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Betfair's First US Harness Racing Exchange Card Starts Slow

Last evening the Saturday card at the Meadowlands was available to players at Betfair for the very first time. The impetus for this, as you all know, was the passing of exchange wagering in New Jersey.

Although some of the races were tradeable, with strong favorites, the volume of players seemed to be very weak. I was quite disappointed with the liquidity, because liquidity is a staple of the exchange, and, in my view, this should've been taken into account, with the use of many market makers.

When I wrote a white paper back in 2008 about betting exchanges for harness racing in North America (in this case, Canada), I typed the following as a main plank of their success or failure:
III - "A Market" -- Market makers must be employed, or core traders must be offered a low (or no) takeout on the condition of making a tradeable market. If a stock is bid 10 cents and ask 50 cents, no shares will trade. It's the same with horses.
 It's really not that difficult to achieve the above. Other exchanges use this tactic with foresight, along with a little bit of math.

Other than the above, there seemed to be no in-running trading (that I saw) for the races, which was curious, because not that long ago there was chatter that only in-running would be offered for harness.

On the flip side, even with low volume there were bets that sharp bettors could've taken advantage of.

In the fifth, Blue Muse - a quality trotter - was dipping in class and had a big driver change to one of the greatest handlers of square gaiters in the history of the sport. The mare held firm on the exchange at 5-1 for a period, even when it was pretty clear she'd take a beating at the windows. For those sharp players, a $6.60 mutuel was $12 (minus commission). There were some other examples.

Overall, the exchange debut for harness racing was inauspicious. I guess that's better than the alternative, which was forwarded for years from many detractors -- there were still people betting into the pools, there were no drivers falling off the bikes mid-race, and there was no evidence Al Quada was funneling money to trade Always B Miki.

Comments

Nancy Taylor said…
Exchange wagering without the 5% takeout (which is what makes the bet popular)
is, as predicted a total joke. With only New Jersey residents allowed to participate, not to mention, none of the Class A thoroughbred tracks in play, makes it the perfect storm for disaster. Unless Stronach and/or the California alphabets change their stance against the exchanges, it's clear they will never be relavent.
Pacingguy said…
In an email from a representative of Betfair, I was told since harness racing is new to them in the exchange, they would not be offering in-play wagering as well as the Betfair Starting Price (BSP) option until they were sure everything else was okay. They expect both of these features to be available later this year (what later is, I don't know).

Being there was no press release regarding the Meadowlands beginning exchange wagering, I consider Saturday a 'soft' opening. Once it becomes more known, then a judgement as to its acceptance may be ascertained. Of course, being harness racing has fallen so low in acceptance by horseplayers, it is only logical to expect less than stellar volume.

Until tracks can be assured handle will not be cannibalized, there will be a reluctance of tracks to participate. Give the tracks participating credit for being progressive thinking.

Lastly, I know people were talking about a 12% rake on winning wagers. For the record, my winning ticket on the Meadowlands was hit with a 9.69% rake and my ticket at Tampa Bay Downs was hit with a 10.13%. With regards to the Meadowlands, this is almost a 50% discount on the 18% pari-mutuel win rake; a good deal indeed.