Much has been made of the increased takeout on California thoroughbred races that began Dec. 26. There is no doubt it has had some effect on Santa Anita’s handle, which is down appreciably compared to the 2009-10 meet.
How far down is open to debate. The raw numbers, through the first 12 days of the 76-day meet, showed Santa Anita’s overall handle was down 17 percent. Track management argues that when you use “comparable days,” they were down only 8.2 percent.
Whatever the figure was, there are two major questions:
(1) Why can’t the California tracks try something similar to what Gulfstream Park is trying this winter? Their handle is up. Here’s a press release they handed out Dec. 16 explaining their new wagering menu:
Record Low Takeouts, New Wagers To Welcome Fans
HALLANDALE BEACH – Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino announced today a wagering menu for its 2011 thoroughbred meet beginning Jan. 5 that includes:
A 50 cent Pick-5 with a record low 15 percent takeout.
Low takeout rates on Bet-3 and 50 cent Pick-4 wagers of only 20 percent.
An early and late 50 cent Pick-4.
A 10 cent Pick-6.
Rolling Daily Doubles, Superfecta’s and Bet-3’s.
Win, Place, Show, Daily Double, Exacta and Trifecta wagers will be a $1 minimum wager.
“We’re optimistic and excited about the new wagers we’re introducing and the fact Gulfstream will be offering many of the lowest takeouts in the country,” said Steve Calabro, President and GM of Gulfstream Park. “We think the Pick-5, Pick-4’s and 10 cent Pick-6 creates more opportunities for our fans.
“This is just part of our commitment to our customers. Those attending Gulfstream this year will also notice nearly a 50 percent increase in our self-service betting terminals.”
Gulfstream will start each day with a 12:55 p.m., first race post time. The early Pick-4 will begin with the second race while the late Pick-4 will be on the last four races. The Pick-5 will be on the day’s last five races and the Pick-6 on the day’s last six. The Pick-5, Pick-4 and Pick-6 wagers will be accepted only at self-service terminals.
The 10 cent Pick-6 will be awarded to one unique ticket. On days there are multiple winners, 60 percent of the pool will be shared equally while 40 percent goes back into the jackpot. Click here to see the wagering and takeouts.
Seeing how California racing is struggling so mightily, what would be the harm in at least trying some of these ideas?
Also, while it’s true the advance deposit wagering companies are here to stay because they do supply a service to people who want to make a bet and can’t get to the track or to people who’d rather wager from the comfort of their homes, what would be the harm in offering some enticement to fans who actually show up at the track to bet? How about lowering the takeout for on-site bets?
Let’s begin thinking outside the box here. Lord knows the time for the status quo and/or continuing to penalize the bettors in an effort to raise purse sizes via increased takeout is over.