As we can tell from the USTA Strategic Wagering Program, people love guaranteed pools. The tracks seem to be happy because it brings interest to the wager and gets their pools increased, potentially with new money. Gamblers like them, because it gives them a specific wager to play to maximize their investment. But is it really the best thing for racing?
First of all, most of the guaranteed pools occur on the Pick-4 and Pick-5 wagers; wagers that appeal to the heavy hitters. A track may periodically offer a guarantee on a Superfecta, but they never offer guarantees on wagers like Exactas or Trifectas. While the heavy hitters are happy, the smaller players get no benefit or actually get hurt because these wagers suck the money up and the winnings tend to get taken out of the churn for the remainder of the evening's racing card. After all, if you hit the Pick-4 which doesn't contain favorites, the proceeds may go to one or two gamblers who obviously won't invest the winnings in the balance of the night's card. The more winners, the more money is churned in the pools which is better for bettors in later cards. Do you think the Meadowlands would have had a $3 million handle this past Saturday if favorites didn't rule the vast majority of the card?
So what is happening is the heavy gamblers are being serviced but the more restrained gambler is actually being hurt as these guaranteed pools are wagers realistically out of their league and they suck the money up; killing the churn, meaning there will be less money wagered in the pools the 'regular' gamblers wager on.
Now I don't suggest tracks get rid of the guaranteed pools on the Pick-4s and Pick-5s; the heavy gamblers demand them. However, don't ignore the smaller gambler. Why not guarantee more modest exotic wagers which give the small time gamblers a chance to participate in the guaranteed pools and likely will have the winnings put back in the mutuel pools, increasing the churn which would benefit gamblers and tracks. For example, using the Meadowlands as an example, Thursday night can be a $20,000 guarantee on the early or late Daily Double; Friday night can be a $15,000 guaranteed Pick-3 wager; Saturday night could be a guaranteed $80,000 Exacta or $50,000 Trifecta. The wager doesn't matter other than it is a wager the small time gamblers can participate (as may the larger gamblers).
Offering guarantees on the less challenging bets in addition to the Pick4 or 5 wagers means you are catering to all levels of gamblers. In addition, you are investing guarantees in wagers which will stimulate the churn; not suck the money out of the tote machines.
It is certainly a path worth exploring.