IRS Proposes Major, Positive Changes for Horseplayers

Special thanks to my friends and fellow horseplayers Judy Wagner and Chris Larmey , who were very instrumental in getting this done.  Judy and Chris traveled to Washington D. C. this past year to meet with U.S. Treasury officials to discuss the problems with the current pari-mutuel tax system and propose solutions for all of us players.  ~ Rich Nilsen

DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY AND IRS ISSUE PROPOSED REGS TO MODERNIZE PARI-MUTUEL WITHHOLDING AND REPORTING

Lexington, Ky. (December 29, 2016) – The Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today issued newly proposed regulations relating to withholding and reporting with respect to pari-mutuel winnings. The 31-page Treasury document, entitled“Withholding on Payments of Certain Gambling Winnings,” accomplishes the goals started and spearheaded by the NTRA more than two years ago. The effort to this point has included meetings between the NTRA and Treasury and IRS officials, visits to Washington by horseplayers, grass roots campaigns and direct contact involving thousands of industry stake holders, including bettors, as well as involvement by numerous Members of Congress, Governors and other elected officials.

Chris Larmey

The proposed regulations clarify ‘the amount of the wager’ to include the entire amount wagered into a specific pari-mutuel pool by an individual—not just the winning base unit as is the case today—so long as all wagers made into a specific pool by an individual are made on a single totalizator ticket if the wager is placed onsite. The proposed regulations would have the same positive results for Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) customers and would not impact how those wagers are currently made.

The proposed regulations will positively impact a significant percentage of winning wagers, particularly those involving multi-horse or multi-race exotic wagers, and result in tens of millions of dollars in additional pari-mutuel churn.

The proposed regulations will undergo a 90-day comment period and it is conceivable that they could be in place prior to the 2017 Triple Crown. As was the case during a similar comment period in 2015 that attracted nearly 12,000 comments, the NTRA next week will establish a convenient and simple method for industry stakeholders to encourage enactment of the proposed regulations.

In its 31-page rulemaking document, the Treasury and IRS cited numerous specific examples provided by the NTRA as reasons for the need to modernize and also referred to the many comments it received from individuals in support of the proposed changes.

“This is a tremendous step forward in our ongoing efforts to modernize pari-mutuel regulations to accurately reflect today’s wagering environment,” NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop said. “The NTRA remains thankful to everyone who has engaged in this process, including numerous industry stake holders, horseplayers, Members of Congress, Governors and other elected officials, especially Congressmen John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Charles Boustany (R-LA), who led the congressional effort. A unified message has gotten us to this point and we encourage everyone to continue to work through the channels we will be establishing as we seek to push these proposed regulations across the goal line.”

The complete Treasury and IRS rulemaking document is posted on NTRA.com and can be accessed here.

Woodbine Racecourse Reports Big 2016 Season

Woodbine via WO FB page“The clockwise turf racing concept added a fresh dimension to our racing program and attracted attention from across the world,” said Via. “We have a great gem of a racecourse in the E.P. Taylor Turf Course and turf racing at Woodbine is thriving. The Tapeta and the turf track will continue to be strong complementary offerings for our horsepeople.”

 

Woodbine Entertainment Group announced that wagering on Woodbine’s 2016 live Thoroughbred racing season, which concluded Sunday, December 4, rose sharply over the previous year’s meet.

The 133-day season produced an “all-sources” handle of $469,452,009, a 7.1% per cent increase over the $438,185,077 figure recorded from 133 dates in 2015.

“We saw tremendous growth in our Thoroughbred racing product,” said Sean Pinsonneault, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Wagering. “We had record handles for all of our signature race days and customers are responding to our blend of entertaining racing and great fan experiences. Unfortunately, even with the growth, the revenue from the wagering is declining in Ontario due to the increased costs of simulcast racing content and mandatory deductions. WEG remains committed to working with government and industry stakeholders to reform the model and secure the future of this industry in the province.”

Wagering was up 4.1% in the Greater Toronto area on Woodbine Thoroughbred racing.

Woodbine posted substantial wagering gains on each of its three biggest days.

The Queen’s Plate, which had its 157th running in 2015, had a record wagering total of $11.8 million for the July 3 card. The on-track experience was enhanced to present more food trucks, fashion and music, including headlining bands that played well into the evening.

The Plate, with 37,063 in attendance, was won by Sir Duddly Digges.

