27 May 2009

Hot Topic: Should The Betting Windows Close At One Minute To Post Time?

In my last post I put out a poll question: Do you think that betting windows should close at 1 minute to post? As of the time of this writing, 83% of those who answered said yes.

I decided to pose the question to the vaster audience over at Pace Advantage.
So far, over 63% of those who answered have voted yes. Now that crowd is full of sophisticated handicappers and bettors. It also has horsemen and racing execs as members. I mention this is because intuitively to horsemen and racing execs, shutting pools with 1 MTP means less money in the pools. But does it really?

Horseplayers would adjust. Just like gamblers know that they have to get their early NFL bets in by 1:00 PM, or risk getting shut out, horseplayers will make sure that they get their bets down if they know they are going against a set clock. Horsemen know they have until 15 minutes to post to put in a claim slip. Rarely do they get shut out.
Large and/or sophisticated bettors who make computer generated batch bets based on odds, will just reprogram their system so that it bets a minute or a minute and a half earlier. No big deal.

Now lets look at the pros and cons of closing the windows early:


1. Pool Integrity. As highlighted by the two tote mishaps that happened recently at Hollywood and Penn, it is clear that the tote system is for from infallible. More importantly, the public's perception that odds of many winners drop during the race due to tote shenanigans prevails in the betting community these days, though in most instances, odds drop because of bigger bets made on overlays at 1 or 2 minutes to post by sophisticated bettors with batch betting programs. There is still huge doubt as to whether some might be profiting with a scheme that is giving some players an edge after the bell rings.

For instance, many jurisdictions allows for cancellations of tickets after the bell goes off. This is to protect the tellers who may have made a last minute mistake on a ticket, or they if they print a ticket and the bettor doesn't have the funds to pay for it (probably doesn't happen very much).

By closing the window at 1 MTP, it allows tellers to cancel tickets where someone isn't canceling because their horse got off to a bad start, or broke (in harness racing). Most importantly, it gives the tote companies a full minute to realize if there is a problem and the system isn't really shut. They can make a quick call, and get the problem race delayed, until the error is fixed.

2. Odds most likely wouldn't fluctuate as much. If players know that if their bet has to get in by a certain time, they will tend to bet earlier so as not to get shut out. The earlier players bet, the truer the line will be throughout the betting. Sure, there will still be early money on horses that will adjust upwards throughout the betting, but by 4 or 5 minutes to post, players will have a much better idea what the final odds will be. This may lead to more confidence from bettors, and maybe bigger bets.

3. The actual time a race goes off will be closer to the time it states in The Racing Form. Once tracks are confident that players will adjust and make their bets prior to one minute to post time, there will be less need to fluctuate post times from the estimated post times (an exception would be a long inquiry).

4. Batch bettors might get all their bets in. Knowing there is a set time, those who make many bets in a race, will time it so that all their bets get in before 1 MTP. Right now, it is possible that maybe a small percentage of batch bets don't make it in on time. This too, will create odds that don't fluctuate as much in the last 4 minutes prior to the race. Batch bettors will be more confident too, in getting their bets off a little earlier because there will most likely be less fluctuation.


1. Late gate scratches will mean a refund and players will not be able to make a replacement bet. Late scratches do happen. Some arise when a jockey tips off the gate steward that the horse doesn't feel right. Some arise by the steward noticing the horse is off prior to the race. These scratches usually happen around 2 to 3 minutes to post. Having the jockey report to stewards a minute earlier would suffice, as well as putting more pressure on the gate steward to make decisions slightly earlier.

Of course, horses sometimes hurt themselves in the gate or unseat going into the gate (or break through the gate). This stuff happens after the proposed betting cut off. The solution to this is to unload the horses or delay loading by exactly two minutes, giving players an opportunity to make last minute changes.

2. In today's day and age there is no reason why the tote system can't just close off everywhere once the bell rings. Most of the time this is true, but it isn't true 100% of the time, and that is a huge problem. It is estimated that the cost to overhaul the system, and make it infallible, would be close to a quarter of a billion dollars. One of the biggest problems is that the system would have to be changed by both the tracks and the tote companies.

3. More people will get shut out, and late scratches will create more refunds without players getting a chance to bet their money into the race once they realize there is a scratch. This is more a fallacy than a con. People who get shut out are less likely to get shut out if they know there is a set time to get their bets in. Less people will get shut out.

Secondly, many players don't have the time or means to make additional bets after gate scratches are announced to begin with, but lets say this causes more money in collective refunds. So what? I've repeated myself enough here when it comes to the concept that John Q. Bettor only has so much money to lose over any specific period of time, and since takeouts are so high, John sits on the sideline many times through this period of time before funding his account. Many people who get refunds will bet it back in the next race or by the end of the card, or at worse the next day. When the dust clears, the race tracks will get the same amount out of John over 2 months than they would have with or without refunds in almost every case.

If you haven't voted on my site yet, go to the bottom of this post and vote.

See also, Better Betting by Dan Liebman

Fort Erie apprentice jockey Melanie Pinto is on Twitter. To follow JockeyMel, click here.

