Reaching a Handle Critical Mass

Most everything (there are exceptions of course) needs some sort of level of interaction, size, or mass to succeed. Facebook with thirty seven people IPO's for a Big Mac, cell phone service never gets off the ground with sixty seven people. Cable bills would be $40,000 a month with few subscribers.

In harness racing, one of the biggest detriments to handle growth has been pool size.

Pool size matters because of value. Betting into a $50 double pool, especially with money coming in late is a game for fools. Betting $20 to win, where the bet knocks your 9-5 shot to 2-5 is not much fun. Playing a pick 6 into a pool with $1,500 is probably a dumber bet than a 96% rake lottery in Minsk.

When the harness racing industry was beginning to be restructured in Ontario, a couple of things occurred. i) there was a decrease in supply of races and ii) takeout rates were lowered. These two things caused something rational to happen: With fewer races to bet, horseplayers' action was concentrated on those fewer races. With a little less taken off each bet, a little more money could be bet.

This is why we've seen, for instance, Western Fair handles go from almost the unplayable: $100,000 per night a few years ago on many cards, to where they are today: $338,000 last night and $333,000 a night before.

At $338,000, the card then becomes playable for medium sized everyday-type bettors who might be playing other tracks. A $300k handle in harness racing at a B track is not small, and is a destination worth looking into.

Having ten tracks racing, six with handles of less than $50,000 per card, and four with handles of $100,000 per card were almost completely impossible to wager on from a demand perspective. Today, with some of those cards eliminated, the money has been shuffled, which has given players a critical mass to play into. With work and patience, these handles can, and should continue to grow.

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