Discover more from MutStack
Friday Four-Pack 6.23.23
Celtics shakeup. Racing's next big issue. Media notes!
On Thursday night the San Antonio Spurs selected Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
He’s 19 years old. He’s 7’2’. He’s considered the best NBA prospect since LeBron James.
I have nothing to add other than this picture of him gripping a baseball.
Amazing. Can’t stop looking at it.
But once you do, keep reading because the Four-Pack awaits.
On your Boston Celtics…
I like the trade!
Marcus Smart was always overrated by Celtics fans!
Let’s talk about it.
Comments open below to call me an idiot or praise Marcus Smart.
Thanks for reading MutStack ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
On a must-read for horseplayers…
We’re going to have plenty of racing and Saratoga coverage here this summer. And while it’s not a fun read, here’s an important one if you’re spending your own time and money betting on horse racing.
We - you, me, and most of the betting public - are the ‘minnows.’
The ‘sharks’ are the CAW (Computer Assisted Wagering) groups that are dominating the wagering pools that we minnows swim in every day.
It was unclear how much of the pool these sharks had a stake in. Until now.
But according to the article and data acquired from the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) - it’s a massive stake.
Above are the % of the Top 17 CAW groups in each pool from last summer at Del Mar.
So yes, for example, in the summer of 2022 at Del Mar a staggering 32.5% of the money in the trifecta pools belonged to these groups. Almost 40% of the Pick 5 pool. You get the picture.
This article focuses on California racing, but I’m sure you’d see similar pool domination in Florida, Kentucky and dozens of small tracks across the country.
These groups spend millions of dollars a week betting into these pools, getting massive rebates and in many cases late access to wagering that allows them to place hundreds of bets at the last second.
I’m sure you’ve bet on a horse at 4-1 with 1 MTP and watched in annoyance when the race starts and all of a sudden he’s 2-1. Or 3-1 when the race starts and 5 to 2 on the turn. In most cases, that’s late CAW money.
In the casino, you’re battling the house, right? And the house always wins. So why not bet on horses? At least that’s the push. Racing is often marketed as you against other bettors like yourself, you versus some old guy with a Racing Form and a cigar.
You can outwork that guy, right? He’s an idiot! You put the work in!
But it’s not the guy in the backyard at Saratoga you’re battling. Instead, it’s a billion-dollar machine of computer bettors who are getting huge rebates and post-time advantages with every bet they make.
The rebates they get are so lucrative, these CAW groups can cover every logical combo in every pool. Or all the ‘underbet’ combos in every pool. And they don’t care because if they lose they’re still getting a much bigger rebate than you or I will ever see!
Ever felt like an exacta or trifecta you hit came back less than it should have? “That came back light” is a common refrain I hear at Mohegan Sun or on a text chain with friends betting on the weekends. Again, you can thank the CAW groups for that.
How do you grow the game and create new players if they think the deck is stacked against them? What happens when new players to the game realize what they’re up against? Are they really going to want to battle the CAW machine?
These groups are betting so much money the tracks can’t start turning them away. The industry as a whole needs these groups because in some cases, like Del Mar, their betting action has led to an “increase” in total handle. I mean the handle has technically increased, but in reality, Del Mar’s handle from just the minnows is DOWN since 2018 in every pool except the win pool and the jackpot pick-six pool.
These CAW groups are betting more. The minnows are betting less. And the result is the betting public is getting screwed.
The article tries to help the industry fix these issues with suggestions. But what about advice for the player?
I reached out to one very sharp player I know to see if the CAW groups have changed the way he bets in 2023—his answer.
“It was something I already did but it hammers home my playing doubles and pick threes. The double pools still get an influx of late money but it’s not quite as brutal as typical win pools. The pick three pools I think are a bit easier to ensure you’re putting yourself in as good a position as possible in terms of your dollar.”
My advice, free of charge of course.
Never bet the Jackpot Pick 6 type bets, ever, outside of a HUGE mandatory payout day. Even then, realize the CAWs are likely to be half the money or more. Good luck. I won’t be involved.
Spend your money on tracks that have bets that don’t allow CAW play. At NYRA, the Late Pick 5 every day is CAW-free. The win pools are basically free of CAW play too, because NYRA blocks them from betting inside three minutes to post. With that restriction, the CAW groups have taken their money elsewhere.
Reach out to the tracks you do play outside of NYRA and tell them you want options to bet in pools where CAW play is not allowed. Or where their money is blocked at three minutes to post.
