20 November 2009

Could A National Lottery Help Racing Grow?

I read an article at Paulick Report that I found interesting, Keep It Simple And They Will Come. It definitely sounds good on paper, but when thinking more and more about it, the idea of a lottery to attract horse players may not be feasible in North America.

In Sweden there is a lottery called the V75. It is simply a pick 7 for a Saturday harness card. Players can bet as little as 10 cents. The combos can be completely computer generated, partially computer generated, or completely generated by the player.

From Wednesday to Friday, tickets can be purchased in a variety of ways. Typically, over $10 million bet each week.

The takeout is 35%, and the remainder is paid out as follows: 7 winners 40%, 6 winners 20%, 5 winners 40%.

Obviously, this attracts newbies to the sport. Free past performances are offered as well as expert picks to try to give players of all sorts of racetrack knowledge all sorts of avenues.

So could this work in Canada, for example? Yes, and no. I don't think tracks will benefit greatly from the proceeds of such a lottery, however, it might work as a great way to get interest from new players. But attracting enough money to make this attractive may pose a problem in itself.

Our very popular Lotto 649 attracts usually between $11-$15 million a draw (which happens twice a week). Players know the minimum payoff for a jackpot is at least $2.5 million. This can't come close to being achieved when dealing with just 7 horse races. Even in the most competitive fields handicappers can pick the winner 22-27% of the time. It takes 10 competitive races to make it so that the odds of winning with this type of percentage is 3.4 million to one. So if 7 million $1 tickets are bought, on average, there would be two winners each week (I do think a $1 base bet is required because this needs to compete with the 6/49 and the size of the jackpot needs to be big).

Will the idea of selecting 10 races be too tedious for horseplayers, and perceived as too difficult for non horse players? I'd have to say yes. That is hurdle one.

Lets assume that 10 races are picked out from Saturday. It would have to be 100% Canadian content for this to work, so it would be only harness racing during the winter, and could be mostly thoroughbred racing during the rest of the year. Ideally you want races with more than 9 horses, but in the winter that might be very difficult.

What would the takeout be? Remember, for this to work it would have to be available at lottery kiosks across Canada. Lotto 649 only pays out around 30 cents for each dollar bet, and they don't have to split that with the tracks.

Lets say a deal is reached, and the takeout is 60%. Using precedence set when it comes to slots profits in Ontario, 6% would go to tracks and another 6% to horsemen.

Now how exactly would those profits be divided up? Is it divided up by home market from where the bet is made?, do the tracks that are involved in the actual races get to split the profits?, are the profits just divided up to be distributed by each province? Ideally, it should be prorated by the race dates each track offers.

6% of $5 million is nothing to sneeze at each week, but the reality is that it might only work out to $15,000 or less for each track to split up.

But this could definitely get many new people interested in horse racing. Problem is that if they find that pursuing the game is futile, their interest will not be held. And if they find themselves going broke too quickly while giving the parimutuel pools a try, they will give it up as well.

Ideally, this lottery idea could be fantastic for horse racing, if it was coupled with much lower takeouts at all tracks. A surge of interest could be created if the word on the street is that the game could actually be beaten. And at the very least, the newbies created get some bang from their buck.

Would I play this bet? If the jackpots were usually at least a million I would. I spend around 10 bucks a week on the 649 (you can't win without a ticket), even though I know the takeout is 70%. I would just stop playing the 649. I'd rather sink money into going for a million or two each week on something that is based not just on random luck.


Railbirdbrad said...

Its hard to belee you would play any pool with a 70% take out!

Anonymous said...

2 questions, Oh wise one:

1)What do you make of the Fort Erie 'updates' that are posted roughly every 2 weeks at hbpa.on.ca?

2)If Woodbine dropped Thursdays and added Mondays (lets say), do you think the Monday handle at Ft Erie would be helped or hurt?

Cangamble said...

Spending 10 bucks a week to try to win a few million is like a donation to me. The takeout is irrelevant.

Anon, the updates are important as more and more horsemen plan for the future. Probably saves lots of phone time and gives the HBPA more time to help negotiate.

Adding Mondays for Thursdays would be a good idea for Woodbine. They should also cut out Wednesday night and run in the afternoon...their handles suck. But as far as the affect on Fort Erie. Tough one. I think negative slightly. Fort Erie gets a lot of Toronto money on days Woodbine is dark. Fort Erie needs to race when the fewest tracks compete with them. Sunday handles are horrible.