The Number of Races Aren't as Important as You Think

'Spreading a product too thin' is something that major league sports, like the NFL, grapple with.

"For the 2016 season, that meant a total of 110 NFL television windows when you add up the three every Sunday, plus Monday nights and Thursday nights, Thanksgiving and Christmas, That’s more than the league has ever had before, and the ratings data suggest that some fans felt that football was spread so thin that they simply couldn’t keep up with it all.

The NFL may realize that’s a problem, and there are already indications that the league is looking at scaling back".

In racing we (obviously, look at field size numbers) spread much too thin, but there are clearly forces at play -- mainly about keeping the supply side humming.

However, and more broadly, there is a parallel to horse racing.

When we examine the monthly quarterly Equibase handle numbers, we may see a headline "Handle down 2%, races down 2%" and think everything is fine. But that's missing an important point. Like the NFL, as the windows shrink in number, the gambling product gets better, and the betting menu gets uncluttered. This doesn't result in a one to one reduction (or increase) in handle.

The obvious example is Hong Kong, where they run few races to monster handles. If the meet tripled in length, they are not going to do three times as much handle.

In North America we've seen this first hand, where in Canada harness race dates were clobbered after slots were removed, but customer demand held fairly firm. For those who remember the "elite meet" at Monmouth, this same thing was apparent. In 2009, NJ thoroughbred handle was about $350M. In 2010, with almost 50% fewer racedays, handle was over $470M.

Smart people say the number of races should be looked at more like field size is, as a handle determinant. That's probably a good place to start.

Have a good Monday everyone.

1 comment:

jiggyjog said...

Has anyone ever tested the theory that perhaps less races and bigger fields may grow the handle? Perhaps instead of splitting two 7-horse fields, you may get a better handle out of a 14-horse field. I realize that it would be akin to urinating on horsemen's corn flakes and many bigger stables would be forced to race against themselves, especially in this day of enormous stables and super trainers, but it may be good for harness racing in general in North America. Growing the handle should be the main concern of this game.


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