06/17/2008 1:09PM

Another Legislative Disgrace


The bill passed Monday by state legislators will raise the parimutuel takeout on New York races by one percent beginning Sept. 14, an unnecessary and punitive increase that was not sought by anyone except the New York City OTB corporation, which the same bill basically put out of its misery after nearly 40 years of operation.

The bill also appears to raise the takeout on at least some bets on out-of-state races made in New York, a highly unorthodox surcharge, though it is unclear exactly how this would work or which races would fall under its scope.

As per the usual clueless reporting on racing matters in the general press, the passage of the bill is being widely hailed as a plucky 11th-hour piece of public service by the Mayor and the Governor to save jobs and avoid cuts in social services. It was nothing of the kind.

A quick recap: NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg earlier this year said he would close down NYCOTB on June 15 unless the state threw another $20 million or so a year its way because he claimed the city would start losing money on OTB. This was possible only if you ignored that the city was making $19 million a year on OTB through its unique, regressive "surcharge" on winning bets, which reduces winning payoffs by 5 to 50 percent for the lowest economic tier of bettors, those who play at shabby storefront "parlors" instead of teletheaters or through phone accounts.

Last week, the state called Bloomberg's irresponsible bluff, saying it would happily take OTB's profitable operation off Bloomberg's hands, and announced Friday it had a deal. Then Bloomerg said wait, not so fast, I still want that $19 million a year in profits. The same profits whose existence he ignored in claiming he would have to start laying off cops and firemen. He ended up settling for $4.5 million in ongoing annual payments, plus three years of annual $3.25 million payments to keep the races on the two city-owned public-access cable channels.

So how did the takeout increase survive? Well, someone had already drafted a bill, and the state's five other OTB's weren't going to take a pass on millions in free money, so nobody bothered to whack it out. The increase supposedly sunsets in two years, by which time a supposedly slots-rich racing economy will allow lawmakers to let it expire. Breath-holding is not recommended.

On the brighter side, the state takeover of NYCOTB at least raises the possibility of some sort of consolidation of the state's crazy and wasteful OTB system. And Bloomberg's appalling behavior throughout this episode -- from his tonedeaf bashing of wagering to his duplicitous and inept negotiating -- has cost him plenty of political capital and exposed his supposed sharp business acumen as a fraud.

