Friday, December 16, 2011
Earning Good Grades
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, December 15, 2011—When tracks make bettor-friendly decisions, it’s a welcome chore to spread the word, even if the decisions are self-serving—a means to increase the bottom line.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Making good, logical, fan friendly policy is good for business.
While well-meaning groups ponder and question time-honored truths by using newer models, it’s good when track managers employ common sense when an approach is known to work.
And it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle has your attention, cost reduction in the form of tax cuts for customers is never a bad idea. But other issues need addressing, too.
First, let’s consider that there are some crazy regulatory rules in Florida, of all places, but when it comes to racetracks, they are given latitude to make decisions they believe will help business.
Recently, with little fanfare, Gulfstream Park changed its policy on surface switches that occur in the midst of a Pick 4, Pick 5 or Pick 6 sequence.
Now, when a race is taken off the grass, it automatically becomes on ALL race in the aforementioned multi-race bets.
Is an alternate-selection method a better solution? Perhaps, but that’s arguable. What isn’t up for discussion is that nothing could be simpler or more equitable than keeping all multi-race wagers alive when turf races are switched to the dirt.
In addition to fairness, it is a likely handle booster as well, since players can bet more combinations with confidence knowing that a surface switch won’t hurt them or mandate a runner the bettor didn’t want in the first place.
If any new “house rule” goes without a hitch, the state makes it a regulation. Are you listening, New York and elsewhere?
In Kentucky, meanwhile, its Horse Racing Commission approved Turfway Park’s request to lower the takeout on its Pick Four wager to 14 percent, which equals tiny Portland Meadows and Fort Erie for lowest P4 takeout rate in North America. The Pick 4 has a 50-Cent minimum.
The takeout reduction at Turfway is a step in the right direction but it affects only one pool. It seems many tracks have been willing to take this reduced-takeout step in some multi-race pools with fractional betting. It’s a commendable tack replete with a public relations boost that figures to help business.
But at least tracks like Turfway are taking a sensible, cost-cutting approach in order to increase the popularity of its product. Too bad that Turfway and the rest of the country target only one or two multi-race pools.
This change doesn’t go far enough but at least it’s a move in the right direction. So, for its recent policy change, Gulfstream earns an A. For their takeout reduction, give Turfway a B+.
Oaklawn Learning Its Fractions
The popular winter racing destination that debuts its 2012 season on January 13 not only has gotten the memo about fractional wagering but are being proactive in the Pick 6, traditionally not a great source of handle for the Hot Springs track.
The Pick 3, Pick 4 and Trifecta are now all 50-Cent wagers, and do offer the Dime Superfecta. Exactas and Doubles carry a $1 minimum and straight wagers, for some reason, remain $2. With casino players on the grounds, perhaps they should reconsider.
Tthe Pick 6, or Classix, now has a $1 minimum--which should be the case at all racetracks. We recognize that's highly debatable.
Oaklawn's takeout rates, like most of the industry, are too high, but 17% for straight bets and 21% on all exotics is competitive.