa Anita

The LA Times reports:

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein called for the suspension of races at Santa Anita until an investigation into what has caused 23 horses to die at the track since late December is complete.

In a letter sent to California Horse Racing Board chairman Chuck Winner on Tuesday, the Democratic senator wrote she is “appalled that almost two dozen horses have died in just four months.”

“I believe that racing at Santa Anita should be suspended until the cause or causes of these deaths can be fully investigated,” Feinstein wrote. “I also ask for more information about what the California Horse Racing Board is doing to both investigate this matter and address some of the concerns that these incidents have rightly raised.”

Feinstein asked the CHRB whether it was considering other changes to improve the safety of horses after it agreed to phase out race-day medications and limit the use of whips on horses.

“While these are positive initial steps, please let me know whether the Board is considering other actions that have been proposed by trainers and animal welfare advocates, including the complete elimination of medications such as Lasix and the use of synthetic track surfaces,” Feinstein wrote. “In your view, would these or other steps be reasonable measures to prevent horse injuries and death?”

Rep. Judy Chu (D) called for a congressional hearing and investigation into the treatment of horses Monday, a day after Arms Runner became the 23rd horse to die at Santa Anita since the start of the track’s winter/spring meet on Dec. 26. The track reopened Friday after being closed to racing for nearly a month after 21 horses died over a 10-week span.

Santa Anita Park whip ban looks like a panicked response to a welfare crisis

From the UK’s Guardian:

The first, an immediate ban on the use of all race-day medication including the anti-bleeding drug Lasix, has since been watered down and will start with the two-year-old crop in 2020. The second, though, seems likely to apply from Friday: a ban on the use of the whip by jockeys for anything but “corrective safety measures”.

If so, Santa Anita will be the first track in a major racing nation to ban the whip for encouragement at any stage of a race. It will also set a precedent that racing regulators around the world will struggle to ignore. If Santa Anita can get by without the whip in the closing stages of a race, why can’t everyone?

The British Horseracing Authority will be watching with interest. “We talk regularly to our colleagues in other countries where racing is held,” a spokesperson said this week. “Events have moved quite quickly in recent weeks in California and we look forward to catching up at the next opportunity to hear more of their plans.”   more…

Horseracing Integrity Act Re-introduced

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY) and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) on Thursday reintroduced the Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R. 1754), which establishes an authority to create and implement a national uniform medication program with input from the horse industry.

“As the Representative for the Horse Capital of the World, I have the distinct honor of fighting for the future of this great American sport,” said Congressman Barr in a release. “I continue to believe the prosperity of Kentucky’s signature horseracing industry depends on national uniform medication standards and testing procedures. I am proud to reintroduce this legislation with my friend and colleague, Congressman Tonko, and I look forward to building upon the great bipartisan work we secured last Congress, including more than 100 cosponsors, to ensure the safety and integrity of this sport is preserved for years to come.”

Under existing law, the American horseracing industry labors under a diverse patchwork of conflicting and inconsistent rules governing medication policies and practices across dozens of different racing jurisdictions. According to the release, the lack of uniformity in the rules of horseracing has impaired interstate commerce and undermined the public confidence in the sport.

Here’s One Look at Free Horse Racing Data

by Rich Nilsen

In the fall of 1992 I graduated from the University of Louisville Equine Industry Program, and the following summer, the director of the program, Dr. Bob Lawrence, got me connected to Dick Broadbent, owner of Bloodstock Research Information Service, Inc.   Mr. Broadbent hired me and I soon became their Marketing Director.  Over the years this job expanded into head marketing duties for their ADWs, BrisBET.com and TsnBet.com, as well as their sister data company, Thoroughbred Sports Network (TSN).  [TSN utilized Equibase data, whereas Brisnet utilized Daily Racing Form data].

Shortly after he partnered with Beulah Park in Ohio and created the ADW BrisBET, Dick Broadbent had the genius idea of giving away complimentary past performances to customers who wagered through his new betting site.   I wish I could say it was my idea, but it wasn’t.  The concept was simple.  All the customer had to do was place a $2 bet on a given track and he or she could download the Brisnet Past Performances for free.  It was viewed as a loss leader, as BrisBET would still pay the appropriate royalty to Equibase for any and all past performances accessed.

At this time we were kicking the DRF’s butt, as we had the Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances, a product that was far superior to the original ‘Racing Form.’  Wagering sites like DrfBets.com were over a decade away from existence, and BrisBET was becoming well known and growing rapidly each year.  Wager with BrisBET and get your data for free — the data you were originally paying for.  A majority of the Brisnet data customers who resided in eligible states switched over to BrisBET for their wagering, and tons of new customers came flooding in the door…every day.

