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Pick 4 guarantee program an early success

April 04, 2011

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If the first weekend of the U.S. Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering program that helps racetracks offer guaranteed Pick 4-pools is any indication, the plan is a success. The initiative—spearheaded by California-based USTA director Chris Schick—has total funding of $100,000 to help ensure the Pick-4 guarantees, but the money wasn’t even close to being touched as bettors at Northfield Park and Balmoral Park dug deep into their wallets over the pools.

Northfield Park—which dropped the takeout rate on its Pick 4s from 22.5 percent to 14 percent as of April 1—was first out of the box on Friday (April 1) and saw its Pick-4 pool jump from $4,554 the previous Friday to $14,999, well past the $10,000 guarantee. Saturday’s Pick-4 pool was $12,901 compared to $6,295 the previous Saturday.

“We say thanks to the USTA for the idea as they did a great job in helping publicize the guarantees,” Northfield Park vice president of racing and simulcasting Dave Bianconi told harnessracing.com Monday morning. “It was a combination of the publicity and the lowering of our takeout rate down to just 14 percent that helped immensely, and we are also glad that so many people follow the Northfield signal.”

Balmoral Park offered a $15,000 guarantee on Saturday night and a $25,000 guarantee on Sunday night (15 percent takeout), and track general manager Jim Hannon told harnessracing.com Monday that he is already considering increasing the guarantees based on the first two nights. On Saturday, Balmoral went from a $15,694 Pick-4 pool on March 26 to $34,072, and then on Sunday the track’s Pick-4 pool was $43,577 compared to $23,070 the previous Sunday.

“We were pleasantly surprised with the results and already looking forward to continuing the program,” said Hannon. “We’ll monitor this upcoming weekend and look at bumping the guarantee.”

Balmoral Park also showed an increase in total handle over the weekend. On Saturday, March 26, an 11-race card produced $822,719 in handle, while on Saturday, April 2, a 12-race card produced $1,235,290 in handle. The handle on Sunday, March 27, was $936,781 on a 10-race card while on Sunday, April 3, handle on a 10-race card generated $1,235,293 in handle.

While Balmoral Park and Northfield Park were the only two racetrack participants over the initial weekend of the Strategic Wagering Program, Yonkers will jump into the fray with $15,000 Pick-4 guarantees on Saturday, April 9, and Monday, April 11.  

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