Some 35-40 people involved with California racing met at Hollywood Park Feb. 22 to discuss ways in which to improve the state’s industry.
Jack Liebau, president of Hollywood Park, hosted the 4 1/2-hour meeting. He invited not only representatives from racetracks and horsemen’s groups, but also included horseplayers through three members of the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA)—Jeff Platt, Roger Way, and Andy Asaro.
Attendees were asked to list the issues they felt were the most important. Topping the list was the horse shortage in California, followed by the takeout rates. California increased the takeout on exotic wagers beginning in 2011 to bolster purses. Horseplayers have protested vociferously, many in the form of boycotting the current meetings at Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita.
The Hollywood meeting was closed to the media, and attendees were asked not to discuss specifics because everything is still in the idea stage. The group in the future plans to divide into four sections to concentrate on the areas deemed most important—marketing, takeout, distribution, and product.
"Everybody took away some good ideas," said one attendee. "It was an important meeting and a productive meeting. Everybody realized that something has to be done."
Though the gathering was reportedly cordial, contention could still arise between the horseplayers and the horsemen.
Owners and trainers have indicated that the increased takeout is needed to bolster purses and expand field size because California must compete with racing jurisdictions whose purses have swelled through slot revenues. Costs to keep horses in training have risen, and owners are leaving the industry—two major reasons for the horse shortage.
Horseplayers, on the other hand, do not feel that bettors should pay for the increase and want the takeout reduced, saying they will play the races in other states that have a more favorable takeout.