On October 19th the Kentucky Wagering Integrity Working Group forwarded recommendations to the Kentucky Racing Commission, in response to wagering integrity issues. One of the recommendations was the closing of the wagering pools at zero minutes till post.
Closing the wagering at zero minutes is not a perfect solution. It doesn't allow bettors to adjust for gate scratches, a legitimate concern. As well, those who are short of time to wager and are constructing complicated vertical or horizontal wagers will have to change their behavior to ensure they get their bets in. It would much preferred if the industry invested in tote technology which would process wagers in or near real-time - something similar to the online stock trading sites that many of us use. Unfortunately, while racing spends millions to develop impressive online wagering platforms to bring in new bets, when it comes to fixing the tote system the cupboard is always bare. So closing at zero minutes becomes a logical temporary measure until the tote investment is made.
Published reports stated the recommendation was made to deal with late odds changes. But there are other benefits to closing wagering at zero minutes.
As a professional horseplayer, I fully understand that batched wagers will still be sent in at the end of the wagering cycle. But there will be fewer wagers merged into the host pool after the race has begun. The win odds will still drop on some horses after betting has closed. But in many races, all pools will be merged and final BEFORE the gate opens.
The result of this is good for horseplayers. Instead of the leader's odds changing from 3-1 to 2-1 at the quarter pole, picture horses breaking from the gate and the exact potential win prices being shown on the video feed (horse #1 will pay 16.80, #2 will pay 21.20, etc.). This can be done if all pools are merged and closed. This will restore the player's confidence in the wagering pools much more effectively than industry leaders telling us it's just a perception problem while trying to hide many of the wagering security problems that occur (several past posting incidents were only made public when discovered by players or the press). Many players for years have asked for some sort of fixed odds wagering system. This is not that, but at the very least you will have a fairly accurate idea of what your horse will pay, should he/she be fortunate enough to win the race.
The recommendation to close at zero minutes will go before the Kentucky Racing Commission on October 27. If approved and implemented, handle on Kentucky racing will most likely decrease in the near-term. But with proper promotion to let the bettors know what is coming before hand and a countdown clock on screen to ease the transition, soon bettors will begin to adjust to the early close. And as bettors see that Kentucky pools are closing properly and FINAL odds are often posted before the gate opens, handle will begin to grow. More of the hundreds of millions of dollars bet by frustrated players looking for secure pools will go to Kentucky.
Hopefully that growth will make up the near-term decrease and more. Then Kentucky will have grown handle with a seldom used strategy in racing - by improving the product.
This opinion piece was sent in by a HANA member. HANA would like member feedback on this issue, so please email us and let us know what you think! For another opinion on this issue, HANA Advisory Board member John Pricci has posted some thoughts on his site and that can be accessed here.