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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Edited Press Release Last weekend (Jan. 6-7) at The Meadowlands, harness racing fans of the mile were on a roll and they made their point that betting is off to a huge start in 2023, as over $7 million was put in play over the course of the 28 races.

It was a natural that Big M management would be elated, especially when one considers how impressively wagering was up over just a year ago.

“The Meadowlands handle far exceeds the handle of any nighttime track in North America, including the Thoroughbreds,” said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “We have listened to our horseplayers and simulcast partners. The Big M has responded to what the wagering public desires. Check off the boxes. Competitive 10-horse fields, exciting mile-track racing, large pools, low takeouts, low minimums, chances to make scores, generous payouts and no jackpot wagers.

“The Meadowlands offers horseplayers from around the world the most exciting and popular wagering product on the continent every Friday and Saturday night.”

$7-million weekends were rare during 2022, as that barrier was busted only twice, the first on Meadowlands Pace weekend ($7.3 million) and the second during Hambletonian weekend ($10.4 million).

If last week is an indicator of things to come, maybe 2023 will be as exceptional a year as 2021, when the average nightly handle was $3 million.

Friday’s total bet was $3,384,066 while Saturday’s play was $3,673,861, for a grand total of $7,057,927.

On Saturday, the track’s most popular multi-leg puzzles served as the catalysts.

In the first race, $287,355 was wagered, with $67,037 of that on the 20-cent Pick-5; $401,753 was bet on the sixth race as the Early 50-Cent Pick-4 took in $147,691; the 20-cent Pick-6 had a double carryover in the eighth race, creating a total pool of $111,677 and a race total of $332,459 before $513,320 was pushed through the windows on the 10th race, with $304,713 of that contributing to a Late Pick-4, that, including carryover, totaled $362,361.

Those four races alone totaled $1,534,887, good for an average per race of $383,721.

The comparison in weekend wagering from a year ago reveals a startling action uptick.

Last year, $2,630,290 was wagered on the comparable Friday while $2,797,927 was put in play on Saturday for a total of $5,428,217, figures that are anything but shabby.

However, the $7 million bet last weekend represents a 30 per cent increase over 2022. A year ago, the opening weekend average handle per race was $180,940, while this year, that number jumped to $252,068, an increase of better than $72,000.

The total handle this year was $1.6 million more this year as compared to last, and that was with two fewer races.

“There’s always excitement in the building when our players get to bet into our pools that begin with carryovers,” said Settlemoir, “and thanks to low takeouts and carryovers, Saturday was no exception.”

Saturday’s 20-cent Pick-6 began with a carryover of $22,812, which led to $88,164 in “new money” wagered for a total pool of $111,677.

Here comes what was the good part for players.

Since the carryover is not subject to the already low 15 per cent takeout, the total return to bettors was $97,751, a surplus of just under $9,600 (10 per cent). Winning tickets paid $7,565.

A Pick-4 carryover is a rarity, and the punters went deep, wagering $304,713 in “new money” for a total pool of $362,361, which led to a surplus of $11,941 (3 percent). Winning tickets were exchanged for $1,267.

Getting a return of 85 percent on a normal night is good, but getting a return of 110 or 103 per cent? “Anytime you can give the players an opportunity like that, it’s good for them, and, obviously, good for business as well,” said Settlemoir

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