FANS SHORTED BY NYRA INACTION
The average, casual fan that bet exotic wagers at New York Racing Association, Inc (NYRA) tracks for the past 15 months was shorted by 1% on their winning bets was recent finding of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board (NYSRWB). As NYRA says, due to an “unintentional oversight” (see NYRA press release). Nonetheless, this oversight cost the fans betting NYRA races over $8.6 million in shorted payouts. If a fan won a Trifecta, Superfecta, Grand Slam, Pick 3, Pick 4, or Pick 6 wager during this period, he/she received 1% less than should have been paid. Tuesday, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board (NYSRWB) upon detecting the “oversight” took action to mitigate further damage and try to fix the wrong. (Listen to a transcript of the Board meeting at VVV minute).
Like trying to put Humpty Dumpty back to together again, no one should expect to find all the pieces, in this case all the bettors who were wronged. The only records of these transactions are from advance deposit wagering (ADW) holders’ account statements and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) W-2G forms. In the case of the latter that only means people who won an exotic bet with odds greater than 300-1 and over $5000. What about the others?
Recognizing the conundrum, the Racing and Wagering Board did its best. However, they errored in attempting to address the unidentifiable players. Their solution was to require NYRA to reduce take-out on exotic wagers by 2% going forward to help fans recoup. This will have a greater impact on the big player than the casual fan. Think about it. How many casual fans bet enough on a regular basis to recoup from this error?
How many of the 15-20 thousand fans who attended Saratoga Race Course each day during the 2011-40-day meet actually used an ADW account or cashed an IRS ticket? Not many. Most casual fans bet with cash or with a prepaid vouchers. What happens to their money? Very little can be done to put the take-out overage back in their pockets. NYSRWB’s requirement for future action is insufficient. They should have taken one more step.
At their June 29, 2011 meeting New York State Racing and Wagering Board (NYSRWB) by resolution established, at the behest of Governor Cuomo, the Racing Fan Advisory Council (RFAC). The Governor, the NYS Assembly and Senate appointed the five members. Its mission was to help rebuild the racing fan base in New York State (See Resolution).
The action that would have been better and more aligned with their intent when establishing the RFAC would be to involve that Council in assuring that all fans rights were protected. The portion of the $8.6 million that could not be returned directly to bettors should have been set-aside in a fund dedicated to help build the fan base in New York. The government appointed Council, as an arm of the NYSRWB should have been charged with the responsibility to oversee these efforts. Funds should be used to solicit fan input to improve racing, to undertake fan education programs, to establish an “I Love New York Horse racing Campaign”, to offer grants to non-profits seeking to promote racing in New York or to do “fan appreciation” days at tracks across the state, to name just a few. Reducing the take-out going forward by 1% may increase handle and net more winnings to some, but will have little impact on rebuilding the sport of horse racing in New York. That should be the goal of regulators, fans and industry professionals.
Lets hope as NSRWB attempts to rectify this “unintentional oversight” with its aggressive timetable in the coming months by adding this dimension to their solution.