- Panelists said from a handle perspective, tracks would be better off having seven races a day with 14-horse fields rather than 14 races a day with seven-horse fields.
As Dana Parham noted in the piece "he rejects high takeout rates combined with a minimum number of combinations." That is clearly a factor. A five horse field with 20% win takeout is a mugs game. Try selling a mugs game to real gamblers, and you have a game that struggles to hold market share. It's simple math, and common sense.
In addition, also mentioned, when you have deep fields it opens up exotic bets. A superfecta bet in a six horse field causes the same issues; you'll likely be raked to death, and small payouts for these combinations cause serious bettors to look elsewhere. Superfectas, super high 5's and horizontal bets can yield fruit in deep fields. Payoffs will be higher, and the takeout can be reduced for a savvy player willing to do the work. More bets can be added as handle grows as well: The Triple Trio in Hong Kong is one example.
The above I think partially explains California racings struggles. Their fields were short, their takeout rates high. Why should any serious player play, unless it's a pick 6 carry, or the pick 5? When they raise rakes, they only exacerbate the problem.
Let's suppose for a moment we do have seven races a day and fourteen horse fields. That's good for the big player, because it gives them more choice and more available bets to play.
But what about for the casual fan and $2 to $5 bettor?
I think it does them some good, too. Super exotics are not for them. They're too expensive, they're bankroll killers, they're complex. They're everything that's wrong as an introduction into a gambling game. In horse racing they simply cannot cash enough tickets to have a good time. These folks should be playing into the win pools, and with a choice of 14 horses, some juicy prices and choice, they might be enticed to.
Getting us back to basics - playing in the win pools - is not a US or Canada phenomenon. It is however, an overseas one. At betfair, or with bookies, win betting is huge. Players enjoy it, they get lower takeout and can cash more tickets. This makes the game more fun, and makes people want to come back. The handles, in my opinion, in the UK and Australia are more healthy because of this "FTW" mindset.
Other things, like show parlays, can be fun and interesting in big pools for newbies. If a track wanted to offer 20 cent minimum exactas, that might help too. Pushing new people away from high takeout, low hit rate bets, is something that does as much, or more, than showing them a good time at the track. It gets them to enjoy the game of horse betting. We all know this: The game is much more fun when you win.
So, these bets attack two segments. We need big money in the pools, like Hong Kong has. We need newbies enjoying handicapping pursuits and cashing some tickets.
Why do we have five horse fields every second race at most tracks? Clearly we are not carding racecards for customers. When we don't card races for customers, we have fewer customers.
To gain market share I believe racing must change from inside out. If hitching fees need to be added to keep a horse population, and make fields deeper, make it so. If days per week raced need to be shortened, so be it. We can't start growing purses from handle, unless we start carding races people want to bet.
Handle is up slightly so far in 2012. This is good news, of course. There have been some good things done in 2012 in racing. Field size seems to be better at our better handle ovals. Takeout has marginally been dropping (not one track this year raised takeout on anything, only dropped it). The inflation rate in the US is 2.2%, which means real handle has not grown yet again, though.
Transparency in harness racing. This is a very good idea, one which we've advocated for a long time. Notice it's an initiative of the Illinois Harness Horsemen Association. I hope it works well for them.
Another thing we've hitched our wagon to: Seeking out winners and asking if they can promote them. Good work.
Have a great day everyone.