Horseplayers Association Urges Keeneland Boycott

by | 10.06.2017 | 1:36pm

The Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) and Playersboycott.org have jointly announced that a horseplayer boycott of Keeneland is underway, citing an increase in takeout despite a revenue windfall from Historical Racing machines located at The Red Mile as reasons for the boycott.

“Keeneland decided to hit horseplayers with a takeout increase,” HANA President and Playersboycott.org spokesman Jeff Platt said. “Keeneland claims they are going to use money raised by the takeout increase to boost purses. But higher takeout in the name of bigger purses has been tried before and it has failed, big time.”

Platt cited past takeout increases as examples:

“For the first 6 months immediately following the takeout increase at Los Alamitos in 2010 on track handle was down 27%.

Horseplayers boycotted Santa Anita and Golden Gate in the early months of 2011 as a result of takeout increases there. Instead of bigger purses the result was purse cuts and layoffs. In October, 2011 the local paper in Arcadia, CA where Santa Anita is located reported Santa Anita was cutting one third of its staff.

Churchill had a takeout increase for their spring 2014 meet. Handle fell by 25% outside of the Derby and Maggi Moss reported on her Twitter account that Churchill had quietly announced a 20% purse cut for their fall 2014 meet.

“None of this would have happened if higher takeout was the answer. Keeneland is doubling down on the same bad idea.”

Platt also mentioned that he reached out to Keeneland management beforehand:

“I reached out to Bob Elliston of Keeneland and we had a 90 minute phone call. We discussed the actual outcomes that arose from the above takeout increases. But it became obvious that Keeneland believes players would support a takeout increase because money raised by the takeout increase would be going to bigger purses. I did my best to make it clear that takeout increases lead to the opposite of bigger purses. In the end we agreed to disagree.”

Beginning Friday October 6, 2017: Takeout for WIN-PLACE-SHOW wagers at Keeneland will be 17.50%. (An increase of 9.375% vs. last meet's takeout rate of 16.00%.) Takeout for all EXOTIC wagers at Keeneland except the pick5 will be 22.00%. (An increase of 15.79% vs. last meet's takeout rate of 19.00%.)

HANA and Playersboycott.org are asking horseplayers to consider the idea that horseplayers are consumers and that every handle dollar bet at Keeneland is a vote for higher takeout everywhere.

HANA and Playersboycott.org are asking horseplayers to send a clear message by not betting one track, Keeneland, for one month, October 2017. That's it.

Platt finished with the following message to horseplayers:

“Join us. Together we can convince Keeneland to reverse their decision.”

Apparently in response to the boycott call by the Horseplayers Association of North America, Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomasson issued the following statement: “Keeneland, since its inception in 1936, has operated toward a singular mission to invest all profits above what is necessary to operate our company back into the industry to benefit all who are part of it.  We have never wavered from our founding principles, and we will never do so.  This price increase, the first in decades, keeps us within the five lowest blended rates of all major U.S. racetracks and is necessary to continue to fulfill our mission. Keeneland's mission stands for fan development, safety and welfare initiatives, developing racing across the world and delivering the highest quality and most competitive racing product to our horsemen and fans.

Horsemen from across the U.S. and Europe have entered an average of 100 horses in each of the three days of our Fall Stars Weekend; assembling some of the best race cards available to fans this year.  We trust that those who we exist to serve — our owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, fans and yes, handicappers, will continue to support the mission that has guided our actions since our inception.”

  • burner5

    Totally agree I think Keeneland is going the way of Churchill and that is sad. I love Keeneland I viewed it as a fan friendly track but obviously raising takeout to the players to the highest levels is anything but fan friendly. I had heard the reason was higher purses but Keeneland is noted as a prestige track as well and it is doubtful to me that raising purses will result in more horses. I had already posted on Kee. FB page that as a protest I would not be playing their races this fall. If you don’t think fan protest works, see NFL ratings.

  • Indulto

    “… every handle
    dollar bet at Keeneland is a vote for higher takeout everywhere …”

    If ever a takeout increase was unwarranted, this is it.

    It’s time for recreational horseplayers to stand up for ourselves once and for all. If we don’t, we have no one but ourselves to blame for the lack of respect that led to this abuse of power, and which will surely trigger more unless stopped in its tracks.

    • slvrblltday

      Opening quotation right on and what players need to remember. Voting with dollars. Those dollars do matter

  • Ryan Driscoll

    Why doesn’t HANA get involved with the ADW situation in Texas? Thousands of horseplayers like myself being pushed out of the game because we live in a state where it is legal to “carry a sword” but not legal to bet a horse race online. I refuse to bet off-shore because I don’t want to cut the horseman out of their percentage, but also can’t make the time investment to drive to the track to bet simulcasting legally.

