California takeout increases hurt public

If you are a fan of California horse racing, this will be a bad Christmas for you.

Senate Bill 1072 is a done deal in California. Starting Dec. 26, the opening day of Santa Anita, the takeout for exactas and daily doubles will go up to 22.68 from 20.68 percent. For all other exotic bets, the new higher takeout will be 23.68, up from 20.68 percent.

Industry leaders are hoping to generate $30 million to $70 million going to purses in California. The numbers are a mirage, a lie to horseplayers and horsemen.

In reality, the takeout increases are 9.6 percent for exactas and daily doubles and 14.5 percent for all other exotics, not the publicized 2 and 3 percent. It’s insulting to sugarcoat the math, an extortion of all bettors who play California horse racing.

The industry basis for doing this is that horseplayers don’t care about takeout. Unfortunately, there is much truth to that.

The best way to vote against rising takeouts in horse racing is to be price sensitive.

If you are interested in seeing a takeout chart of all racetracks, send me an e-mail, and I’ll forward the data.

I can tell you this: The only organization in America with exacta and daily double takeout less than 19 percent is the New York Racing Association (17.5, Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga). The only racetracks with win, place and show takeout less than 16 percent are those in the NYRA (14.0), California (15.4) and Nebraska (15.0). With Aqueduct now gaining approval for 4,500 slot machines, California is positioning itself to get crushed by the NYRA.

If the California horse industry wants to raise purses, takeout increases of 9.6 and 14.5 percent won’t do it. Remember this: More horseplayers shop at Wal-Mart than Tiffany. If enough players feel snookered, maybe common sense soon will prevail.

The angle is no different from here in Las Vegas when casinos changed the odds on a blackjack to 6-5 from 3-2. It doesn’t seem like much money short term.

But over the long haul, it’s busting blackjack players more quickly, and lowered churn is producing less revenue for the casinos.

If horseplayers bet more into lower takeout pools and less on higher takeout exotics, maybe the California Horse Racing Board and the horse industry will start getting it. Of course, the ultimate vote would be a boycott of the California signals altogether, even if for just one day.

There is a national voice for players called the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA). Believe me, there are others who feel the same way we do.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at

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