Thursday, March 26, 2015

How a Small Ontario Harness Track Outhandles Gulfstream

On Tuesday, at Western Fair Raceway in London, Ontario, the Super High Five pool - the regular pool, no carryover - handled close to $18,000.

In South Florida, at Gulfstream Park - the same day - the Super High Five pool handled just over $10,000.

No, we won't compare other pools, and we realize that Gulfstream is one of the most popular racetracks to wager in North America. But, this is fairly stunning. Not long ago Western Fair could barely handle $150,000 per day. One day this year they handled over $700,000, and their Super High Five pool has reached a pool size where things are snowballing.

Greg Blanchard, Western's GM, with a comment yesterday:

"Speaking as a smaller track operator at Western Fair, the Super Hi-5 has become a 'go to' wager for us, especially when there's a carryover. We've seen pools with upwards of $40,000 of new money wagered after carryovers, there's no way we'd generate that type of single pool size typically. This is a substantial single pool for a track of our stature. These type of wagers have helped us a lot and offer something that horseplayers are looking for."

This did not happen overnight.

First they created the bet with a 15% rake, to highlight it to the masses. Then, each day, they continued it and promoted it the best they could. When they do get a carryover (note carryovers are lower takeout), the masses started to pay attention more and more.

Second, it's a harder to hit bet, on a half mile track which is formful. It allowed for better payoffs.

Third, its 20 cent minimum was liked by average or mid-sized players.

We often hear small tracks have no hope to grow handle. In some cases that may be true, but Western Fair proves that when you offer a bet with some value, over time, players will come knocking. Congratulations to Greg and his team.

Note: Yesterday evening we learned that the takeout rates on the Dubai World Cup card are 27% for exotics and (we just learned) 20% WPS.  It has been that way the entire meet. As far as North America goes, Mike Dorr and Charlie Davis have been feverishly compiling data from racetracks, and the 2015 Track Ratings will be released in the Horseplayer Monthly magazine (monthly issues are free here), within a couple of weeks.

- Thanks to Michael A from Balmoral for pointing out the Gulfstream/Western Fair handle numbers to us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The industry has come a long way regarding takeout and the best operators have responded by listening to horseplayers. Five years ago if you wanted to play into a big pool with a low takeout there was the Meadowlands Pick Four offered at 15 per cent. That was it. Take a look at the low takeout wagering landscape today.
Last Saturday night, The USTA Strategic Wagering platform offered these three Pick Four pools, all on one mile ovals with a reduced takeout. The Meadowlands pool was $80,451 , Balmoral Park followed with a pool of $34,659 and Cal Expo closed out the night with a pool of $41,792. Earlier in the week two half mile tracks sported very solid Pick Four pools as well. On Wednesday March 18, the Northfield Park pool swelled to $19,535 five days after the Maywood Park Pick Four pool totaled a season high $19,161. Combine that with the success Greg is having with his low takeout wagers at Western Fair and you see that horseplayers are supporting these wagers passionately.
Low takeout jackpot wagers have made headlines too. Last Saturday one player won over $65,000 for a dime at Cal Expo and two weeks ago one lucky player won $200,000 at The Meadowlands on a twenty cent bet. Pompano had a twenty cent jackpot bet pay $146,288 in February. This all pales in comparison to what could happen at Woodbine on Saturday, April 4.
In the event that a single winner does not hit the Jackpot High Five in the next three racing days, Woodbine will offer a mandatory payout the night before Easter Sunday. With a 15 per cent takeout and a twenty cent minimum, I estimate a pool of $3,000,000. More importantly, it is a certainty that the bet will pay out significantly more than the money that is wagered on that night because of the combination of low takeout and a carryover, creating the rarest of wagering opportunities.
Using the $3,000,000 estimated pool as an example, an $800,000 carryover combined with $2,200,000 in new money would create a net pool of $2,670,000. This example would show a surplus of $470,000, making the player advantage over 21%. The low takeout is the sole reason this opportunity exists for the players and WEG should be applauded for their efforts and their vision in this endeavor.
In conclusion, always remember that the horseplayer support of these low takeout bets the last five years made it possible for what you see today. And for your unwavering support of this industry, we thank you.

Michael Antoniades