Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Woodbine Comes Full Circle

A number of years ago horseplayers were not overly enthused with Woodbine. Higher than average takeouts, very little movement on cutting edge issues - like seeded pools, open signal expansion, guarantees, social media expansion and many others - made some of us scratch our heads. It always seemed to me that it was a company looking to protect what they have, rather than one who pushes for new money, who strives to reach more people, and increase betting pools.

Five years after I presented on a panel (representing the customer) with some industry types, including some friends at Woodbine (I was not overly complimentary), I think it's time to give some credit, where it's due.

Woodbine has come full circle.

Last weekend the Queen's Plate card drew $1M more in handle than last year and set an all time record. Handle at the harness venues, only four years ago that would garner less than $1M on a slow night, has improved dramatically. It hasn't been by accident.

Woodbine has opened their signal. I had a friend ask me about betting Woodbine and Mohawk several months ago. He said "Woodbine is on my ADW now and I can get good rebates". Yep, he really said that.Woodbine has gone from a signal that might take a microscope to find, to one that you can bet almost everywhere.

I had another friend who rarely bets win say "Do you know they have the lowest win takeout in North America, they appear to care about the horseplayer, at least in that pool". Yep, he said that.

"Woodbine seems to really be pushing the events well" one might say. Social media has been used fairly well with Gangle and Keith McCalmont. Bloggers like Gene Kershner and others wrote stories for Woodbineentertainment.com for the Plate. Even Sid Fernando did a piece that got tweeted out. Do you believe stodgy old Woodbine actually puts tweets up on their harness feed now? Ken Middleton probably had something to do with that. They do. They're doing all these things.

Lower rakes, an open signal, guaranteed pools and pushing them, social media expansion. All things players wondered about years ago, now in full force.

There are still some old Woodbine tendencies, like trying to throw their weight around to protect a betting monopoly, which as a customer I find intrusive and maddening. There are head-scratchers like a 20 cent trifecta, which is beyond bizarre for a serious every day player, especially with short fields and high tri takeout. But it is what it is; an old Jockey Club company can't change it's spots in one brief period.

However, on the whole, as a customer, no longer do you wonder if Woodbine is open for business or not. There's a blaring neon sign each and every race day that screams "yes we're open, please come bet". This is new and fresh, and the customers are responding.


7 comments:

ron said...

if you live in Canada I can understand disliking the 20 cent tri, but some not all of us love the bet. there is nothing more maddening then hitting a trifecta that pays $625 bucks knowing you have to worry about tax ramifications. I'd rather play 5 20cent tri's than one 1 dollar tri, but that's just my preference, maybe others disagree.

Andrew Szabo said...

If you think the 20 cent tris are crazy, check out Retama Park and their 10 cent tris. I don't see any point in betting into that kind of pool

Ron said...

Woodbine has good sized pools. Oaklawn has the 50Cent tri and pick 3 and it's my bet of choice there. I hit 3 this past yr that would have been signers at 1 dollar increment.

Pull the Pocket said...

Good point Ron.

PTP

kyle said...

Pool size is all that matters. If smaller denominations increase pool size that is a plus. There is a misapprehension among many that smaller denominations somehow reduce average payouts. There is no evidence to suggest that, and in fact it is illogical.

Anonymous said...

I was one of the people that met with A Mac and a former Cpma guy as Anthony talked about on SC and I HATE TO SAY THIS BUT I WAS REALLY HOPING THAT THE OTHER GROUP THAT MET WITH THE PANEL WAS NOT YOUR GROUP AND AFTER READING YOUR POST ABOUT WOODBINE COMING FULL CIRCLE MY STOMACHE CHURNED AS I CAN JUST IMAGINE HOW YOU SUGAR COATED THE REAL PROBLEMS WITH HALF TRUTHS INSTEAD OF TALKING TO THE BIG PLAYERS WHO NOW GO ELSWHERE TO PUT UP OUR BETS AND CANT COMMUNICATE WITH ANY OF THE GROUP WITH MUCH HONESTY, I BELIEVE THAT SOME OF YOU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND A BIT ABOUT THIS GAME BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT HANA IS MAINLY A ONE ITEM GROUP THAT BELIEVES IN RAKE REDUCTION AND MANY YEARS AGO I WAS IN TOTAL AGREEMENT WITH THAT PROCESS BUT TODAY THE DEAD MONEY IS PLAYING CASINOS AND BEING REPLACED WITH CARTEL MONEY AND GUYS LIKE ME CHURNING MORE MONEY THROUGH REBATE SHOPS, GIVING KUDOS TO THOSE WHO NEED TO BE REPLACED IS NOT HELPING OUR GAME AND I BELIEVE YOU PEOPLE BELIEVE THE SUCK UP MODE WORKS BUT THE FACTS ARE VERY LITTLE STRIDE HAS BEEN MADE AND I AM SURE THAT YOU REALLY DID NOT HELP THE CAUSE OF THE BIGGER PLAYERS LIKE ME AND MY GROUP.

Pull the Pocket said...

Hello,

My post was in reference to Woodbine's handle five years ago to today. On a Thursday evening it was not uncommon to see $850,000 handles at Mohawk. Now they've doubled that number, by opening their signal and being more aggressive to ensure proper field size and pool size. This is a big change, especially in an industry that has lost 15% of handles since that time.

As for the other part of your post, I don't really know what to say about that. Other than the fact that obviously casino's have taken away many of horse racing's customers, and many are likely to never return.

PTP