Ricoh Woodbine Mile day, on September 17, recorded a handle of $9.6 million, shattering the 2015 mark of $7.1 million, while the Pattison Canadian International card, on October 16, had wagering of $9.2 million, eclipsing 2015 mark of $6.4 million.

Sunday’s final programm also established a mark for a Woodbine meet finale card, with $7.4 million wagered, surpassing the 2015 record of $6.5 million. The card included the second Jackpot Hi-5 mandatory payout this year with over $1 million up for grabs and a payout of $39,500.65 for a 20-cent ticket.

In April, Woodbine introduced Tapeta as its new main racing surface and it was well received by many racing fans and industry participants.

“In the first year with a new racing surface, we’re quite pleased with how the Tapeta performed especially in the second half of the season after adjustments to our track maintenance protocol were performed,” said Tom Via, Senior Vice President of Operations.

Woodbine also introduced clockwise turf racing in June. Twenty-two races were conducted at five and 5 1/2-furlong distances. The track ran a record 236 grass races in 2016.

“The clockwise turf racing concept added a fresh dimension to our racing program and attracted attention from across the world,” said Via. “We have a great gem of a racecourse in the E.P. Taylor Turf Course and turf racing at Woodbine is thriving. The Tapeta and the turf track will continue to be strong complementary offerings for our horsepeople.”

Purses paid out in 2016 totalled $70.6 million, including a stakes program worth $19.5 million (101 added-money races). Field size rose to 8.4 horses per race in 2016, up from 8.1 horses per race in 2015.

Opening day for the 2017 Thoroughbred racing season, also set for 133 dates, is scheduled for April 15, 2017.

Standardbred racing continues at Woodbine through the winter, including a special Boxing Day card that features a 1:00 p.m. post-time. This Friday features a huge mandatory payout of the Super Hi-5 Jackpot wager.

Bet Like No Other Marketing Campaign tied to 2016 Breeders’ Cup

The Breeders' Cup at KeenelandLEXINGTON, Ky. (August 18, 2016) — The Breeders’ Cup announced a new marketing campaign available to all simulcast outlets designed to promote wagering on this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park, November 4-5. Titled “Bet Like No Other,” the campaign will focus on the tremendous wagering opportunities and excitement of betting on the two greatest days in the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

The “Bet Like No Other” campaign will feature a :30 second television commercial, print, poster, radio and digital banner advertising and “edutainment” GIFs (Graphics Interchange Formats) to be used on social and digital media. All creative assets can be tagged by racetracks, OTB’s and casinos with a local message and are available for download on the Breeders’ Cup partner website.

The campaign will also be supported by a panel of wagering influencers who will take part in a month-long, charity driven program to raise awareness about betting the Breeders’ Cup. The four influencers are ESPN personality Kenny Mayne (@kenny_mayne), who finished 9th in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge; 2012 National Handicapping Championship Champion and co-owner of The Tournament Edge Michael Beychock (@beychockRacing); Renowned author and columnist Joel Stein (@thejoelstein) and social media wagering guru Monique Vag (@parlayqueen).

Beginning October 1, each wagering influencer will wager up to $2,000 on three NBC Sports telecasts of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In – Presented by Lane’s End Farm and America’s Best Racing. The competition will end with the Breeders’ Cup on November 4-5 and each panelists bankroll will be donated to the charity of their choice with the Breeders’ Cup guaranteeing at least a $1,000 donation to each.

The two-day Breeders’ Cup is one of the world’s greatest wagering events, featuring some of the largest payouts on straight and exotic wagers during the calendar year. Last year, a total of $155.5 million was wagered on the races worldwide.

“While there are many popular aspects that people enjoy about the Breeders’ Cup, wagering on greatest races in the world is second to none,” said Justin McDonald, vice president of marketing. “Our goal is to ensure partner simulcast outlets have a successful Breeders’ Cup weekend and this campaign provides them the tools to reinforce the thrill, excitement and large potential payouts presented to all horseplayers and sports fans during the World Championships.”

The campaign was developed by Lexington-based advertising agency CORNETT, in conjunction with Breeders’ Cup.

