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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Spicing Up the Wagering Menu for the Mid-Market

As you may be aware, the USTA will be holding a gambling summit this spring in an effort to discuss issues which make increasing handle hard these days.  Issues such as takeout and wagering types will be a couple of the topics discussed.  Having a summit is a good thing provided the eye is not solely on the large gamblers; consideration must be given to the mid-market player as well.

Make no mistake, these days racing depends (where not slot-subsidized) on the big-time gambler.  The problem is whether through an ADW or on-track there are few tracks which make sense for these players to gamble their money on.  Casinos work nicely for these gamblers because 'handle' is non-existent for casinos as the player goes up against the house.  Of course, as discussed here and elsewhere, racino tracks would like to increase handle as well because while they are committed (or are forced to commit) to racing, they rather have it cover more of the cost as it would improve the bottom line.

So what is any track with a small handle to do in order to guide wagering to their facility?  With the large gambler out of the picture, realistically they need to focus on developing the mid-market gambler, someone willing to invest $100 a visit to the track.  $100 a person is not much you say?  While it is hard to compute with attendance figures hard to come by, most track officials would be doing cartwheels if they could get a per capita of $100 from their on track customers.

The problem is, the mid-market gambler likes to hit it big as much as the big-time gamblers, but unfortunately, most wagering offerings offer little sizzle for these players and the Pick-4 (and up) and Pentafectas (jackpot or not) are too expensive for them to having any success over the long term barring divine intervention.  Play the traditional wagers and the takeout will slowly grind their bankrolls down over the long run or they can chase their dream with the super exotics and get their bankrolls ground down quickly as either they try to hit one of these wagers with a couple of tickets or by covering many combinations on one wager going for broke.

Some may say this is what dime wagers are for.  Well, if someone hits a superfecta which pays  $800 for a dollar, that $80 payoff isn't going to look that good to the person who played $24 in dime wagers to hit it.  We may want to say you won $80 for a dime, but the player is going look at it as winning $80 for their total investment which will make the payoff less impressive, which so happens to be the logic in asking the IRS to look at the total amount wagered on a bet instead of the single winning bet when it comes to IRS reporting and withholding.

What is needed are wagers which fall somewhere in between the spectrum of the ho-hum wager and mega pay-off wager, something which if they hit can send them home happy, enough profit to satiate their need for the 'big' hit considering the relatively low investment they need to make to have a decent chance to collect.  The question is what kind of wager may that be?

While the Pick-3 and trifecta would fall into this type of wager, the exacta doesn't due to too many small pay-offs (more prevalent at harness tracks).  I won't pretend to know all the wager types which would realistically appeal to this type of player, but wagers such as a Double Exacta (or even Double Quiniella) could return decent payoffs for a reasonable investment.  Consideration can be given to a Win Most where a player would select winners for each race on the card with the pool going to those who had the most winners on the card.

Of course, realizing a track can have only so many wagers per race, it would require dropping some wagers from the card.  At these small tracks, there is no need to offer a superfecta in every race.  Perhaps alternating these mid-market wagers with supers would be a good balance.

As for the small-time or recreational gambler, no track is going to turn them away but the existing traditional wagers and some of the mid-market wagers should appeal to them as well; hence getting them to return more often as their wagering bankroll will last longer.

So while the upcoming racing summit the USTA will be sponsoring is important, attention needs to be spent looking for ways to attract the mid-market as well as the larger gamblers.

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