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There's Giveaways & There's Bands, But There's No Substitute for the Bettor

I know we've all said it before. Until we find a way to get revenue from selling Todd Pletcher t-shirts or Zenyatta dolls en masse, this is a gambling game. Balmoral Park, through a direction change in 2009 has concentrated on growing handle by attracting people to bet, through lower takeout and better betting races. The man in charge of most of it is a bettor himself, and knows the math behind it. It's working.

Here is an edited Press release from this afternoon. Count the times you read the words or a genre of words "handle, bettor, takeout, value, horseplayer and gambling" and compare it to a press release for another track. It's eye-opening.

Balmoral Park reported surging handle growth in the first half of 2012 showing an increase of 27 per cent in handle versus the first six months of 2011. Total combined Q1 and Q2 handle of $80,909,290 for 76 programs in 2012 was an increase of $17,469,771 compared to the 2011 combined Q1 and Q2 handle of $63,439,518 on 75 programs. The nightly average at Balmoral rose to $1,064,595, an increase of $218,735 per night versus the nightly average of $845,860 in the first six months of 2011. Going back to the successful model of the 70’s and 80’s , Balmoral Park went with only 847 races on 76 nights for an average of 11.14 races per program. The theory of creating more free time for the players as a result of less races to handicap proved successful again as the average handle per race in the first six months of 2012 was a healthy $95,524. This could not be possible without the solid support of the Horseplayers of North America.

Sister track Maywood Park trended upwards as well. For the month of June, handle on the half mile track was up over 12 per cent. $6,607,151 was bet on nine programs compared to $5,875,973 on nine programs in 2011. The nightly June average of $734,127 was $81,242 higher than the June average of 652,885 in 2011. Maywood Park offers a $7,500 Guaranteed Pick Four pool on Thursdays and a $10,000 Guaranteed Pick Four pool on Fridays.

The Balmoral Park average of 35 per cent winning favorites for the first two quarters of 2012 was the lowest in harness racing, a full 7 points under the 2012 industry average of 42 per cent. The Balmoral 35% average compared favorably to the top thoroughbred tracks in the country as well. In 2012, thoroughbred winning favorite averages at the top tracks in North America were Gulfstream 34 %, Santa Anita 36%, Belmont 38% and Churchill 38% respectively. The fact that three of the major thoroughbred venues in 2012 all sported higher percentages of winning favorites is a big reason why Balmoral Park has been able to get old and new thoroughbred players interested in harness racing because of the value being offered.

 Low takeout, guaranteed pools and low minimums allowed players to last longer and gave them a much better chance to win. A four horse super box for $2.40 instead of $24 and a three horse trifecta box for $3 instead of $6 was a sure way to get newcomers to the winners circle more often and make the pools much larger which made the gambling product more attractive to bigger players. Pool sizes swelled to record numbers, creating giant payouts. The biggest payout of the year was on February 22 when the Pick 5 pool grew to $170,627. Three winners each took home $44,675.10 for their winning fifty cent wager. The Pick Five is offered on Races 2 thru 6 nightly. $1,441,061 has been wagered on this bet thru June 2012 for a nightly average of $18,961. The average 2012 payout was $3,298.82 for fifty cents.

The Ten cent High Five is offered on the final race of the night. Thru June 30, $1,549,814 was wagered on the bet for a 2012 average pool of $20,392. The average winning High Five paid $1,112.25 for a dime. Four times this year the High Five has paid over $10,000.00 for a dime. The highest payout was on January 14 when a ten cent winning ticket paid $13,599.60.

 The Pick 4 wager at Balmoral continues to produce superb results, offering a great lesson in economics. Thanks to the USTA Strategic Wagering Initiative, the Horseplayers Association of North America, Track Master for the deluxe free program pages and a low takeout of 15%, the Balmoral Pick 4 has become a must play bet in North America. The largest payout of 2012 was on February 11 when a $1 winning ticket paid $22,958.80. In 2009, the Pick 4 averaged $8,827 per night with a 25% takeout. 30 months later in the first six months of 2012 the average pool rose to $32,209 with the 40% reduction in takeout. Through the second quarter of 2012, $2,447,897 was wagered on 76 Pick Fours. The average one dollar payout was $2,819.81, among the highest in Thoroughbred and Harness racing. 33 of the 76 Pick Four payouts exceeded $1,000.00 for an average of 43 per cent. Since the Guaranteed Pick Four pools were introduced in April 2011, the Balmoral Pick Four guarantees have been raised an additional five times in the last fifteen months. Free program pages are available nightly courtesy of Track Master at ustrotting.com

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