HANA TRACK RATINGS: #3 TAMPA BAY DOWNS

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am

2010 HANA Track Ratings – #3 Tampa Bay Downs
By Greg Reinhart

Rank: 3

HANAScore: 2.83


Located in Tampa, Florida, is Tampa Bay Downs, which took the third position on the Horseplayers Association of North America's rankings of the 69 racetracks in North America this year after placing 12th in HANA's initial survey in 2009.


The HANA ratings are a rating system not based on racetrack popularity, or qualitative factors such as food service, but based on measurable factors with regard to horseplayer value: Takeout rates, field size, wager variety, signal distribution and handle size.


Founded in 1929, Tampa Bay Downs has undergone many changes throughout its history, but now it stands as a growing venue in thoroughbred racing. The track is home to two major Kentucky Derby prep races in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Tampa Bay Derby. Racing at Tampa Bay Downs, which is contested over a one-mile conventional dirt oval and a seven furlong turf course, runs from December through early May.


Tampa Bay Downs has been focusing on lowering their takeout in recent years, and it is a major reason why the track surged up the HANA rankings this year. From HANA's initial rankings last year to this year, Tampa dropped takeout on exacta wagers (from 21.5 percent to 20.5 percent), pick-6 wagers (25 percent to 19 percent), pick 3's and pick 4's (from 20 percent to 19 percent), and daily double wagers (from 20 percent to 18 percent) Tampa Bay Downs also reduced takeout on win, place, and show wagers from 18 percent to 17.5 percent. So while Tampa's takeout on trifectas and superfectas remain at a high 25.9 percent, the remainder of the low takeouts helped Tampa to a takeout score of 2.875 and a grade of B from HANA. Last year, Tampa scored just a 1.89 takeout grade for a C.


Tampa Bay Downs also has an extensive wager selection available for players who like to construct large tickets at lower prices. Aside from the standard exotic wagers, bettors can play a 50-cent trifecta, a 50-cent pick 4, a 10-cent superfecta, or a super-high five wager, which has a carryover provision.


Tampa Bay Downs scored strongly in the field size component of HANA's rankings. In 2008, Tampa Bay Downs averaged 9.43 competitors per race, and even though that average dipped slightly in 2009 to 9.28, that still placed Tampa Bay above a large part of the competition. These numbers were quite good, and might have been better because turf racing at Tampa is limited to 10 starters per race.


When it comes to accessibility via television and advance deposit wagering, Tampa Bay Downs races are shown on both HRTV and TVG, with wagering available through Xpressbet and through TVG's own wagering system. They have generally been more receptive than many other controlled tracks with their signals, which helps horseplayers, and they are one of the few tracks who stream their races on their website for free. Tampa Bay Downs' races are also available through both Youbet and Twinspires, and are popular on many smaller ADW's. North of the border, Tampa is carried on HorsePlayer Interactive, and races are frequently shown on HPITV.


One area that Tampa Bay Downs did score lower than the previously released tracks was in pool size, however the track is still very playable from a pool size perspective. During its last meet, Tampa conducted 987 races for a total mutuel (win, place, and show) pool of $120,609,251 and a total exotic pool of $255,342,338. That meant that on average per race there was $380,276 in all the pools with $122,197 of that coming in the mutuel pools and $258,078 in the exotic pools. This is the first “medium sized” handle track reported so far in the top 5.


When all of these factors were computed by the Horseplayers Association of North America's formula, Tampa Bay Downs received an overall score of 2.83, which works out to a grade of B-. This was a vast improvement for Tampa Bay Downs over the initial HANA rankings when the track scored just a 2.16.