I'm on Twitter too, to follow me, click here.

Down The Stretch has a new issue on line. Peter Gross puts his 3 for 30 Queen's Plate handicapping streak at risk. Perry Lefko writes a feel good story on Ashley Palmer and a rescue horse.

Frank Passero Jr. Can Breathe A Sigh Of Relief
Fort Erie based trainer Daryl Ezra, who was on a four race winning streak, ran second yesterday with his mare Withsarasapproval. Passero's 11 race record winning streak is safe for now.

Fort Erie Has Best Handle Day Of The Year Yesterday
In only 8 races, bettors wagered over $930,000 yesterday. This is huge compared to Sunday and Monday (which competed against A tracks because of the US holiday this week), when the handle per race on those days, was less than half of Tuesday's handle per race.

Fort Erie is now offering Superfectas in any race that has 7 or more entries (6 if a late scratch occurs). They are 20 cent supers for Canadians, but those betting at US ADWs or tracks have to play them for a buck. The same thing happens to Canadians who bet at Canadian tracks or HPI when it comes to American tracks. We are forced to play them for a buck, even though in the States, they have a 20 or 10 cent minimum.

This is just a short term fix. Superfectas with high takeouts are bankroll killers. They kill the churn. This causes players to lose their bankrolls faster, causing more players to eventually become disillusioned, causing them to leave and find another form of betting.

If Fort Erie was looking long term at attracting bettors, they can do two things right off the top. Reduce their takeout on exactors (the highest in North America) from 26.2% to 21.2% tops. Many bettors have become knowledgeable when it comes to takeout, especially recently, as players who remain in the game have become collectively more sophisticated. The other thing they can do to attract players to focus on Fort Erie is to offer a low takeout (lets say 16%) on Pick 3's, and offer them in the first and fourth race as well. Yesterday, even though it was a good day for the Fort, they only averaged around $3,800 on the four Pick 3's they offered. So the cost to the track to try this out will be minimal even if it fails. However, I contend that this will put Fort Erie on the radar screen, and generally, even if value players focus on the Pick 3's, they are likely to play other races if the odds look good regardless of the takeout on the other wagers. Finally, these two moves will make Fort Erie soar in the HANA standing when it comes to top rated tracks to bet on. Right now, Fort Erie sits at 70 out of 71 tracks. A big turn off.

Hamilton vet and Burlington man (who posed as a vet) charged by OPP
Cash and drugs were seized.

'John Guerra, 64, was charged with practising veterinary medicine without a licence.

Dr. Murray Bonshor, 48, of Hamilton is charged with the illegal sale of drugs under the Food and Drugs Act. Bonshor is scheduled to appear in court June 16 and Guerra June 17.'

This is part of the Ontario Racing Commission's new ties with the OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau.

Good job, now the ORC can go after those who were customers of the two charged individuals and clean up the game.

Update: 'The OPP officer said the horse racing commission’s focus of concern is on non-therapeutic performance-enhancing drugs like darbepoetin-alfa (DPO). DPO is classified as a potent, long-lasting form of EPO. EPO, short for erythropoietin, triggers a horse’s body to produce more red blood cells and is thought to improve performance by increasing the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity.'

The ORC reminds the racing community that they are only allowed to deal with ORC licensed vets.

The June 1st steroid ban in Ontario is approaching fast. I have to wonder if certain trainers aren't doing too well because they are now training without steroids for the first time in a long time. I'm not going to name names, but some high profile trainers are having horrendous runs right now. Coincidence or steroids?

TrackMaster has a contest on right now for computer programming handicappers:

'Have you created your own personal handicapping software and desire to expand upon and market it? Are you a software developer that has an idea for the next great web-based product? Today, we are announcing the start of the TrackMaster Software Development Challenge. The Challenge is open to PC or web-based applications for Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse or Harness Racing. We are supplying a year of sample data that can be used to test extensively.

Included among the prizes for the winner(s) will be the eligibility to enter into a revenue-sharing agreement with TrackMaster in connection with the commercial availability of the winners' software.'

The tragedy that happened to Rene Douglas rightfully shocked the racing community on the weekend. But another large mishap happened on Saturday at Louisiana as well. Luckily, to my knowledge, the horse and the jockey (Patrick Valenzuela) escaped without any serious consequences.
The mishap happened at the 16th pole to the favored horse (Say The Word) who was going to win the race. You have to see it to believe it:

HT:Railbird Brad

I hate blaming the gate crew for not mopping up properly, but since you never see this kind of stuff, and there have been many sloppy tracks throughout the years, I have a hard time not blaming them.


Anonymous said...

For many years vegas betting closed when the 1st horse went into the gate.The only problem was for bettors that were not aware once they understood the system there was not a problem.After the breeders pick problem Churchill was one of the tracks that did use the one minute delay.I dont recall any problems once bettors were aware.

Anonymous said...

Customers of offshore bookmakers will need to get their bets in even earlier because the offshore bookmakers will have to close their own pools earlier so that they have time to lay off their customers' bets into the US tote pools.

Not a big deal as soon as everyone gets used to it.