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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Believe it or not, good suggestions can happen on social media and when it comes to improving the state of Thoroughbred racing, the industry can use all the useful suggestions it can get.

I stumbled upon this other evening when playing on my smart phone: It involves wagering and the high cost of same. I think people on both sides of the aisle can agree on this. Betting taxes (read takeout) is too high.

We’ve proposed something similar but the idea went nowhere. Perhaps this idea of J Kamis, whose Twitter handle is @jerseyjosh13, will gain some traction since it comes from a customer and not independent racing media:

Speaking hypothetically, Kamis posited: “As COO of Horse Racing, I call on each racetrack to implement one wager from the list below.

“That one wager in every race will have a 10% takeout with a $1 or $2 minimum. Just one wager!

WIN; Daily Double; Exacta; Pick 3; Trifecta

#hightakeout, #horseracing, #pegasus, #kentucky derby

First, let me suggest that this need not be an issue requiring the approval of state legislatures.

Since we’re considering one bet in menus that offers as many as 13 betting options per race, per ADW platform (we used the first race at Churchill Downs as an example), any shortfall  can come from a marketing budget.

Empirical evidence strongly suggests that implementation of the above would not have a significant negative impact on revenue.

Further, based on provable data from a pari-mutuel takeout experiment conducted by the New York Racing Association nearly a half century ago, lower takeout results in a handle increases through the process of churn:

In short, the more money returned to winning bettors the more they bet back in return. Reduced taxes spread among the entire population of horseplayers has always been a boon to the economies of scale.

As a practical matter, racetracks and racing organizations need to explain to legislators why a proposal such as the idea advanced by one well-meaning customer should not be enacted as a win-win for all parties.

Any advertising budget of a major track could sustain and help support the advancement such an experiment. But it must go beyond one single race meet. Certainly a fiscal year would yield some meaningful trend–two years would be that much better.

The wager itself, along with favorable word of mouth, would be all that is needed to bear fruit. At minimum, it could tempt enough simulcast players to make at least one bet at every track offering this handle-generating, bettor friendly wager.

If there is still reluctance to institute this one wager in one race on one racing card per day then create a new additional wager, something most state houses would rubber stamp in a New York minute.

And why software offering parlay wagering is not in place everywhere as it is in California tracks is mind-boggling. Isn’t it in the best interests of the industry to keep their customer’s liquid enabling them to stay in action?

Further, an additional wager such as a parlay allows the horseplayer to choose his own “daily double” as it were, races on which he has a higher degree of confidence.

Normally, doubles are preferable to individual parlays not only as a matter of convenience in a competitive fast-paced betting space but because takeout is extracted once, not twice, as is done with parlays. But a 10% takeout would somewhat mitigate that disadvantage.

Instituting parlay wagering notwithstanding, it only takes one track with enough vision and money to write code allowing for a disparate takeout rate on one predetermined race, on one predetermined pool per day.

Perhaps the feature race at each track might be an appropriate vehicle. Tracks would be putting their best hooves forward, promoting the best product it can offer daily. It could be a race with a name on it or one with the highest purse.

An idea such as the one proposed by Kamis does not come with an insurmountable logistical challenge preventing initialization. Introduced with the parameters explained and duration of the experiment should ease the path of introduction for all.

And couldn’t the sport use a little good public relations right about now?

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2 Responses

  1. Somewhat related, this came to mind when reading your piece with the creative idea above
    I know one harness track that has started an interesting wager, for just the last race on the card, a 12% takeout non-jackpot Hi5 with a 20-cent minimum.

    Lowest takeout wager I’ve come across anywhere.

    I’ll tell you the track and a person to talk to there, if you’re interested.

  2. D, not true, there are a number of 12% takeout wagers, the Stronach 5 and any number of Pick 5s. But I believe you missed the point.

    The best listed above have a lower degree of difficulty; the idea is to increase churn. Get as many bettors as possible interested in a particularly race, give them several options that suit their style, hoping that they cash and bet the money back.

    What the game doesn’t need, despite all the hyperbole that pushes bets as “life changers” but “bankroll busters” for the rank and file bettor, is more of the same, IMO.

    I can’t believe this outside-the-box suggestion on social media didn’t get more traction. Made too much sense I suppose. And racetracks would never take it on themselves to do something as outrageous as this, would they.

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