Prozac Jack More than 1 year ago
Steve,Please tell your bloggers, if they don't like something that's going on in racing the best thing they can do is, sit down and write a letter to the appropriate parties,remember the pen is mightier than the sword...This dam take issue drives me nuts, all of your readers are willing to gamble on a horse, NOT knowing the EXACT mutual return,and they worry about the TAKE....You can off- set the Take issue buy cutting back on your worthless $24.00 to $120.00 pic-6 tickets that cost you more money annually than any amount of TAKE.... Start sending your letters my friends, and write them New York style, you don't have to be nice to the people that are ruining this great game of ours. All of my cost associated with this game are paid by the losers, as long as I win month after month , year after year, I'm a happy camper..My letters to many West Coast racing officials, landed me in many of their offices,And changes I promoted actually took place, which helped me AND my fellow player's.....So bombard them with letters or shut up about the TAKE.........
Stephen Taylor More than 1 year ago
Well, I've never played many NY races anyway, and I can pretty much promise those of you who do that you're stuck with the extra % for 2 years, but with Alex Waldrip (head of the NTRA) proporting to be a "friend/advocate" of horseplayers, and I'm sure, having some pull with the people who pick Breeder's Cup sights, etc. how about this: First, New York tracks will not be CONSIDERED as BC host tracks as long as the "surcharge" is in place and "as an added bonus" no BC "win and your in races" will be held in New York while the surcharge is in place (after this year, since they've already been scheduled)and last but not least NO BREEDERS CUP PURSE MONEY WILL BE AVAILABLE (again after this season) until the surcharge is dropped! In affect, what I'm saying is for the BC people to step up and do something for the players. With the criticism they've gotten for the back to back BC's at Santa Anita, this would be a public relations "pick me up" and would send the NYRA, etc. scrambling, wouldn't it!
Cangamble More than 1 year ago
Nothing wrong with Kelso's honest comments. But the "thinking" that a 1% increase in track takeout will mean more money for the industry is absolutely laughable. Most people aren't cognizant of the affects of takeouts, but they do realize when they are losing money faster than ever before. The public collectively has X amount of dollars that they will lose betting on horses in, for example, NY state. People will just collectively lose their money faster. Many will become disillusion and stop betting for a periods or bet smaller, or even cease completely. The track takeout increase, will not attract more money to be lost by horseplayers. It will not attract new players either. The only way to attract new players is to make it easier for the odd player to actually win. You need buzz of victory to create new customers. The track takeout for the industry should be around 10-12% tops. People will last longer but inevitably, most will lose the same, no matter what the takeout is. But some players will win (just like online poker, or sports betting), and this will create BUZZ and new players and a lot more extra money in the pools.
kelso13 More than 1 year ago
To Jel, Just what is that I don't get?That horseplayers don't have self control or that they are not organized?That an additional 1% increase is fair or deserved.Believe me I hate the idea that I will have to give up another 1% on my bets.However,I cannot and will not have this set back detract from the overall experience of Belmont Park and Saratoga.If that increase will keep you from those experiences than I feel sorry for you and it is you who does not get it.
Jel More than 1 year ago
All you have to do Is read Kelso's comments and know that Race tracks love people like him. He just doesn't get It!
Rob More than 1 year ago
On top of the 1% takeout hike demanded by NYC OTB, now NYC OTB has legally blocked NYRA's ability to show replays on NYRA's own website. NY State hasn't got a clue on how to run this business.
Arcstats More than 1 year ago
Dutrow fails to show at the Cogressional hearings this morning. Claims he was to sick to attend, yet fails to inform anyone about his absence. The committee is pissed. Why does this not surprise me?
Cangamble More than 1 year ago
Woodbine has one of the most atrociously high track takeouts in North America. On my blog I did a chart and they had something like the 6th or 7th highest takeout out of 57 tracks surveyed. Here is what their takeout is: Woodbine Takeout Information Win, place, and show: 16.95% Exactors and Daily Double: 20.5% Pick 3 and Superfecta wagering: 26.3% Triactor wagering: 28.3% Win 4 wagering: 25% Pick 7: 26.3% Compared to Keeneland: Keeneland Takeout Information Win, place, and show: 16% Pick 3, 4 and 6: 17% All other wagers: 19%
kelso13 More than 1 year ago
Let's stop all this nonsense about a boycott.Horseplayers do not have self control and are never going to be organized enough to pull off a boycott.Just walk into any OTB and you will find players too dumb enough to realize that they are getting hit with a 5%(it's actually a lot more than 5%)surcharge,when all they have to do is open up a phone account to avoid the surcharge.If they are not willing to take that simple step to save money than what does another 1% mean to them.Most of us will do what we always do.Keep playing,because the game is greater than the idiots who continue to try to kill it.Sure, some big bettors will switch games or bet offshore where they will receive real rebates,but the the majority of us will keep playing.Maybe this view is somewhat defeatist.I have been enthralled by this game ever since 1959,when at 16 years old I was taken to the brand new Aqueduct Racetrack by my uncle.I actually still have a pencil from that day which has "Aqueduct The Wonder Track" printed on it.At the end of the day my uncle was about to toss his "Morning Telegraph" into the trash.I took it home with me and using the key page , I started to try to figure out what all the numbers and symbols meant and how the information could be used to try to determine not only who would win the race but how the race would be run.Nearly 50 years later I am still trying,and what fun it still is.If your experience as a player has been and is different, than maybe you should find another game.I never play them but I understand that slot machines are an easy game to play and the takeout is much less(if you discount the churn which will negate the lower takeout).So all you crybaby horseplayers can go to A.C. or wherever and mindlessly pull the handle and not think at all as you lose your money and down the free drinks.Me, I will be at Belmont this P.M. ,as I am every P.M.,sitting under a tree with my Form ,still trying to figure it all out.
Flipper Dawson More than 1 year ago
Woodbine dropped Race 4 yesterday from turf to Poly Crap, yet let Pick 4 go on races 4,5,6 and 7. So, no betting as there were turf horses running on non-turf in Race 4. Then, for some insane reason, WO cancelled the late Pick 4 on races 5,6,7 and 8.No reason given. If they were going to cancel a Pick 4, they should have dropped the early one, when Race 4 was off the turf. These monkeys never fail to amaze me. ------------------------------ Today was nice--played Pick 4 on races 4,5,6 and 7. Singled in race 4 and 5. In race 6, played 5 horses, and race 7, only needed 4 to take the Pick 4. Payoff was $775.00, so for my 20 cent ticket costing $4.00, I got back $155.00.