USTA guaranteed Pick 4s have raised handle
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Since April of this year, the USTA has covered any possible losses to 13 different tracks offering a Pick-4 wager that would like to try to increase handle on that wager by guaranteeing a certain payout level. The initiative was proposed by Chris Schick, a USTA director from California, who now coordinates the administration of the guaranteed wagers, along with participating track officials, USTA member Seth Rosenfeld and USTA staff.
The initiative started in April, with Pick-4 guarantees ranging from $5,000 to $150,000 for this Saturday’s Meadowlands Pace Pick-4. Out of 194 times the USTA has guaranteed a Pick-4 payout, only 27 times, for a total of $9,650 and an average of $357, has it been necessary to reimburse individual tracks that did not reach the guarantee.
Of the 13 tracks participating, four that started in in April and have continued at virtually every available opportunity, have seen robust improvement in Pick-4 handle. For the first three months, April, May and June, when the guarantee was available this year, Balmoral, outside Chicago, has seen a 90 percent increase in the average Pick-4 handle, from $13,339 last year to $25,355 this year.
At Maywood, also near Chicago, the average has risen to $10,492 in 2011 from $4,213 last year, an increase of 149 percent. In Cleveland, Northfield Park has seen the Pick-4 average rise 128 percent, from $5,508 last year to $12,544 this year. Cal Expo, currently on hiatus, was also an early adopter. Its average Pick-4 handle, already improved in 2010 due to a lowered takeout, rose 42 percent in 2011, from $7,672 on average last spring to $10,908 this spring.
“At the base of it all, harness racing bettors want to make money -- as much of it as possible,” says USTA Executive Vice President Mike Tanner. “Our guests aren’t playing against the “house,” and when they do well at the betting window, that is to all our benefit. We are delighted that a fairly small investment by the USTA and the cooperation of so many of our tracks has resulted in more money being wagered and more money being won by our fans.”
“We are happy to bring some interest to a challenging wager for our fans,” says Schick. “We’re happy with the results of the first three months. To show we’re not a one trick pony, we’ve also offered superfecta guarantees on the Dan Patch Stake and Hoosier Cup and a successful exacta guarantee on the Ben Franklin at Chester on July 3.
“We also have an instant guarantee program where we look at tracks with a carryover bet that has a good number,” says Schick. “We assign a number and announce the guarantee before the night is over. We’re looking to branch out and include more tracks, like Freehold, The Red Mile. We’re talking with the Jug, we want to be involved with big events -- something to give fans added wagering interest and we want to raise guarantees over time at our current tracks.”--Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications