ARCADIA — The amount of money subtracted from each wagering pool to help race tracks fund their purses, called “takeout,” has become a huge topic over the past 10-15 years. Before the advent of social media, takeout was a foreign word to the casual racing fan.
Now it’s debated daily on Facebook and Twitter. It became a real focal point in 2010, when the California legislature approved SB1072, increasing the takeout on exotic wagers such as exactas, daily doubles, trifectas and pick threes to augment purse sizes in California.
Members of the California Horse Racing Board stood and applauded when it was announced during one of their monthly meetings that the bill had been approved, while horseplayers across the nation united and staged a boycott that adversely affected Santa Anita’s mutuel handle during its 2010-11 meeting.
But how important is takeout in the grand scheme of things? Does it trump any or all of the other problems that ail the sport?
Well, depends on whose point of view you adhere to.
Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of Santa Anita’s parent company, The Stronach Group, is one of the few racing executives who will admit that SB1072 was a mistake, and he believes takeout is too high.
“First of all, I don’t want to knock the people who instituted (SB1072) because as I operate, people look back at my agreements and say why did you do that at that time?” Ritvo said. “You never know what was going on at that time. I know horsemen don’t like to hear it a lot of times, but purse money doesn’t create good betting venues. There’s all the purse money in the world in New York and they still have six-horse fields and $100,000 maiden special weights. Whether a maiden special weight is $56,000 or $52,000 I think is insignificant to the customer. So purses do not drive a better racing product.
“With that said, I always have believed that takeout is a little bit too high. It’s a tricky formula, though, to touch because the minute you…