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Thursday, April 9, 2015

War Against the Small-time Bettor?

For those of you who also wager on the thoroughbreds, the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) has released its 7th annual rankings of the top 62 tracks in North America.  There is a new number one, Kentucky Downs, a short boutique turf-meet in Kentucky which has unseated Keenland from the top spot.

Perusing the latest edition of Horseplayer Monthly, which contains these standings, for the harness racing-related columns (yes, it does give some coverage to our standardbreds), I came across a few advertisements from a couple of tracks promoting their low-takeout rate exotic wagers; wagers which usually contain the words 'Pick' or 'Jackpot' in their names.  There were also articles talking about various takeout rates for wagers at different tracks and with the exception of one certain track in Rexdale, Ontairo which decided to go for the jugular with their Pick-5 wager, the rates were low, all lower than your traditional straight and exotic wagers.  After I was done perusing, I came to one conclusion,

Pity the Small-Time Bettor

Yes, pity the small-time bettor, the one who gets little or no-respect by racetracks for it seems racetracks on the whole are waging war against them.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am not talking just about the $2 casual bettor, I am talking about gamblers who know they don't have the financial wherewithal to play those Pick-X and Pentafecta wagers because they can't afford to play the number of combinations necessary to have a reasonable chance of being able to wager those bets with any hope of success.  Pity them for while those who can play these new(er) exotics are playing wagers with guarantees and takeout rates reduced from traditional wagers, the small-time player either gets no or a smaller rebate than others and is forced into playing into pools with takeout rates which remain unchanged for years.  For them, it can be argued the takeout rate is a regressive tax; a tax with rates so punitive that the small-time players are going to be chewed up and quickly spit out much faster than those who are able to partake of the reduced rate wagers.

With the exception of Tioga Downs which reduced their takeouts to the state minimums, tracks continue to charge rates which are higher than these new exotics.  If tracks have shown reducing takeout rates increase the amount of money being wagered, wouldn't it make sense to reduce rates on the older wagers to get people to increase their wagering?  Yes, lowering the takeout may cut into rebates, but then it would benefit all players instead the players with a bigger wagering budget..

I can understand the hesitance of traditional tracks, those operating without the benefit of alternative gaming proceeds, to reduce takeout rates, but being at some tracks the slot subsidy is 95% of what they race for, what harm could it be to cut the rate on straight wagers, even if just for an experimental period to see what the impact would be?

Is there room in horse racing for the small time bettor?.  I sure hope so,    

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