Of special note, early in the 2000's Tampa's takeouts were among the worst in racing, with 20% take in WPS and 28% take in all exotics. This would have placed them below 40th in the present day HANA rankings, instead of third. The concerted effort to lower the price of wagers almost each year since 2003, distribute their signal, and enact other horseplayer friendly measures has seemed to have borne fruit. In 2002, at high takeouts, Tampa Bay realized just short of $2 million in handle per race card. Fast forward to today, Tampa should realize over $4 million in handle per day for their current meet – which works out to over a 100% increase. What makes this more impressive is that during this time overall annual North American thoroughbred handles has fallen from $16B to about $12.4B. We believe this is an excellent illustration that churn and a competitive signal distribution takes time. It also helps explain why takeout is such a large component in HANA's rating system.


In conclusion, Tampa Bay Downs is an attractive track to wager on because they seem to genuinely care about the horseplayer, and they have demonstrated this by significantly reducing the takeout on most of their popular wagers. In addition, they have offered free parking and weekday free admission for on-track racegoers. Tampa also has a strong list of wagers and lower-priced alternatives, and they can be accessed through both cable horse racing channels and through many ADW's at industry competitive rates.


For a summary of the methodology used to calculate the HANA Score, please click here.


If you would like to join us at HANA and be a part of next year's ratings where you can give your opinions on your favorite tracks, you can for free, right here.

  • YourHost

    Good for Tampa Bay Downs. If your analysis included qualitative measurements as well they would score even higher. The fans are well treated – this track is very well organized and a number of racing/simulcasting venues could learn much from TBD.

  • During their 2002-2003 meet Tampa Bay did $2,550,096 per day in handle, and after a couple of takeout reductions, now appears to be averaging over $4,000,000 a day this meet, while Calder did $397.369 in handle a day back in 2003, and only did $219,737 a day in handle in 2009. Calder increased takeout in 2008, though I’m not sure if they increased takeout between 2002 to 2007 as well.

    I know the rise of Tampa Bay and the fall of Calder isn’t all about takeout, but at least some of it is.

  • MikeD

    A track with nearly a 26% takeout ranked a “B”

    Is HANA grading on a “curve” like my fourth grade math teacher did?

    What would be wrong with HANA’s #1 track being a C- or a D+??

    Embarrassing.

  • Memchuck

    I think a # 3 ranking of tampa is a slap in their face. Peter and his team have done an excellent job of bringing this track to life. They do a great job of marrying “making money” and “treating the player and employees as the life blood”. While his host track fees are on the high side considering the lowering of his takeout which makes it difficult for smaller ADW’s to make money or attract players, it has to be said they are trying. I think they are at the tipping point so to speak at this point. If they continue to raise host track fees as they have and lower takeout less and less ADW’s will take them and less and less rebate players will bet them. If you are going to lower the take out you have to lower the host track fees to the smaller tracks and smaller ADWs.

    In closing if youy visited his track on a regular basis you would know why I think # 3 is a slap in that the staff are friendly, the place is clean and the services provided are plentiful!

    HANA you finally got one right. How #4 and # 5 (I can’t even give them respect by listing their names) made your list of top five is beyond common sense thinking!

    If NYRA or Keeneland make your it into the top 2 I will flip. Both are overpriced, not for profit companies that just are not good for racing! But before I have a go at you for your # 2 and # 1 I will wait with baited breath!

    Congrats to Tampa although I think you should have been # 1 or # 2 since you are a privately held company and are in the game to make a profit yet still support the player!

  • Mike D., Approximately one third of handle is bet on WPS, one third on ex’s and dd’s, and one third to other exotics (though this in not the exact formula used by HANA).
    Tampa Bay has a 17.5% takeout for WPS
    An average takeout of around 19-19.5 for Ex’s and DD’s
    And an estimated average takeout of around 22-23% for all other bets.
    Tampa Bay has an average takeout rate of slightly below 20%. Compared to the rest of the tracks out there, they are above average in that department.

    HANA has already pointed out that if takeout rates were graded relative to optimum takeout rates, every track would get an F, but these ratings are relative to industry takeout rates.