    • Flying Turk

      Where are the best places to buy swords in Texas?

      • Ryan driscoll

        Most people get them at the shell station/subway at the corner of Hwy 9 and I 30 in Arkadelphia and sneak them into the state.

    • Indulto

      One of the goals of some HANA founders’ was for all residents of all states to be able to bet all tracks on-line.

      The primary focus of anyone looking to make the game better should be on lowering Keeneland’s revenue from takeout over the next month.

      If we can demonstrate our collective strength on this issue, we’ll acquire the credibility to accomplish objectives related to other issues as well.

      • Ryan driscoll

        When the ADWs operated in Texas as a “grey area” they refused to contribute anything to the Texas tracks or horseman. The tracks had no choice but to push the AG to inforce the loosely written laws and shut down ADW wagering. Greed costs them the business. It is now in the best interests of all parties to establish a revenue split and lobby collectively to legalize it. The legislation filed this session was a joke and lacked anyone providing any kind of compelling argument of the economic benefit of ADW. The horse racing interests in this state seem to still believe in their 1980 business plan. 1.5 percent of me wagering five days a week adds up to much more than 3 percent of me driving a hour to the track five times a year. Lone star will limp along for as long as global gaming has them. The other tracks in the state will be closed in five years without some sort of alternative revenue.

        • Indulto

          What makes it worse is knowing the LS signal is available to out of state residents. So much for the pursuit of happiness within one’s own state boundaries! LOL

          In California, the horsemen prevent horseplayers from earning the same ADW rewards available to players in some other States.

          So much reform is necessary, but so little unity exists among horseplayers who could so easily turn it all around.

          I heard that KEE handle was down 14+% Saturday compared to the same day last year.

          We can do this!

          • Ryan driscoll

            Yes sir, crazy how we got here. In my opinion the adws are going to have to lead the charge by 1) mending fences with the horsemen and tracks for screwing them in the “grey area” days of semi-legal operations. 2) establish a fair revenue split for wagers placed in Texas. 3) sell it to the Texas horsemen that they are losing a ton of revenue from people that wager from home and have no desire, or geographically can’t go to the track. 4) put together a unite front showing the economic impact to both the state and the agribusiness. When Twinspires closed my account a few years ago, my VIP host called and said they were determined to either fight the AG on the law or work on legislation to get back up and running. Neither seems to be happening. I just can’t understand how both sets of stakeholders aren’t making this a major priority. I’ve enjoyed this conversation. Usually when I post on this subject someone attacks me for complaining about not wanting to drive two hours for a miserable experience at Lone Star.

          • Indulto

            RD,
            You bring back memories from the ’60s when my buddies and I would drive 150 miles from Albany to attend Aqueduct in Queens on Saturdays.

            The morning trips were great; full of optimism and analysis. And the winning return trips rewarding with celebration and savored moments. But going home as losers were not exactly “Happy Days.” LOL

            Those were the days, however, when Baby Boomers like myself could develop a passion for the game, and pursue it without interference and exploitation.

            It can never be the same, but it could be even better with on-line participation enhanced by technology, mutuel fairness, and mutual respect.

          • Ryan driscoll

            Exactly, I wouldn’t trade my rode trips to oaklawn, Jefferson downs, fair grounds, Evangeline downs, Del Mar, Santa Anita, globe fair (with Bobby Neuman to call the races). Trinity meadows, turfway park, keeneland, Ellis, Kentucky downs ( before I ever worked there) Saratoga, Ruidoso, Rillito…..sleeping in the football helmet chairs at Caesar’s Palace after driving all night to Vegas for Breeders Cup. Great memories that made me a horseplayer. Now I just want to come home, escape to my home office, play a few races and stay involved in the sport that has been so good to me. Oh well, guess I’ll just walk around walk mart with my sword, which is legal.

      • JPT

        Absolutely correct! No ifs, ands or buts…Texas, one of the largest, arguably the largest ADW market in the US if not the world and there is no organized effort by any industry leader to fix the humongous mess that the old guard establishment has created. Not unlike the uncertainty the contest market is facing…Let the old guard, establishment owners control the industry and there will be no growth and no new blood coming into the fold. Disgusting, monopolistic and short term thinking! SOMEBODY NEEDS TO FIX THE MESS THAT THEY CONTINUE TO CREATE….or we will disappear.