We didn’t have the astronomical marketing budget of major competitor YouBet, but we had free past performances and that carried a lot of weight.  We also had a rock-solid wagering platform, and we executed other ideas well, such as the AmericaTAB Players Pool and the Brisnet NHC online qualifiers, the first of its kind on the “world wide web.”

BrisBET continued to grow like a hot tech stock, and consequently, the company (along with its partner companies) were purchased by Churchill Downs in June of 2007 for over $80 million.  BrisBET, TsnBET, and WinTicket (the Ohio racetracks’ ADW) became the foundation for Twinspires.com, and the rest is history.

This past week Pat Cummings, Craig Bernick and the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation (TIF) put out a white paper to the industry in hopes of changing the market place by encouraging industry stakeholders to give away data in the expectation that it would lead to growth in the sport.  It was entitled “Embracing a Future with Free Racing Data.”  This is an idea that has been batted around for years but never really put down on paper and presented to the whole sport.

OTHER SPORTS DATA

Needless to say, there is a ton of free information available for other American past times such as baseball and football.  For example, within minutes I was able to pull up the complete minor league stats from the 1950s for my father’s best friend and sandlot teammate, Bob Lennon.  Born in 1928 Bob hit 64 home runs in one season in Nashville Double A, a record feat that earned him a plaque in Cooperstown, NY.   His detailed minor league and major league statistics, including fielding stats, as well as those of thousands upon thousands of obscure players are easily accessible at baseball-reference.com.

Original ledger from the 1944 Mill Basin Athletics, Brooklyn Sandlot champs

Playing fantasy football?  The plethora of free data available is also impressive.  With the growth of sports betting, the need to provide even more free data will be a necessity for companies with skin in the game.

TIF CALL TO EQUIBASE/TRACKS

According to the TIF paper: “Equibase–as a going interest of the racetracks and The Jockey Club–should eschew their interests to profit from data sales, absorbing the costs of data collection and distribution in favor of the wagering participation and the trickle-down industry benefits this would yield. In other words, the collection and distribution of racing data should be considered a marketing expense, used to attract and retain gamblers…. Equibase’s success should not be measured in terms of data sales, but in the performance of racing’s wagering markets.”

The bottom line and the reality is that Equibase, DRF, and BRIS are all in the business of selling data.  That’s their bread and butter. Unlike Twinspires.com, Equibase does not get a cut of the wagering handle.  They sell advertising and they sell data.  Equibase and their track partners earn a cut of every sale.

However, it is reasonable to consider a method to give away a fraction of that data without hurting their overall sales.  And if done properly, the ‘giveaway’ could grow overall sales and increase wagering within the sport.  That’s a win-win and what we all want to see happen.

A SAMPLE FREE PP

In an attempt to do just that and provide a visual of what could be done, I mocked up a stripped-down past performance product utilizing basic Brisnet data.

 

sample City of Light free pps

 

For those wondering, the following bits of data were altered or removed from the traditional Premium Plus Brisnet PPs:

5 past performance lines remain (5 removed)

6 workouts remain from the traditional 12 workouts

3 trainer categories remain (3 removed)

BRIS Race Shapes (too complicated for the novice)

BRIS Speed/Pace Pars removed

 

Of course, Equibase and the Daily Racing Form could give away their comparable version of the stripped-down, basic past performances. There are, no doubt, other ways to present free data and an online resource comparable to baseball-reference.com would make sense.

A few key items were removed from the PPs presented above, but in my opinion, this is a very good past performance product for a giveaway.  If a beginner player starts using this product, eventually they will gravitate towards a better product such as DRF Formulator, TimeformUS or the BRIS Ultimate Past Performances.   And that will cost them money.

 

Note: The opinions in this article are strictly those of the author and do not represent or speak for any company within the horse racing industry.

Related Articles:

Will Industry Answer Renewed Call for Free Betting Data

What Sports Betting Data Can Cost for a Commercial Business

TDN Article about Free Horse Racing Data

Wow! North Carolina mulls pari-mutuel horse racing wagering bill

The bill calls for North Carolina to establish a Lottery Commission to oversee regulation of the market, as well as handle the accompanying licencing process…

The bill also sets out how 20% of all money wagered at each location would be remitted to the Commission by the licensed organisation. All winnings would be subject to standard state income tax rates.

Consumers over the age of 18 would be able to take part in pari-mutuel wagering under the regulations, but anyone associated with the new Commission would not be permitted to place bets.

Should the bill progress into law, it would come into effect from January 1, 2020.