Following the Thursday May 8 release of "Taking on Takeout", the piece was attacked on Twitter by horseplayer advocate A. Asaro and an e-mail was sent from HANA President J. Platt. Below, is the "Picks and Ponderings" response to President Platt. It does contain a partial mea culpa but is more a clarification of the views expressed in the prior piece.
I appreciate your response to my piece, "Taking on Takeout". I am aware that three-quarters of your members find take-out to be an issue. I also commend the efforts you've done with the Players Pick 5, the TOC, and so on as you described in your e-mail to me. I appreciate the work of you, Mr. Asaro, and your organization. Although a long struggle, the implementation of the Players Pick 5 in Southern California is a victory for your group.
I think in my original piece, I mentioned your group in this light: "Further, I personally think HANA has done a bang-up job turning takeout into a political wedge issue that only divides the wagering public and confuses them." This is a statement that I'll willfully retract and chalk up as hubris on my part. You've gotten the awareness and you even have players chasing low boycott wagers in far-off tracks like Northlands Park in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Again, it's an effort to be applauded.
However, I still find myself not in lockstep with every ideal. Perhaps I find the approach of your organization too confrontational and too militaristic. Or perhaps because, as said in the piece, you can't boycott everything. If you boycott track X because of take, you can paint yourself into a corner by saying you won't play track Y because of its surface, and you create the argument of diminishing returns that I analogized with hipsters and Memorex tapes.
I am in concert with your boycott of Churchill Downs, and use the exclusion by CDI of the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne (with CDI owning cross-town Arlington) as my reason. However, but because my home track is Arlington (this time of the year) and I should try to support my own in-state industry, I wouldn't boycott Arlington. Nor would I boycott it out of familiarity: I know its human players and its equine players. It's the same familiarity someone like Mr. Asaro has with Southern California:. To the point of not boycotting Arlington, I am aware of CDI's faults and missteps. However, as someone who studies the circuit, I use the knowledge to create a gambling edge that I can hopefully exploit. I feel chasing low take out tracks removes the edge, and sends me on the diminishing returns argument.
I also, given your takeout-centric e-mails, feel that a slippery slope can be easily created with respect to Churchill and Pimlico (or my extension, the Maryland Jockey Club (MDJC)). This was highlighted in my piece. As the President of HANA, it should be noted that even after your organization gave demerits to Churchill for raising its rakes, the track still was ranked higher than both MDJC tracks and it follows that, Churchill was ranked higher than Pimlico. It is a dangerous double standard to only boycott Churchill based on its rake when Pimlico's rakes are higher. This also does not factor the silly 25.75% takeout on the two-day all-stakes pick-three.
The efforts and victory in the 14% Players Pick 5 are the reciprocity that this observer wants to see. Why not EVERY NORTH AMERICAN TRACK? I would prefer an approach based on reciprocity and success rather than a confrontational battle fatigues approach. It leads, in this eye, to a bombastic over-the-top approach that renders the message muted, the messenger accused of being crazy. It also leads this observer to the negative connotations I spoke of in "Taking on Takeout".
Keep in mind that I am in concert with the ideals of a CDI boycott, but I can't be lockstep in everything and suddenly devote myself to chasing the latest low-take pick-whatever-wager. I don't have the capital for it and do not want to sacrifice my acumen.
What I hope this can e-mail can create, along with a retraction in parts, is an open, civil, and dignified dialogue. Unlike the tracks and the management, I do not, from this point forward, go into this argument throwing about tear gas in a crowded room. I hope we all can be more moderate.
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