Citing a much-publicized and criticized increase in the Keeneland takeout rate despite increased revenue from historical racing machines at The Red Mile, officials at the Horseplayers’ Association of North America (HANA) have implored gamblers to boycott wagering on the Keeneland Fall meeting, which began Friday in Lexington.
“Keeneland decided to hit horseplayers with a takeout increase,” HANA President and Playersboycott.org spokesman Jeff Platt said. “Keeneland claims they are going to use money raised by the takeout increase to boost purses. But higher takeout in the name of bigger purses has been tried before and it has failed, big time.”
According to information disseminated by HANA, horseplayers boycotted Santa Anita and Golden Gate in the early months of 2011 as a result of takeout increases there. Instead of bigger purses the result was purse cuts and layoffs. In October 2011 the local paper in Arcadia, CA, reported Santa Anita was cutting one third of its staff.
HANA claimed that Churchill had a takeout increase for their spring 2014 meet. Handle fell by 25% outside of the Derby and Maggi Moss reported on her Twitter account that Churchill had quietly announced a 20% purse cut for their fall 2014 meet.
“None of this would have happened if higher takeout was the answer. Keeneland is doubling down on the same bad idea.”
Platt said, “I reached out to Bob Elliston of Keeneland and we had a 90-minute phone call. We discussed the actual outcomes that arose from the above takeout increases. But it became obvious that Keeneland believes players would support a takeout increase because money raised by the takeout increase would be going to bigger purses. I did my best to make it clear that takeout increases lead to the opposite of bigger purses. In the end we agreed to disagree.”
In response to the HANA announcement, Keeneland issued a statement late Thursday that read:
“Keeneland, since its inception in 1936, has operated toward a singular mission to invest all profits above what is necessary to operate our company back into the industry to benefit all who are part of it. We have never wavered from our founding principles, and we will never do so. This price increase, the first in decades, keeps us within the five lowest blended rates of all major U.S. racetracks and is necessary to continue to fulfill our mission. Keeneland’s mission stands for fan development, safety and welfare initiatives, developing racing across the world and delivering the highest quality and most competitive racing product to our horsemen and fans. Horsemen from across the U.S. and Europe have entered an average of 100 horses in each of the three days of our Fall Stars Weekend; assembling some of the best race cards available to fans this year. 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.”
For Keeneland’s opening-day program Friday, Keeneland reported on-track wagering of $1,470,920, an increase of 8% over last year. All-sources handle reached $8,756,822, an increase of 2% over last year.