    • James Newberry

      Kudos to you, Ryan, I was at my local gas station this morning and the woman ahead of me in line bought two $50 lotto scratch-offs. I didn’t even know they had them that big. Yes, as big as the state is, as much traffic we have here in DFW, it is more trouble to go to the track than to sit at home and not play. The state is literally throwing big bucks away. I have contacted my state reps and they don’t want the “expansion” of gambling in the state. My point is that you can use a machine at the track and not ever have to go to the window with a live teller. Why can’t I use my computer at home and do the same thing? I think the tracks are concession conscious and really don’t care about the betting public.

    • Jeff Platt

      Ryan, Earlier this year there was a bill floating around the Texas Legislature that would have authorized ADW wagering for Texas residents. Once I found out about the bill I made several attempts, both by email and phone, to contact upper management at Sam Houston Race Course. I identified myself as Jeff Platt from HANA and I let them know in no uncertain terms why I wanted to speak with them: I wanted them to give their support to the bill.

      Long story short — Upper management from Sam Houston Race Course refused to even take my calls — and the bill died in the Texas Legislature shortly afterwards.

      • James Newberry

        Jeff I live in DFW how do we garner support for this effort. How can you and Ryan and I get something started? Where to we turn? I have written both horse associations, quarter and TB with no support.

      • Nytex

        A couple of years ago I contacted Sen Cronyn in reference to getting ADW’s back, at least Twinspire’s who was working for about 12 years. I received an email back from his “office” stating basically not going to allow “offshore” companies to operate in the state. I never got a reply from my next email stating Kentucky was part of the United States.

  • Rick Blaine

    All we are saying, is give horseplayers a chance…

    • Indulto

      Well said.

  • J. Nasium

    By raising the take and cutting purse money they are giving themselves a raise for a job well done. Management stupidity in this game has been around a long long time. I do not understand why racetrack management and the government cannot understand that by LOWERING the take and lowering the costs of a day at the races (did someone say $6 for a hot dog and $9 for a beer) will increase revenue THEN GIVE YOUR SELVES A RAISE!

  • Mike Oliveto

    This is the same visionary crew that believed that synthetic surfaces were the way of the future?

    • Bill Casner

      Record handle, record field sizes, and the fewest breakdowns of any track in America was the legacy of the Keenelands synthetic surface. The data speaks for itself.
      The reason it was changed was because the Ky. stallion farms understood that it favored turf stallions and all of those G1’s,G2’s,and G3’s were benefitting turf stallions, which other than Kittens Joy, are virtually nonexistent in Ky. All of that value to pedigrees was going to go to European stallions when they hosted the Breeders Cup. The loss in value to dirt Stallions, mares and their offspring would be in the billions when extended over multiple generations. Follow the money.
      Synthetic is tougher to handicap in that does not give speed an advantage but horses stayed sounder, catastrophic breakdowns were cut in half and ultimately the bettors provided it with record handles.

      • Mike Oliveto

        “The reason it was changed was because the Ky. stallion farms understood that it favored turf stallions and all of those G1’s,G2’s,and G3’s were benefitting turf stallions, which other than Kittens Joy, are virtually nonexistent in Ky.”

        Add to that the Keeneland Derby preps becoming completely irrelevant, etc. Keeneland management blundered (as did California) in their knee-jerk, costly, not well-thought-out decision. Thank you for validating my point.

  • longshot

    I didn’t even know there were horse race gambling organizations

  • donald altemose

    the higher the take out the sooner a player goes broke. picture a poker table where the “house” takes 5% of every pot—–how long do you think the game would last? Horse racing management is the only business I know of that does their best to run off of their customers and that’s what high takeouts do.

  • Cindy

    without the horses HANA you are an afterthought

    You should concentrate on boycotts at tracks that are both unfriendly to the player experience as well as dangerous to the life blood of our industry……the horse

    Gulfstream park delaying post until they suck every penny dry and running on turf track that looks like the tee box on 90 yd par 3

    Concentrate on the core

    • Ryan Driscoll

      You can get an oil change in the time it takes from one minute to post until the actual race at Gulfstream.

    • Indulto

      Cindy,
      Please do not assume that participation in the boycott is limited to HANA members. While HANA’s lending its name recognition and resources to this effort is appreciated, it will take many multiples of HANA’s reported membership to be successful.

      In effect, this boycott is directed at unfairness to horseplayers at any and every track. It sounds as if you agree that horse and horseplayer abuse exists across the industry. How can you expect any reform to come about unless players exercise their financial clout and remove the feet of the greedy and power-hungry from their necks?

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