Last evening Woodbine cards - both Thoroughbred and harness - were televised on Canada's largest sports network, TSN. From inside the sport, the show got rave reviews. And from what little of what I saw (I was working on the Scioto pick 5 carryover), I agree. It was a bang up job.
The giddiness of insiders regarding this foray is palpable, and they're certainly one audience. The other audience is no doubt governments who support the sport: Over the last half century, as governments regulate, or are a part of an industry, the industry itself must spend money to stay relevant; not relevant to outsiders, but to governments and those who hold purse strings.
What I fear however - and rarely don't fear with ventures like this - is that they disqualify working on what matters for the rest of us: Growing the betting audience. I realize it's one evening, and there are other issues at play, like lack of qualifiers in Ontario, but the first race pick 5 on national television garnered a handle of $86,000. The two previous Thursday's before shut down were $124,000 and $128,000 pools, respectively. The $86,000 pool, from what I see, was the lowest since the restart.
I don't think I was the only one looking for value in the pick 5, not at Mohawk, but at Scioto.
I don't want to be a downer, and I appreciate televising the sport - mainly for the reasons I outlined above. But I do want to stress - this is not for a bettor, this is for you.
Bettors have made it loud and clear what they want from Woodbine: Don't take extra takeout from your (monopoly) ADW, leaving Canadian players at a disadvantage. Don't take 26% or 27% out of pools; and don't allow horses to race at your track without a recent line.
That's your handle audience; that's what they ask for.
Putting races on TV might make everyone feel good - and there is merit as a corporate initiative. But please never forget - this won't raise handles. Giving customers what they want and need can only do that.
I finally got a hold of a friend at an ADW recently, after calling the general line for like three days to no avail - I stayed on hold longer than calling the tax department. Why? Because they've been swamped dealing with new signups. Will this translate to handle? The jury is still out.
There's a pick 6 carryover at the Meadowlands tonight starting in race 4. It's a non-jackpot bet. It looks fairly formful, but if you want to take a swing there's some free money involved.
From a branding perspective have we seen a better job done by Ohio harness racing? Those drivers are out and going and each race is a pretty cool puzzle. I bet it's been a real eye-opener to people who have not watched their signals much.
Note to tracks - Tape and upload your qualifiers! For the many players who want to do the work they're vital to handicapping. I asked a friend last week if he was playing the Meadowlands opening weekend and he said, "it's tough without being able to see Gaitway qualifiers". He sat it out.
Have a nice weekend everyone.
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