Northern N.J. Casino Fight has N.Y. groups jumping in with big bucks

TRENTON — New York-based groups on either side of a fall referendum to decide whether to expand casino gambling to the northern part of the state are gearing up for a fight, according to a news report. The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council and a group backed by a Queens virtual casino operator are… [Read more…]

No Mention of the Haskell Stakes

Preakness winner Exaggerator - BenoitPhoto_AP

Preakness winner Exaggerator – BenoitPhoto_AP

According to a major New Jersey publication, there are no less than “8 spectacular events” happening in their home state of  New Jersey this weekend, but what is striking is the omission of the biggest sporting event.  The Grade 1 Haskell Invitational features the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners – Nyquist and Exaggerator – along with numerous other stakes – yet there is no mention of this in the article.  Ironically, “horse racing” at the Meadowlands is briefly mentioned.   Horse racing, you have a problem.

~ Editor Rich Nilsen
 8 spectacular events happening in N.J. this weekend

QUICKCHEK BALLOON FEST: It’s one of the most visually dazzling summertime traditions in New Jersey. The three-day Quick Chek Balloon Festival features hundreds of hot air balloons — ranging in size, style, and design — taking flight at Solberg Airport in Readington. You can sit and marvel as these great beasts soar effortlessly through the sky,… [Read more…]

The Racetrack You Need to Visit

There are marquee tracks everyone wants to visit and then there’s the others.  I understand why fans make a trek to the big tracks, they showcase the best the game has to offer.  But you may be surprised what the small tracks have to showcase. Just like the rental car commercial 50 years ago. The small ovals are Avis, and the marquee venues are Hertz. Both have cars to rent, and both serve your needs. But just like the tagline in the commercial; “Avis, we try harder.”

River Downs had events like wiener dog summer nationals, boxing matches, pig races, local music festivals and baby pageants.

I’ve ventured to both in my travels. The big tracks have never failed to amaze and delight. The smaller tracks have a down-to-earth feel that wraps around you as you walk through the doors. If you’re a race track kid who tagged along with Dad or Gramps to the races. You remember the sights, the sounds, and the smells. Hoards of gamblers hunkered over racing programs as loud speakers announced minutes-to-post. Patrons would stand in lines making  wagers with the unforgettable scent of cheap cigars wafting through the air.   There was only one place in the world you could experience this melting pot of humanity.

River Downs was a little oval outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. The meet would begin in late April and end with the running of the Cradle Stakes on Labor Day.  Long ago it went by the name Coney Island Race Track; the same as the amusement park next store  The famous Seabiscuit made two appearances in 1936, and the flood of 1937 finally washed away the Coney Island oval.  The track returned under the new banner of River Downs, and the rest is a rich storied history.

Tampa Paddock

Up close and personal at the Tampa Bay Downs paddock

Larger tracks have box seating areas where you had to purchase seats in advance. River Downs had an open air grandstand where you could grab a seat where you liked.  The larger tracks had marquee riders on the way up the ladder, riding the best of the day. Smaller tracks have a colony of rough and ready riders trying to break into the game, and, sometimes, big name jockeys on their way back down.  The horses at marquee ovals are some of the best in the land where the small ovals have cheap claimers.  Both are exciting, and each has their own special charm.

River Downs had events like wiener dog summer nationals, boxing matches, pig races, local music festivals and baby pageants.   There were track logo t-shirts on Mother’s Day, and cap giveaways on Father’s Day. As I reach in my pocket there is a money clip with a race horse and rider.   It’s at least 30-years-old and was a giveaway item from the little track.

The big tracks have handicapping shows where the talent is decked out in shirt and tie and discuss the races.   River Downs had an outside set located behind a bar, and “The Regular Guy” handicapping show talked about racing from the little Ohio track.  It was for the regular folks in the grandstand who enjoyed some good handicapping info with a great deal of fun. Sometimes the best fan education involves having a good laugh to start the day.

I had the opportunity to work for River Downs. I started in the parking lot many moons ago, and 15 years later I would return as director of marketing. The smaller track was a springboard for many, and if you look back at the history of River Downs. You’ll find out the great Seabiscuit ran there twice; Steve Cauthen rode his first winner aboard Red Pipe in 1976, and in 1984 Spend A Buck won the Cradle Stakes and went on to win the Kentucky Derby.   It’s fair to say that many horseplayers and fan have good reasons to love the little track.

I’ve visited big tracks and watched marquee events captivate the world.  They will always be on my list to see and experience as they have raised the bar for others to aspire.  Small tracks have a special charm and rich history that is passed down from generation to generation.

I have a bevy of small tracks that hold a special place in my heart. Places named Beulah, Lebanon, and Louisville Downs. They have all played a part in my love affair with horse racing, and as long as they open the doors I’ll make the drive.  The days of “build it and they will come” are long gone. Racing was the stand alone heavy weight champ of betting, and there wasn’t as much competition for gambling dollar.  It seems as though we are losing these little gems in the passing years. Places like Bowie, Calder, Great Lakes Downs, and Rockingham Park just to name a few.