    Memchuck, only approximately 20-25% of handle is represented by players who get decent rebates.
    And if broken down further, 95% of horseplayers do not either know they can get half decent rebates, or they can’t because of where they live. Distribution fees were only a small component of the HANA ratings due to this, though we are in agreement that when it comes to future growth, distribution fees must stop rising or even drop in some cases if and when takeout rates drop as well. For those who get good rebates, the top 5 list would obviously be different than HANA’s list, if that was the main component, but it obviously isn’t as explained above.

    Also, it is very difficult to rate tracks based on personal visits and how customers are treated. It is a very subjective thing, so it isn’t taken into account in the rating system, neither is the price of food or the quality of food, etc.

    Mike and Memchuck, HANA can’t please everyone and both your top 5 track list differs than HANA’s. If you’d like to rattle off your top 5, feel free to do so.

  • Joey Buttafuco

    Why are you guys getting upset? These HANA ratings are meaningless and a joke.Hana is a membership of 1600 people,who cares who “they” think are the top tracks.You know they will pick Keeneland as #1,the meet starts friday and all the HANA bigshots can get freebies galore there because of it.They did the same thing last year.Are you going to bet or not bet a track because they have a low or high HANA rating?NO! Hana ratings are as meaningless to Joe gambler as the NTRA safety accredititation B.S. Who Cares!?

  • MikeD

    Joey,

    First your name is really stupid….LOL.. Secondly, I don’t think it is wise for horseplayers to tell the industry that a 26% takeout is okay, and by HANA giving Tampa a “B” that is what they are doing.

    You are correct that the list is meaningless to most horseplayers.

  • HANA

    Hi Joey B and whomever might want to know some methodology,

    Just a point of clarification. The HANA ratings are not what people think, but how tracks score via available metrics on items that have horseplayer value and drive handle.

    The complete list of metrics and weights are linked on the article. The weights were assigned based on elasticity of demand factors as follows.

    1. Takeout (highest weight, elasticity of handle: -2.3). Handle grows inversely proportional to takeout. We know anecdotally this is true, but we also know from study and empirically. In the last published study a reduction of takeout results in the highest increase of handle (elasticity of demand=-2.3). So tracks that have a lower takeout compared to one another is the largest factor, because the tracks with lower takeout are better for the player, increase the bet, and help grow customer satisfaction, which should help racing.

    2. Field size is next. It has an elasticity of -.60. A field size which has one more horse per race grows handle by about 5%, allows bettors to bet more money, receive more value and is better for the game.

    3. Wager variety is next. We do not have a hard study on this, however players do want options, because there are a lot of sharks swimming in the pools. Most players want wagering options, so it is there, altho a smaller part of the ratings. the e here is probably between -0.2 and -0.6.

    4. Handle was in response to horseplayer feedback last year. Small pools cause some problems. A track could have 10% takeout, but be a tough place to play, if for example a pick 3 pool has $400. If you hit three ten to one shots you are getting paid nowhere near fair odds and it acts like a takeout increase. This also addresses purse size, without giving points to slot tracks. The e on quality is a low -0.06, but it is probably a bit higher when wagering is considered.

    5. Last was signal distribution. This is a new item, and it is hard to measure, however it could be one of the most important items in racing today in terms of its future from a player perspective and otherwise. When the signal was messed up at FG this year, handle was off 20+%. When the signal fee is high it squeezes wagering dollars out of peoples pockets as a takeout hike. We have received feedback that this should be weighted higher next year, so we will do some digging and try to find a more applicible weighting level based on that study.

    Bill – a retired engineer from Houston Texas, crunches all those items, compares them track to track and the ratings are calculated.

    We have no idea who will rank where until Bill hits the button.

    If you would like to know more about the weighting schemes, or to read references on studies by Thalheimer, Cummings et al, please visit the HANA website.

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Regards,

    HANA

  • Memchuck

    “elasticity of demand factors” – I love the terminology…lol

    What does that mean?

