Planning for the Future by Remembering the Past

As a kid I remember players taking a shot at the big pool carry-overs. They would have names like the “Big-Q, or the Twin-Tri.” – The pools would grow and when they were hit it was always at your local track as there was no simulcasting. Those were the days. Now I wonder why did they go the way of the dinosaur ? Was it lack of interest, or was it the explosion of simulcasting that took the game to a whole new level. Either way, what we perceived as the savoir of racing by offering out our signal at pennies on the dollar may have been the beginning of the end. – I liken the idea to spreading butter on your morning toast. You only have so much butter (bankroll), but the toast can be found everywhere. Instead of spreading your butter on the local toast, you are spreading it thin across the day. – Who really wins ?


The “Big-Q” or the Big-P” were solid ideas. Maybe this is something you keep at your home track only, and on certain days (huge carryovers) you can open it up to other outlets to wager into the pool. It can be a mandatory payout on the final day of the month, or it can be a weekly mandatory payout. – This gets players watching your signal, and when the pool starts swelling to the five and six digits, you can bet players will be looking for the mandatory payout date, and if it is hit on track you are keeping the money in play at your home track. – The “Big-Q” and “Big P” had a two step process. – If you hit the first leg, you had to return to the windows for an exchange ticket.  How simple could it be ? – This was long before the huge superfectas, and Super-Hi-Five wagers.


I was given the task of finding new wagers for Turfway Park. It was late in the 90’s, and tracks like Keeneland had shed the no exotic wagering format, and kicked it off with a South African wager called the Omni. You selected three runners and two had to be in the money. – Neat wager, but the payouts were small. It lasted about one year, and it was gone. – I looked around the globe and found Caymanas Park in the Caribbean. They offered a wager call the “Hi-Five.” – Just like a super, but with one more finisher. – I saw the on-track carryovers that verged on the high six figures, and nobody in the states had even thought of this at the time. – That doesn’t make me special, it was something I thought would drive lottery size pools. – The first time it was over a $1 million bucks, you would be mentioned with the big time tracks. – I presented it to our president and even though he liked it he felt our main owner Keeneland would turn up their nose at the bet. – ” Just be patient, Ed. We’ll examine this down the road.” – That road never came and still there was no efforts to find this wager.


I started working for River Downs, and the GM wanted a big pool carryover wager. He tapped me to find one that would fit. – I went home,  and changed every word that said Turfway, and replaced it with River Downs. He loved it, but feared the Ohio Racing Commission would turn it down. – He presented it and Thistledown loved it, but wanted to change the name due to the popularity of poker. They wanted to call it the “Royal Flush.” – The idea never caught on, and marketing the “Hi-Five” would have been easier for players to understand. – It was about a year later at Santa Anita when they unveiled on Breeders’ Cup day a new wager with huge payouts. – It is at most tracks, and continues to draw attention. – No crying over spilt milk.


Ok, so what’s up my sleeve ? – How about a new wager that is easy to understand and has big payoffs in the works ? – We’ll call it the “Triple-Double.” – The idea is to select the first daily double, and if you hit, you get an exchange ticket for the double in the middle of the card. – If you hit again, another exchange ticket comes your way for the late daily double. Make the bet 50-cents, and this allows small players to take a shot. – Here are the plans. If a player is making an early daily double you have their attention early in the card. – If you hit, they are still following your product. Chances are if they are still alive or just following the races they may wager more on the card overall. – Now before you thumb this down, do you see any or many tracks doing this ? – There would be a 100% carry-over, and you could have a mandatory payout day.


Or, how about a 10-cent quinella pick-all ? – It starts in the first, and requires you to hit the quinella in every race. The 10-cent cost allows players to get in cheap and take a shot. Trust me, those dimes add up big time. The ticket is placed as a one-time wager, and doesn’t require an exchange ticket. – Players that hit the first race, or the first three races are more inclined to make additional wagers at your track.


Marketing at tracks has been confused with buying a million dollars in print ads, and wanting to have signage galore along the interstate. Sometimes we can “over-think” the idea, and miss the obvious. – With that in mind, how about a FREE handicapping contest for on-track players only ? – The pool can be seeded by the track, and we’ll use $2 per entry to play the non-pari-mutuel wager. – If you seed the pot at $500 the first Saturday of the month, and 200 people enter the contest. It will have a $900 pool for the wager. It is a winner-take-all, and you must hit the board in all nine live races. – We’ll call it “In the Money.” – Fun for on-track players only, and you have an opportunity to engage with players. The cost is small, and if there is no winner, it all carries over to the next month where it will be $5 to play. But the 2nd and 3rd rounds will have bonus prizes such as track merchandise, loyalty points, or a booklet of free programs. The rules stay the same, and if you enter week two with a $900 pool, and there are 150 players who play at the $5 level. You now have $1,650. – The third level would be $5 as well, and if 100 players jump into the pool. – You now have $2,150. – Going into the mandatory payout, you continue the $5 entry and as the pool grows more may be interested. – How about 200 people playing the mandatory round, and now you have $3,150. – If you play all three weeks, you have $17 wagered to win $3,150. – This allows you to advertise the wager in-house with little to no cost, and you could allow players to enter using loyalty points which lowers the track liability of having a bevy of points floating out there which is a cost to the track.


In the time of simulcast and a plethora of racing you need to establish yourself in any way possible. – If you are a second-tier track. What’s wrong with running live on Monday-Thursday ? You won’t be butting onions with the big tracks, and you may get additional attention from the on-air networks and ADW’s. – Even easier is the idea of having a simulcast coordinator call upstairs to the stewards and ask for an additional minute before going to post. – I was doing some on-air handicapping with The Regular Guy, John Englehardt and we saw the win pool jump from $4,000 to $12,000 by having the runners take another circling lap to allow players to wager without having to choose between signals. – If you have any doubts, watch British racing in the morning or Aussie racing late at night. – One track at a time, and there is a format where on-air handicappers bring you up to the moment handicapping news to help make wagering decisions. – There are times where we cannibalize each other, and nobody wins at the end of the day. Just some simple ideas to keep players engaged, and allow for more focus on your live product. Less is more, and simple gestures can effect the bottom line in a big way.