Do yourself a favor if you’re a racing fan. Make your next trip to a small oval, county fair, or boutique meet. I think you’ll fall in love all over again, and, before you know it, you’ll be making plans for your next trip.

 

— Ed Meyer is track announcer at Belterra Park.   He worked long stints at both River Downs and Turfway Park.

Congressmen Urge Modernization of Pari-Mutuel Tax Rules

YARMUTH, BOUSTANY PEN JOINT LETTER TO TREASURY URGING ACTION ON MODERNIZATION OF PARI-MUTUEL TAX RULES

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Wednesday, July 13, 2016) Two U.S. congressmen, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and  Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), have submitted a joint letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urging finalization of proposed rule changes regarding withholding and reporting of pari-mutuel winnings.  The letter to Treasury was submitted on July 12 and was posted today on the official Twitter account of Rep. Boustany (@Boustany).

In the text, Yarmuth and Boustany highlight the bipartisan support the new guideline enjoys, as well as recent congressional activity on the matter and the pari-mutuel wagering industry’s economic imWashington DC smallpact. The letter concludes: “As you are well aware, it has been more than a year since the proposed rule was first published and, as such, we strongly encourage you to act on this matter by finalizing the proposed rule.”

A PDF file of the complete letter can be accessed here.

The letter comes on the heels of language in a House Appropriations Committee Report issued last week that accompanied House passage of the 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. That report instructed the U.S. Treasury “to expedite final consideration of the guidance which would modernize the rules governing pari-mutuel wagering.”

A companion bill in the Senate containing identical “Guidelines for Pari-mutuel Winnings” has been passed out of committee and now awaits passage by the full Senate. Ratification of the Senate appropriations bill would not result in the proposed rule changes becoming law; the IRS and U.S. Treasury must approve changes to their regulations.

Recent actions by the House and Senate are the latest in a concerted, industry-wide effort to modernize regulations relating to pari-mutuel winnings. Updates proposed by the NTRA would clarify regulations by redefining the “amount of the wager” to include all of a bettor’s investment into a single pari-mutuel pool, and not simply the base amount of the winning combination. The effort has received support from Members of Congress as well as all segments of the horse racing industry, including customers, who last year submitted nearly 12,000 comments to the Treasury and IRS in support of the proposed change.

California Chrome, Tepin Among Plethora of Horse Racing Stars

California Chrome working out spring of 2014

2014 copyright Gary Tasich

 2016 Features an Incredible Group of Runners

Forgive the Thoroughbred racing fanbase if it emerged from the first half of 2016 utterly spoiled. Before the calendar could flip to summer, followers of the sport were treated to an overflow of talent from all ends of the spectrum, be it the sustained brilliance from established stars like California Chrome, Tepin and Beholder to the… [Read more…]

Horse Racing’s Language Lost in Translation

copyright AgameofSkill.com 2016 A while back Amanda Duckworth wrote an excellent piece for ESPN entitled “Word Play” that raised an important issue for those of us in the horse racing industry:

It was at this moment in time last week when I was approached by a woman who was astonished I knew how to read a [sales] catalog page. As the days have passed, I keep returning to our conversation because it highlighted a long standing issue: is horse racing’s vernacular keeping fans away?

Although all sports have their own terminology, horse racing takes things to another level. Take a gander at just a few of these words that a novice might hear on their first trip to the track.

Claiming races

Furlongs

Lasix

“Sheets”

Bug boys

Starter allowance

Maiden Special Weights

7/5 odds

Super Hi-5

Place Pick All

What comes second nature to most of us handicappers is like a foreign language to the overwhelming majority of the public.  I know this isn’t the first time this has been addressed, but it’s an important issue that I truly believe does keep potential fans away.

Maybe every entrant into every racetrack in America should have the opportunity to pick up a flyer that addresses the basic terms used and what they mean.  Education creates fans and we’re not doing nearly enough.

Illinois Racetracks & The Collapse of Live Racing

Fans at Hawthorne racecourse

Fans at Hawthorne racecourse

Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA) President Mike Campbell discusses the dire situation taking place in their state and how it could easily lead to the end of live racing there.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., Jan. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Illinois tracks are plotting to upend industry regulations fundamental… [Read more…]