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ACM Opinion

Why Far Fewer Bettors Pony ­p on the Horses

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horse bettor checks his notes

Horse bettor John Astarita checks his notes on the upcoming races at the sports book at Wynn Las Vegas.

Credit: Las Vegas Sun

It's midmorning and John Astarita is sitting in his usual cubicle in the Wynn Las Vegas race and sports book. Atop the Daily Racing Form, the newsprint bible for horse bettors, sits a stack of computer printouts developed by University of Chicago-trained mathematicians, priced at $30 a pop and tracking the careers of some of the horses racing today.

It's days before the Kentucky Derby, yet the Wynn sports book has plenty of vacant seats. Horse racing revenue has declined 30 percent at Nevada casinos in the past decade, even as other forms of gambling have increased. Astarita offers plenty of explanations why. His latest complaint concerns deep-pocket investors who use computer programs to track historical race information the way hedge fund managers study stocks, wagering hundreds of millions of dollars on races — and reaping big rebates. These shadow bettors place their bets online seconds before the start of a race — moving the odds too quickly for smaller bettors to react.

"These are neural network computers that can build their own memory. We can't compete," he says.

From Las Vegas Sun
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