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Steven Crist: NYRA should look at adding to wagering menu, lowering takeout
By Steven Crist
If you’ve been holding your breath waiting for anything about playing the horses in New York to change for the better, it’s time to exhale before you turn any bluer. The lesson from Thursday’s fourth meeting of the new New York Racing Association Reorganization Board was that things are moving even more slowly than anyone expected, and matters of genuine concern to actual customers seem to be falling further and further down the agenda.
No one thought that addressing major conceptual issues involving the future of New York racing was going to be a quick or easy task, but there seems to be a growing disconnect between that big picture and the ongoing operation of the racing game.
While the new state-appointed board slowly educates itself about the industry, neither the board nor its depleted and leaderless management team is considering the kinds of changes that customers actually care about, such as changes to the daily wagering menu, addressing archaic betting rules and regulations, or the long-term need to lower the rate of parimutuel takeout.
The situation is probably going to get worse before it gets better. NYRA, which has been without a chief executive for 11 months now, will lose its interim president at the end of this month, when Ellen McLain’s resignation becomes effective.
It became clear at Thursday’s board meeting that the board is not close to hiring a successor and will instead have to put together yet another interim leadership group. The search committee for the next CEO reported Thursday that it has interviewed more than 150 people as sources or candidates for the position, including many from outside racing, such as hospitality executives, but is only “rounding second base” in the process.
In the meantime, action items far less complex than the long-term philosophical issues being debated by the board’s committees remain unaddressed, and customers can be forgiven for feeling that they have no advocates in the process.
Players would, for example, welcome the addition of a low-minimum, low-takeout pick-five bet to the daily betting menu, a proposal made more than a year ago by former NYRA executives that has languished due to inattention rather than anyone’s objection to the idea. These kinds of bets have worked well at almost every track where they have been tried, generating new revenue and making customers feel that their concerns about affordability and takeout are being heard.
In the days before the state takeover, it was a grind to get something like a new bet approved in a different and dysfunctional political landscape. The once-powerful OTBs opposed any bet with a lower takeout, regulators stalled implementation with arcane concerns, and approvals were withheld month after month.
One of the benefits of the new political order was supposed to be that since the state was running NYRA, those roadblocks would disappear. Now, however, with no one at NYRA championing such changes and a board whose myriad committees don’t even include one on wagering, no one is even trying to make these changes.
That is a missed opportunity, as is the one to have, at long last, a fresh discussion about takeout and taxation rates and the best use of the windfall of slots money that has eased NYRA’s short-term financial woes. Without those pressures and political hurdles, now is the time for some bold experiments in pricing.
Maybe while the new NYRA is contemplating whether fancier dining and retail shopping are the path to success, as many board members seem to believe, it could also try a sharp reduction in the win-pool takeout, or see if some new bets and even lower minimums might stimulate the core business of selling parimutuel tickets.
Everyone would like to see the NYRA facilities cleaned up and made more inviting, but the new board must acknowledge that ontrack handle is a sliver of the business, and that there might be better uses for some of the slots money than putting it all into purses and facilities. In addition to being told they might be getting nicer restaurants in a few years, fans need to be educated and incentivized to handicap and bet today, and made to feel appreciated.
Something as simple as adding a new pick five doesn’t require the hiring of consultants, the intervention of the state, the formation of a committee, or public hearings – why not just do it?
Gulfstream has opened a new can of worms...The 10 cent pick 6. I don't have a problem with that! The shaft is that you have to be the only winner to collect! When you share the prise if is only 40% of the pool.If you hit it ...you should get it ! This larcency has spread to other tracks...monkey see monkey do! I believe federal Authorty should intervene !
Here! Here! NYRA just doesn't get it. I have given up playing NY races. It's been years now. Their takeout is horrendous. As one of the major-circuit tracks they can barely put together decent size fields--even with casino money. Doesn't that tell them something? Aside from the NY Bred races, that does get decent size fields, the rest of the card can hardly get anything more than 6 horses. I have switched to other tracks that understand what I want. And that's: bigger fields and lower takeout. When you bet the exotics in NY you get raked over the coals. Unbelievable! And they have casino handout. They are carding stakes races that are filled with claiming horses. That's what NY racing has come to. And lastly NYRA, spend some damn money on Saratoga before it falls apart.
While you are discussing changes in the wagering menu, maybe the abolishment of the Grand Slam would be in order. In my opinion, this is the most foolhardy wager of them all. Novice customers do not have a clue when asked to explain this wager. I will take this opportunity to argue once again for the abolishment of coupled entries in pari-mutuel horseracing. The NYRA rule regarding late scratch of a coupled horse would no longer be required.
I have always wondered why the fans are not even considered when this "slot" money is spread out. The large purses for these horrible fields of slow horses currently racing at the Big A are ludicrous. I attend the final week of the Saratoga meet every year, and have since 1969. All of the seats in the grandstand cost $8.00. The sections farthest from the finish line sit empty all week. How about free seats in these sections, at least for the last week?. Dropping general admission charges at Saratoga would cost three million dollars. A drop in the "slot" bucket. I would like to see a grand experiment. How about "No Take Fridays" for the Saratoga meet? Zero take on all wagers. I think the results in handle and interest would be staggering, and likely would help the rest of the weekend, business wise. No one would argue that racing would not exist without the fans (bettors). Why do we constantly receive such shabby treatment?
Steve, Wanted your opinion on my idea for a new wager... I call it the "ladder" bet. It's similar to the Grand Slam that NYRA has now, but instead of a three race show parlay connected to a win bet, the "ladder" is a parlay of a show bet, then a place bet, then a win bet (moving up the ladder.) This bet could be offered multiple times during a day and would not eat into the Pick 3 pools since, I believe, it would appeal to a different part of the betting public.
racing at aqueduct is a joke. the new rules on drugs need to be changed,these rules are preventing out of town shippers from coming here. the average field is 5 horses i play pk3 and pk4 and there is no money to be made on these short fields. belmont is not going to be any better, saratoga will be the only playable meet
Mr. Crist, unrelated question please. Now that DRF will no longer have Florida distribution on M and Tuesday what provision will be made for long holiday weekend's that feature big Monday card's ?
Obviously lowering the excessive takeout NY has and a low(10%) pick-5 takeout bet would be a big improvement for NYRA.It would increase handle(interest) and profit. A 12 year old knows this...but we're talking about NYRA..
they need to expand the fan base....not offer gimmicks to cannabalize the existing fans of the sport...10 cent supers...50 cent triples etc...are akin to crack cocaine vs. powder...they are not the answer....neither are expensive restaurants and retail shops...they need to promote the game....promote the jockeys....educate the public...I see a lot of casino patrons coming out and asking questions....but NYRA does nothing to educate those potential players...Aqueduct is a dump...it is a disgrace....it seems the folks at NYRA just don't care
I think .50 cent triples would be a good addition. They work at Gulfstream, Keeneland etc. Aqueduct's superstructure is so decrepit it looks beyond recovery judging from the looks of the second floor .
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