Put Horseplayer On Par With Slots

Published: September 17, 2010 08:46 am EDT

"We'd like to see the takeout rates reduced even further to put the horse racing gamblers on the same level as a slot machine. The slot machines are generally between eight and ten per cent."

On today's episode of Trot Radio, Tioga & Vernon Downs' Vice President of Racing Jason Settlemoir talks about this 2010 harness racing season at Tioga - one in which they offered "the lowest takeout in the land." With that being said, Settlemoir still wants that takeout lower so that the horseplayer and the slot player are on even ground.

One track that has experimented with takeout is Delaware Park. They're offering on-track clientele a lower takeout than simulcast customers, and Settlemoir adds that he is "interested in seeing the numbers from the Delaware Park experiment to see if it drives on track attendance and handle."

While Tioga's horsemen have backed the lower takeout, Vernon Downs' group still has not embraced it the same way. When asked to comment on that situation, Settlemoir declined with a chuckle.

On the topic of horsemen, he did comment on the Racing Development & Sustainability Plan and the joint release issued by the horsemens' groups.

"I think they're looking for some more information," offered Settlemoir, "but I didn't like the way it came out. When I read the release...I was disappointed that they just came out and said no but I think there's some optimism there.

"I've always said this and I'll continue to say it, racing needs a plan. Simply doing things the way we are now status quo is unacceptable as we continue to see - at most most venues - declines in handle and declining attendance."

Episode 149 – Jason Settlemoir

Audio Format: MP3 audio

Host: Norm Borg



I enjoyed playing along in the Tioga contest and even though my robot finished last it was interesting to see how well the experts did in a short contest. This is a facet of the game that is not stressed enough in promotions, namely, skilled players can make a buck. I agree with the previous commentator, "to hire outside marketing and research professionals" to get this point across to the younger demographic that was/is drawn to Poker.
A war chest of funds contributed by as many tracks as possible could be used for this expense. It would be better than throwing money away on seeding or guaranteeing Pic(x) pools, a promo that does nothing to attract newcomers and only gives the few that hit that "Winning feeling".

Thanks again to Jason and Nick for listening to its customers.


Here Here!!

I'm on the board of HANA and I remember how excited we were when Jason and Nick asked us what we thought about their lowering takeout to the minimum levels allowed by law. It's very rare to see track management come up with this kind of idea, and even more rare to see them push it through and make it happen despite what must have been a lot of push-back from other parties.

I'm a thoroughbred player, and I had never placed a bet on harness racing until this Tioga Downs initiative, but I'm proud to say that I played into the pools, even hit a few, and really enjoyed it. I've since been able to enjoy the Hambletonian at Meadowlands, and have gone from zero dollars into the standardbred pools, to a pretty decent amount. There is zero chance that this would have happened had their takeout remained at it's previous level.

Despite the fact that I'm an active thoroughbred player, I was definitely not a standardbred fan. It's exactly this kind of forward thinking that brings new fans to the game, and thus more dollars to the game. A big thank you and well done to Jason for making this happen.

Also, a big thank you should go to the Tioga Horsemen for trusting and supporting the lower takeout. I understand that for a lot of folks it's a leap of faith, and I'm glad to see that it has proven to be the correct decision. I hope your friends at Vernon Downs will see what their handle could have been with lower takeout and will follow in your footsteps!

Congratulations to Tioga Downs on their success this year. As a director of HANA I had the pleasure of meeting with Jason and Nick on a few occasions prior to their meet as they put their plan together. It was refreshing to work with such forward thinking individuals and then watch their plan transition into results as the meet progressed. They understand that there are no short term fixes and hopefully the rest of the industry will come on board before it's too late.

That's great to see Jason. You guys are doing some great work out there. I hope it continues, because as you know it is not going to change overnight. We have monopoly priced for about 15 years now, while we are in a competitive business with competitive pricing. One meet is not going to change that; however, the $10 or $15 more people are getting back at your venue for an ex or tri hit is not stuffed into a sock, they are rebetting it and it adds to their enjoyment.

It took 25 years for them to experiment with slot machines where they used to be 25% take and now some in Vegas are 2% take; because at 2% they make more profit than at 25. You seem to be well on your way, like Hong Kong, Singapore and other jurisdictions to find the spot that balances customer enjoyment and churn, with profits for purses.

A hearty thumbs up to you, Jeff, Nick, Jason and everyone at the Nichols track!


Finally trot radio has a guest on who actually gets it, i was beginning to believe i would never see the day. The best interview that trot radio has ever done, why is that because they finally had a guest on who understands that for the sport to survive they have to get competitive with other forms of gambling. This is not rocket science, it is common sense but sadly there is so little of it in this industry.

They have lowered the track take out as low as they can by law but are sharp enough to recognize that it still isn't enough. It has to be reduced to a maximum of 10% in all pools for the long term survival of the race game. A big thumbs up to the horsemen of Tioga downs for understanding giving up a little now is necessary if the race game is going to survive and a big thumbs down to the horsemen at vernon downs who do not deserve to be even in the sport, they will find out that greed kills. What short sightedness on the part of the vernon horseman who voted against this, shame on everyone of you who did. I wonder how long it will be before the track management teams in ontario sharpen up and start the process to lower takeout to a max of 10% in every pool. I have a funny feeling that they are still years away from catching on to the importance of this. My guess is they will probably have to be brought to there knees before they actually get it, hopefully it won't be to little to late.

Reducing takeout at all ON tracks should be the first step of "the plan". This would address the customer, which really isnt a big enough part of any plan I've heard of so far. Money has to get back into the smaller pools. Gamblers wont touch SUD, Hiawatha etc. - they get better odds playing quarters with the neighbours in the back garage on a Friday night. Seriously is anyone going to "BET" (ie more than a twoonie) when there is 20 dollars in the place pool - (see race 11 Thurs. at Hiawatha).

Sidenote - example of ("we gotta do something")spending money without enough planning, investigating, questioning, data analysis, modelling of other industries etc. --ADRENALINE FESTIVAL

The "something" must be measurable by results within a specified timeframe (or the goals of the plan)

for me two simple goals would be;
1) increase handle
2) increase on track attendance (without building a slot parlour - been there, done that!)

Every dollar spent should directly address these 2 issues.

Ask questions of our customers (or are we afraid of the answer) On the tarmac of Tioga Downs ask; Why did you choose to spend your entertainment dollar at this particular track Sir/Madam?

Please hire "outside" marketing and research "professionals" before spending any money, Thank you!


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