    As I read the most important part of your “weighing” is subjective. To me availability should carry more weight than say “wager variety”. I don’t care how many type of bets you have if I can’t bet it or even watch it at my favorite track or ADW it means nothing.

    I understand the value of takeout but come on. If Tampa simply lowers their takeout by the few points over the years do you really think their handle would have doubled as it has. It is about Magna and CDI running Gulfstream and calder into the ground and Tampa grabbing the better stables, trainers and owners to their track thus raising the quality of the races. It is about increase purses, it is about customer service, it is about positive “spin” in the press and a lot of other factors. His drop in takeout was nothing. Tioga’s drop in take is a real drop.

    You can site that “Bill” is an engineer. You can use phrases like “elasticity of demand factors”, but the bottom line is your base system is subjective to what you think should carry more weight.

  • Indulto

    I can appreciate the cynicism expressed here, but there is hope that these ratings may eventually serve a primary purpose beyond a marketing tool for HANA. Last year’s ratings put HANA on the map. This year’s ratings so far seem to promote HANA’s influence in getting tracks to recognize the importance of the takeout issue and respond accordingly. That’s not a bad thing if HANA is actually responsible for progress in that area. There can’t be any doubt that HANA has helped raise awareness of the issue.

    It’s not clear to me to what degree either the ratings — or the criteria upon which they are currently based — reflect the opinions of, or even input from, the rank and file membership in addition to the leadership. Some subjectivity is unavoidable, but I have no reason to suspect the weightings support a pre-ordained result. The track table on the HANA website which permits ranking on user-selected columns seems to be a very useful tool for those concerned with takeout as are most HANA supporters.

    The track table was originally the idea of a professional player who, if I remember the original chat room discussions correctly, used a table of ranked tracks in his automated system to somehow optimize his wagering results. He proposed making tracks aware of their relative competiveness as an incentive to get them to lower takeout.

    Perhaps the greatest value of the current “metrics” is that they illustrate the type of thinking track management needs to embrace in order to survive.

  • ironhorse222

    We as an industry need to realize that if our racing product is a good one, takeout can be raised to higher levels. Tampa has 26%, Woodbine has 27% and both tracks were dramatically up in handle last year when almost every track in North America was down big.

    This shows that dirt vs plastic track and high takeout vs low takeout has little to no affect on wagering. As noted in the press release above ranking Tampa #3, the bettors and their groups have no problem with takeout levels that are labeled “high” as long as our product is good.

    Monmouth’s summer meet sounds like it will be exactly what the bettors want. If it is going to be as projected, maybe they should think about raising their price to produce more revenue for us.

    Bottom line—-If we give the bettors above a product they want and feel like they must wager, it is economically correct to charge more which translates into more money for us in the racing business.

  • MikeD

    Ironhorse222…
    if you are correct, maybe Monmouth should raise the takeout to 60%. Handle should soar, right? What happens when the industry sucks the last dollar from the few remaining horseplayers, ask for more slot machines? Your post such ignorance, it’s amazing.

  • death_spiral

    I assume that was posted in jest, as a jab at ranking Tampa so high, despite their tri and super rakes.

    A bit over the top boys and girls.

    Their other pools on the whole are better than average. There aren’t a whole lot of low takeout across the board tracks. If there were, they’d all be stacked up at the top. But there aren’t. Some tracks having high takeouts in some pools are going to rate above those with higher takeouts in most pools. By definition.

  • ironhorse222

    MikeD,

    Of course nobody in the industry is asking for 60% takeout. There has been talk in the industry that takeout rates are too high and should be lowered. If you read the above press release, you will see that hidden between the lines is a message from bettors and the people that represent them showing takeout on the high side is fine with them as long as the product is good and other small steps forward are made.

    Tampa’s handle is up while almost every other track is down. Is their handle up in the pools charging 26%. Yes. That makes it clear that handle can be accelerated by a quality product with no regards to a moderately high level of takeout.

