10/06/2017 10:36AM

Bettors group calls for month-long boycott of Keeneland

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The head of a group that has organized boycotts of racetracks in the past urged horseplayers Thursday to avoid betting on races at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky., because of the track’s decision to raise its takeout rates for the fall meet.

Jeff Platt, who heads the Horseplayers Association of North America, posted the message on the association’s website and on social media. HANA was formed in 2008 by Platt with the goal of raising awareness of issues affecting horseplayers. The group, while not universally embraced by bettors, has previously called for boycotts of other tracks that have raised takeout rates, while celebrating those tracks that have either lowered takeout rates or maintained takeout rates lower than their competitors.

“Join us by not betting one track – Keeneland – for one month – October, 2017,” a notice on the HANA website and an affiliated website, playersboycott.org, stated. “That’s it. Together we can convince Keeneland to reverse their decision.”

Earlier this year, Keeneland officials acknowledged that they had decided to raise takeout levels to the highest allowed by law. Takeout for win, place, and show bets was raised from 16 percent to 17.5 percent, while takeout on all other bets with the exception of the pick 5 was raised from 19 percent to 22 percent. Takeout for the pick 5 was lowered to 15 percent.

Higher takeout rates translate to lower payouts on winning bets. Prior to the takeout increase, Keeneland received high marks on HANA’s annual ranking of racetracks, which prioritizes takeout rates and field size over all other factors.

In response to the call for a boycott, Keeneland president Bill Thomason released a statement Thursday night stating that the increase was “necessary to continue to fulfill our mission,” which he said was “to invest all profits above what is necessary to operate our company back into the industry to benefit all who are part of it.”

Keeneland’s fall meet opens today.

“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,” the statement concluded.

Keeneland is a not-for-profit that runs two high-profile race meets a year and runs the largest Thoroughbred auction house in the world. The finances of the company are famously opaque. Track officials have said that the takeout increase will allow the company to raise purses. The track’s purses have risen every year since 2012, despite large fluctuations in its handle.

In 2014, HANA called for a boycott of Churchill Downs after the track raised its takeout rates along the same lines as Keeneland. Handle at the first Churchill meet with the takeout rates in effect declined significantly, with HANA taking a small measure of credit and comfort in the declines.

“How much of that was the market speaking and how much came from us drawing attention to the takeout increase is hard to say,” Platt wrote in a post on HANA’s website. “But we sent a pretty clear message.”

For a detailed look at Keeneland’s decision, click here: http://www.drf.com/news/keeneland-takeout-hike-gets-rise-out-players