Jeff Platt, president of the Horseplayers Association of North America, and two other HANA officials met with Thoroughbred Owners of California president Lou Raffetto and executives from The Stronach Group on Thursday morning.
Platt, Barry Meadow and Roger Way of HANA and longtime horseplayer Andy Asaro represented the horseplayers at a meeting that was held to discuss ways the TOC, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields can alleviate some of the concerns that have caused many around the nation to boycott California racing after takeout on two-horse exotics was raised 2 percent to 22.68 percent and three-or-more horse exotics were raised 3 percent to 23.68 at the beginning of the year.
“We had what I felt was a very promising meeting this morning,” Platt said.
Greg Avioli, president/CEO of The Stronach Group; Santa Anita president George Haines; Santa Anita marketing director Allen Gutterman; and Golden Gate general manager Robert Hartman represented The Stronach Group.
“By the end of the meeting we came away with several tangibles (suggestions from horseplayers) that if implemented have a good chance of leading to increases in both on-track and off-track business for them,” Platt said.
Platt said Ruffetto and Stronach Group officials are expected to respond to HANA’s proposals in the next few days.
On Wednesday, Del Mar CEO Joe Harper said he was in favor of the takeout being lowered. Asked if any changes could be made between now and the end of the meet on Sept. 7, Harper was non-commital.
“It is possible,” he said. “The probability of it, I don’t know until we have a few more meetings with (horsemen).”
Santa Anita’s average daily all-sources handle was down 9 percent this past year and Hollywood Park, which just completed its 54-day spring-summer meet on Sunday, showed a 2.4 percent decline.
Few track officials are willing to guess how much the players’ boycott has affected the handle in Southern California, but none are willing to completely dismiss the adverse effect it’s had at the betting windows.
“I can’t come close to quantifying it, but it’s had an effect,” said Tom Robbins, Del Mar’s executive vice president for racing. “I think there are people out there that pay close attention to it with the social networking going on, where maybe 10 years ago it would have been difficult.
“Those folks have done a pretty good job at telling the story in terms of what tracks charge in terms of takeout. So I gotta believe it’s had an effect.”