I think the USTA's Strategic Wagering Initiative (SWI) is a great idea, for what it is intended to do. The idea behind the initiative is to allow tracks to offer guaranteed pools they normally couldn't afford by going partners with the tracks in absorbing any potential shortfall in the pools. This allows small market tracks which may only be able to afford a $5,000 guaranteed pool to offer a $10,000 guaranteed pool. So in this respect the initiative is good in that it offers tracks who typically would be bypassed by big gamblers a chance of being seen and supported by the whales. Offering free program pages for these races is also a great idea.
I am sure the hope of the SWI is to attract larger bettors to these tracks and give the individual tracks a boost in the arm with respect to handle. There may even be the possibility of some thoroughbred gamblers coming over to harness racing, if only for these pools and that is an admirable goal as well. Anything which brings attention to our harness tracks wagering-wise should be encouraged.
Now SWI is in its infancy and we are promised more tracks and different types of wagers will be included in subsequent months. My hope is we will see some Pick 3s or even Superfectas included with guaranteed pools as this will allow some of the more modest gamblers to take advantage of the initiative. Let's face it, Pick 4s and 6s tend to be out of the reach of the modest gambler.
Where there is a problem with SWI is the impact on other tracks. Northfield, Balmoral and Yonkers are the April participants of the initiative and they are being promoted and gamblers offered free program pages for their Pick 4s races so it is natural that they will increase business on their Pick 4s. But what about tracks that already offer a guaranteed Pick 4 which are not being included in the initiative? No mention of the track; no free program pages; nothing. What may be happening is gamblers who may play into their pools are diverted to the advertised pools to the detriment of a track already offering guarnateed wagers.
Cal Expo and the Meadowlands when they race are some of those tracks. Cal Expo offeres a 15,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 wager on Saturdays with a 15% takeout (if you wager at Cal Expo or through Twinspires you get offered a further incentive). Yet this wager runs the risk of being ignored as it is not any coverage through the SWI. My take is if a harness track is willing to abosrb the complete risk in offering guaranteed pools without finnacial support of SWI; they should be included in the marketing anyway; complete with free program pages.. This way gamblers have more tracks to choose from and hopefully bolster more handles. I understand SWI can't fund everyone that wants to participate at one time, but they should be able to offer them non-financial support. Hopefully, the SWI will be modified to include these tracks in their marketing efforts in subsuequent months; it will only improve the program's results.
NJ Gaming Conference Today: Jeff Gural is one of the featured speakers at today's NJ Gaming Conference co-sponsored by the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration and the Hall Institute of Public Policy - New Jersey. Many people will be listening to Gural's speech for clues to see if the union's have made any move towards accepting concessions. With tomorrow being the official April 1 deadline for a proposal, harness racing people will be listening for any possible clues. If anything will be said about the negotiations, it will likely occur after the conference concludes.