Friday, May 9, 2014

Get Churchill Out of May 31 Monmouth Park NHC Contest

Trust me, my goal in life is not to embark on a crusade over Churchill Downs' anti-horseplayer, anti-paralyzed jockey mindset, but the track operator's latest simulcast feed dispute with New Jersey's ADW operator justifies replacing Churchill with another track for Monmouth Park's upcoming National Handicapping Championship qualifier, scheduled for Saturday, May 31.

No feed? No problem...
(Photo Courtesy of WebMD)
No longer a journalist, but as someone who writes on a niche through personal experience and third-party reading, I prefer to make observations and arguments and let the Ray Paulick's of the world unearth factual details to craft the nuances of topics, such as how entities pay to receive each race track's video feeds.

One fact is clear, however, after this week -- customers are shut off from viewing or wagering on Churchill Downs-operated tracks amid the latest battle with someone over simulcast rights.

A customer service representative from 4NJBets, operated by TVG, confirmed this with me via email on Wednesday with a terse "there is currently a contract dispute. Once this has been concluded, (Churchill tracks) will either be available or not."

Time to Up the Ante...

In the spirit of the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) wagering boycott of Churchill-owned tracks, I spoke Friday afternoon with New Jersey Racing Commission's Deputy Director, Michael Vukcevich, to share my opinion, and have submitted written commentary to accompany NJRC's meeting agenda for Wednesday, May 14, at Monmouth Park, 1:30 p.m.

I would encourage anyone who has the time to attend and support my simple position for the NJRC to empower Monmouth Park to replace Churchill Downs with another track, such as Woodbine or Delaware Downs...or any other track that promotes player-friendly values.

The other two tracks on the contest docket (already pre-approved by NJRC, but not yet ratified) are Monmouth and Belmont.

Subbing another track for Churchill without NJRC approval is apparently akin to misdemeanor.

I emailed contest coordinator Brian Skirka with a recommendation to ditch Churchill, but he noted that the Commission had already approved the May 31 slate.

The simpleton in me suggests changing one track is not so radical a plan, since it is a simple, presumably low-cost matter of changing the contest registration form PDF to read something other than Churchill Downs.

And, based on past experience, where weather washed out one contest track and forced last-minute replacement of another in a Monmouth-hosted contest, I doubt the notion of player backlash (i.e., revolt over tossing Churchill) is a credible concern.  

As someone in local government, I can attest that processes often move much more slowly than most would understand, so before ratification on Wednesday, I would argue that NJRC can give the go-ahead to change tracks for the May 31 contest.

...Here's Why

Monmouth Park contests are live-money tournaments.

Unlike competing online or on-track tournaments where players pay an entry fee and bet notional dollars (typically mythical $2 win-place wagers but no real parimutuel money exchanges hands), contestants on the Monmouth Park circuit pay an entry fee and are tasked with making real bets on races at contest tracks.

Using May 31 as an example, contest players would be betting real money into the wagering pools at host Monmouth, plus Belmont and (currently) Churchill.

Let's assume 250 people sign up on May 31 to compete, and each loses every bit of their $200 live bankrolls on a 99-to-1 shot to win the opener at Churchill.  In my unscientific view, that's $50,000 into the Churchill pool (perhaps there's sharing behind the scenes, but Churchill makes money nonetheless).

Now, let's say the same 250 people all hit the same $200 win bet on a 4-to-1 shot at Monmouth, then parlay that collective $250,000 into one losing horse at Churchill.  That's a quarter million to Churchill.

I can keep citing examples of the compounding of player bankrolls into live handle, but the point is clear -- Churchill will profit in some way from players in a state there there's an ongoing dispute over simulcast fees.

The pro-HANA voice in me says this is unfair to the horseplayer, and so I am hopeful the New Jersey Racing Commission allows for a subtle change in the track makeup of Monmouth's May 31 NHC contest.

I would hope that my peers hold our sport to higher standards, and so I made my case to NJRC.

Now if I could only get them to have my distant cousin change her wedding party date (also May 31, which will keep me away from the contest).


  1. Getting Monmouth Park to make positive choices for their customers is not some they will do.

  2. One can dream, anonymous. At the very least, a simple phone call and letter may prompt what would be a simple change that no one will quibble over.

    1. Your right NJ players need to stick together!

  3. I was planning on passing on that contest for two reason - (1) I am boycotting CD (which maybe stubborn, as I didn't play the superfecta box horses I blogged about last week) and (2) I can't pick a winner to save my hide at Belmont... pointing towards the MTH/WO contest - two tracks I follow and play!

  4. Did you get the email from Skirka, Churchill is out, Pimlico is in. Good job Bill!.

    Frankie Sal

  5. Chalk one up for the little guy!