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Monday, December 7, 2015

A Better Way to Wager?

With  low wagering pools, the question needs to be asked, can harness racing survive using the traditional parimutuel system?  Is there a way to have people wager yet not kill the odds?  Is there somewhere where steps have been taken to increase and improve the wagering experience?

I would argue if you are in New Zealand, you get the best of both worlds, courtesy of the Totalisator Agency Boards which control wagering in the individual states, where both fixed odds wagering and totalisator (parimutuel) wagering is offered.

Fixed odds wagering is accepted in two forms, future wagering as well as final wagering; both for win and place (our show) wagering.  In some ways, fixed odds wagering is like exchange wagering coming to New Jersey in the spring except TAB creates the market instead of individuals and there is no in-running wagering.  For purposes of this discussion, we will talk of final wagering (once all the scratches and driver changes are finalized).  Fixed odds wagering is like wagering with an old-time bookie except the authorized wagering agency is the one taking the bets.  You make a fixed odds wager, except in occasions such as a dead-heat or late scratches, the odds you wager at are the odds you get.  TAB has the ability to change fixed odds for subsequent punters, has the ability to stop accepting wagers on a particular horse while still accepting wagers on others, and to minimize any exposure TAB may have, has the ability to 'lay off' a horse in other pools to cover potential costs.  In addition, to discourage fraud, they have the ability to restrict the amount you  may win in a single day; hence a wager which may pay $125,000 may only pay $75,000 to the winning punter if the total amount of winnings for the day would exceed the limit.

You may ask what the difference is between Fixed Odds Wagering and Exchange Wagering.  In Exchange Wagering, individual bettors have the ability to lay off a horse which in theory could have someone with inside info making a market on a horse they know won't win where as under the  New Zealand format of Fixed Odds wagering, any laying off of a horse in other pools is being done by a 'disinterested' party, an honest broker offering such wagers to limit their exposure to losses.

Another advantage with the TAB system of fixed-odds wagering, is it it easier to understand, meaning it will be easier to attract individuals to this new form of wagering versus exchange wagering.

Of course parimutuel wagering is still offered on these races, so if you can't get your horse in fixed odds wagering, you may still play the horse in the totes,  Even better, you can shop for odds, getting a better value in tote wagering over fixed odds wagering and vice versa.

For example, here is a race from this past weekend.  Some of the fields will be confusing to some, but focus on the four right most columns.

Wagering # Form Horse  Barrier Driver                                FF - Win FF - Plc S-Win S-Plc
1 37725 Allineedisamiracle  (1) Dexter Dunn 12.00 3.80 9.30 2.70
2 00000 Brylins Choice (2) Carl Markham 51.00 16.00 70.70 24.40
3 0738 Landora's Logan (3) Barry Clark 12.00 3.80 10.90 2.90
4 334X7 China Express (4) Roddy Curtin 26.00 8.00 58.00 11.10
5 King Of The Roses (5) John Versteeg 41.00 13.00 32.10 9.90
6 27492 Sunny Afternoon (6) Paul Nairrn 5.50 2.00 10.90 2.20
7 Glenis Marie  (7) Robert Anderson 71.00 21.00 32.10 8.20
8 Victory Pride  (8) Ricky May 21.00 6.50 18.30 4.30
9 50247 Wandering Star (9) Alistair Lowe 36.00 11.00 52.50 14.80
10 PX60 Moy Scratched                          SCR SCR SCR SCR
11 333 Madam Spur (10) Brad Williamson (J) 3.20 1.35 4.90 1.80
12 5590X Johnny Alexander  (11) Jonny W Cox 14.00 4.50 6.30 3.40
13 4X500 Bear's Rest  (U1) Stephen McNally 3.80 1.50 4.60 3.80
14 Rusty I Am (U2) Philippa Wakelin 14.00 4.50 19.80 5.50
15 0 Chivilcoy (U3) Mark Smolenski 51.00 16.00 95.70 28.80
16 27332 Merlot (U4) Leonie Newton 7.50 2.10 10.50 2.20
17 70   Roi Des Gitans Scratched SCR SCR SCR SCR

As with a morning line, you can see there is a discrepancy between the final fixed odds and the tote odds. A gambler may decide to play fixed odds over the parimutuel odds or the opposite depending how things set up (it is possible people are playing parimutuel pools over fixed odds because the fixed odds pool may be closed for the horse.

It should be noted, people will still play parimutuel pools because exotic wagers are the domain of  the parimutuel system.  It also should be noted, tracks don't have their own pools in New Zealand as all wagering, on and off-track, is handled by TAB.  TAB pays tracks a percentage of the amount wagered to fund purses as well as the tracks' expenses (and hopefully profit).

There are other forms of wagering in New Zealand but ignoring them for now, when looking at a way to increase interest in horse racing,  perhaps it is time to look at the other side of the world.

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