Try to look at will-pays for multi-leg bets to get a better idea of what a horse’s actual odds are going to be. The tote board does not do a great job of telling the whole story in 2023.
Just be aware that in this day and age of CAW play, a lot of times you’re going to feel like you’re getting shortchanged on the payouts for all sorts of bets.
If you’re someone playing a few times a year, the impact might be minimal. But this feels like the biggest story in the industry right now and something they have to get right long-term. Or risk turning players away for good.
And turning the sports into a bunch of computer bettors all battling each other.
On a pair of Massachusetts sports betting stories…
Yes, it’s true, Massachusetts saw an 18% decline in the sports betting handle for May 2023.
April 2023 Handle - $546 million
May 2023 Handle - $443.6 million
The end of playoff runs for both the Celtics and Bruins can explain some of that. Add in no football to bet on and a Sox team that until recently was not worth investing time or money in, and the decline makes sense.
Then you look at the state-by-state numbers and realize Massachusetts is still crushing it.
We predicted here that Massachusetts would be a Top 10 handle state within six months. I should have gambled on Top 5.
Imagine if Massachusetts lawmakers hadn’t dragged their feet on this for two years. Millions of dollars in tax revenue the state will never see because they took so long to get up and running.
Meanwhile, we’re starting to see the effects of Massachusetts finally legalizing sports betting in the betting handles of nearby states.
New Hampshire’s May handle of $52.1 million was down 32% from the same month last year when it checked in at $76 million.
Connecticut - another state that benefited greatly from the Massachusetts delay - was down 13.6% from April to May. Year-to-year Connecticut is down just 5.5%, so not the drop we saw in New Hampshire.
These states benefitted greatly from Massachusetts taking those extra two years to get a deal done and must have planned for some sort of impact once The Bay State went live.
New Hampshire’s handle likely took a bigger hit because of the monopoly DraftKings has there. You can drive over the border and have access to seven other mobile sportsbooks in Massachusetts.
I wonder if at some point New Hampshire will work with DraftKings to see if they can do more in-state promos to keep bettors focused on betting in NH? They have a pretty sweet deal being the only game in town, as the DK/NH partnership runs through at least June of 2026.
Meanwhile, I clicked on “Customer Support Chat” on one of the sportsbooks offered in Massachusetts. Sat there for 30 minutes before closing out the app as the chat did not even work. Not great!
Comments are open below to talk about how your experience has been with the Massachusetts sportsbooks.
On a quick sports media two-pack…
I guess the Craig Carton to FS1 full-time stuff had been out there for months before it was announced last week. For Carton, it’s a no-brainer given the reported gap in offers from FS1 and Audacy. It’s much more of a gamble for FS1, who is investing money in a big NY name, hoping he catches on nationally. As Alex Reimer wrote at Awful Announcing, that hasn’t happened yet.
I thought Boomer and Carton was a really good morning show with Carton running the ship and busting Boomer’s balls. I have not been a big fan of his FS1 show.
The good news for Carton is, as we have seen repeatedly, radio will welcome him back with open arms if the TV gig does not work out.
As it relates to sports radio, there was a time Audacy would have done whatever it could to keep Carton. They gave him a comeback chance and he’s been thrashing the competition. But radio as a medium is not in that spot right now. Certainly, Audacy isn’t, given their financial problems.
Strange move from Audacy Boston this week, moving new WEEI afternoon drive host Adam Jones to morning drive for a few days to fill in for Greg Hill, as he was away for his charity’s golf tournament.
I was told by someone who would know the move was to “give Jones more exposure.” And I could see that sounding good among a bunch of radio executives trying to figure out how to cover Hill’s time off. WEEI AM drive is almost tripling up the afternoons in ratings based on weeklies I’ve seen. Technically, more people will hear him there, true.
But shouldn’t the idea to be build the Jones brand in the afternoon? Whatever that brand is. If you had this established show (or shows) and you wanted to change things up in summer, sure. But you don’t have that. You have a new afternoon show that at least from a ratings standpoint, has been rejected by the audience so far. Loudly.
And by moving Jones to mornings, you downgrade the afternoon show. And take away reps from a show that probably benefits from all the reps they can get, you know, as a new show!
Just a weird move that does not happen at other major sports stations.
Poor showing from our U.S Open picks last week #fademut. Apologies if you bet on Brian Harman this weekend at the Travelers because I did too.
More picks coming here and on Twitter. Maybe even as soon as tomorrow for Belmont.
Thanks for listening and reading.