Tioga Downs made headlines this spring when a reduction in take-out on wagers to the minimum allowed by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board was announced.
The results are in for the first 18 live cards (May 1 - June 13) and, in the face of handle declines across the entirety of North American horse racing, it appears as though there is merit to the theory of price reduction.
Overall handle is up 4.6% thus far, as compared to the 8.74% decline Standardbred Canada is reporting to date for our harness neighbours to the north. Handle figures published in Blood Horse magazine for US thoroughbred racing reveal a negative trend in handle of 8.37% for the first five months of 2010. No figures are available for US harness racing at this time.
The handle on Tioga's exported signal has increased by a healthy 9.9% over figures for the same period (18 programs) in 2009. Live handle on Tioga's races is 8.6 % below 2009 levels, with those negative numbers (at least in part) reflecting some unseasonably cold and wet weather in May, even for upstate New York.
Regional VP of Racing & Simulcast Jason Settlemoir had this to say, “The export numbers are encouraging and we are in hopes that they will grow even more now that we have added Pick Six Sundays with a guaranteed pool of $6,000. All of us at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs are committed to leading the way when it comes to promotions, giveaways and other ideas for the sport of harness racing, if anyone ever has an idea that they would like to share please let us know.”
In yet another effort to encourage play, the Tioga Downs website now offers a page geared toward information on handicapping the races. The site includes a link for TrackMaster programs, race replays, updated info on each card (including driver choices), a list of all locations taking the Tioga signal and a link to the USTA's 'How To Bet' page.
Unique to the site is a handicapping contest on the Tioga races sponsored by the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) and its paceadvantage.com forum. Four expert opinions, two human and two computer generated (including the 'Chatsworth Consortium' program graciously donated by TrackMaster and the USTA and currently leading the contest), are offered on all races in an effort to provide those unfamiliar with Tioga racing some welcome guidance on the races. Those 'Chatsworth Consortium' picks regularly sell for $10 per card, but will be available free on this page for the entirety of the Tioga meet.
Tioga races live each Friday and Saturday at 6:50 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 1:30 p.m. and should be available at a simulcast location near you.
I think this is great for Tioga Downs, their management and their fans.
For them to price their product to the lowest possible allowed by the NYSRWB is what every racetrack should do.
If you are not making positive waves the way Tioga is, lower the take it further - and stick to it - or go out of business.
The choice is yours.
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