Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Choices at a Race & Sportsbook

I attend a yearly convention in Las Vegas starting the day after the Preakness and have made it a yearly tradition to meet some friends (non-racing fans) for the Pimlico-Preakness card on Saturday morning. Building off my previous post on the subject (Derby Rose Loses Shine), every year they have a great time and every year they will not bet a single solitary pari-mutuel dollar until I see them the next year.

About 45 minutes prior to Preakness post, we're sitting in a typical racebook at a Vegas Strip Casino looking around at the sparse crowd.  Less than an hour prior to post for one of the four most important days on the racing calendar and there are several empty seats. Additionally, roughly half of the patrons are clearly wagering and watching other sports, completely uninterested in the Triple Crown chase. Even as recently as five years ago, my early Saturday morning east coast flight to Vegas required a full-on O.J. Simpson airport sprint from plane-to-baggage claim-to-cab-to racebook to secure a coveted available seat. 

On the day following the Preakness, I spent half the day in another Vegas Racebook and there were five, count em’, five of us playing the horses while the Sportsbook side was teaming with fans watching the NBA Playoffs. Now ask yourself, which of the following is more interesting, easy to bet, and enticing to the average sports enthusiast wanting to place a bet?

  1. Select either the Heat or Pacers with a point spread and a 10% vig

  1. Select either the favored Yankees at -170 or the underdog Royals at +150

  1. (i) Scan over countless TV screens at tracks most people have never heard of. (ii) Find the odds. That is, if you can understand the nomenclature on the screen to begin with (iii) Procure some sort of past performance data or scratch sheet with an accompanying miniature golf pencil (iv) Determine how to plunk down a bet on a horse or horses, which depending on the jurisdiction and type of wager could see a vig as high as a 27% (v) Select a horse. Keep in mind that unlike your NBA bet that is set in stone, once you receive your ticket the odds will change, often radically prior to post (vi) What the heck is a Super Hi-Five?

  1. Take the two dollars you were going to bet on the horse with the same name as your first girlfriend and save it for tipping cocktail waitress as you spend the next three hours watching other sports

  1. Both A, B, and D

How can this be fixed? What are the right solutions? Is the game completely doomed? Stay tuned–some ideas coming in a follow-up blog post.


That Blog Guy said...

I would like to know how come in Australasia they offer fixed odds on certain horse races and we can't?

Also, even though the odds may change, why can't we at least switch over to 1.80-1 instead of 9-5? You shouldn't need a calculator to figure out what you may win; especially if you are a small gambler.

Tinky said...

The answer is, of course, intrinsically complicated. However, the closest thing that the American racing industry has to a silver bullet is Exchange Wagering.

It would have a multifold, positive impact, and in aggregate, would significantly increase handle.