    Woodbine was also up last year with a 27% takeout upper threshold.

    If you read the press release above, “So while Tampa’s takeout on trifectas and superfectas remain at a high 25.9 percent” and their takeout of 17.5% on WPS is also higher than our industry avg., their handle is up significantly and were given a B grade by horseplayers on takeout and the #3 track rating overall from them too.

    This is proof that if you give bettors a quality product on which they want to wager upon that any reasonably high takeout is fine with them. 60% as you cited is not reasonable. 26% or 27% is proven by handle increases and ratings above by horseplayers to be deemed reasonable.

  • MikeD

    ironhorse222 Says: 26% or 27% is proven by handle increases and ratings above by horseplayers to be deemed reasonable.

    With thinking like this, the sport will be DEAD in less than ten years. DEAD DEAD DEAD.

  • Woodbine got a huge boost by being featured on TVG. They also appeared in the US Racing Forms for the first time, and they lowered takeout on triactors from 28.3% to 27% which is still abominable, but it would increase churn a bit. They also got a little more aggressive in trying to keep bigger players by offering more of them higher “takeout adjustments.”

    Still, when it is all said and done, they averaged a little more than $2 million a day in handle. For the amount of purses they hand out, $2 million a day is chump change.

  • death_spiral

    lets just summarize here, as some people appear to have had their minds blown and just generally can’t control themselves.

    <<<<>>>

    The Press Release says three things, which I’m sure Tampa Mgmt and any other track mgmt can figure out:

    1) Tampa ranked low last year, and moved up solely because they reduced their takeout rates.

    2) Tampas handle has gone up because they have cut takeout rates.

    3) Tampas tri, super, and wps takeout are still higher than average, and obviously still much higher than optimal.

    OMG, did a horseplayers group that represents me just say that out loud? Did a track just move up in their rankings solely because they cut their takeout rates? Sacrilidge! How could a horseplayers group allow such a thing to happen, what a terrible message to send. Also, Did I just poop my pants? OMG.

    To Peter and everyone at Tampa — from all horseplayers — good work on cutting your rakes. You’ve moved up in HANAs rankings, and you’ve increased handle and interest in your track. You are doing the right things, and you are being rewarded. But all your rakes are still too high. Keep cutting. Handle will keep increasing. And watch those signal fees.

  • EUGENE LEVEY

    A FEW WEEKS AGO I MET A VERY NICE YOUNG WOMAN IN THE VIP ROOM AT TAMPA BAY DOWNS..HER NAME IS “THERESIA E. MULLER” CPA , CFP, TREASURER REPRESENTING “HANA”…SHE TOLD ME ALL ABOUT WHAT HER ORGANIZATION IS DOING…SHE IS MORE THAN “OK” IN MY BOOK..

    P.S. i still dont understand why people use stupid user names…what are they afraid of..

  • stupidusername

    The Press Release says three things, which I’m sure Tampa Mgmt and any other track mgmt can figure out:

    ROTFLMAO maybe someone at HANA will eventually figure out what is important to it’s members but I am doubting both will be coming true anytime soon.

  • stupidusername

    We as an industry need to realize that if our racing product is a good one, takeout can be raised to higher levels.

    Spoken like a true industry shill. Raise it much more and you will be playing to dog racing size pools.

  • EUGENE LEVEY

    well i have to admit>>congrats to stupidusername……he is ok.. to each his own..

  • EUGENE LEVEY

    now we might see a death panel that the republicans invented

  • The racing at Tampa is horrible, with cheap lifetime conditions making up the majority of the cards. I hate betting there, it is another universe away from Keeneland who deserves a number 1 ranking. Bad purses, and a horrible condition book leads to a boring card. I know this is based on a certain criteria, but you need to re think it if Tampa comes up in the top 20.

  • Ivan Yerkinoff

    Tampa Bay Downs is a joke. It has to be the worst place for excitement and transparency in this industry.

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