26 August 2009

Track Takeout: The Highest And The Lowest

Awareness of track takeout has risen tremendously over the last year or so, since HANA (Horseplayers Association of North America) started up, and prior to that, blogs like this one (Cangamble) and Pull The Pocket have contributed greatly to making the public understand why they have stopped betting on horses, or why they are thinking of stopping, or have reduced their wagering considerably over the past 20 years or more.

Many people will say they don't care about takeout, but bottom line takeout affects how much one bet and how long one lasts on a collective basis. Bottom line, the higher the takeout, the less likely a bettor's bankroll will last.

The ramifications of high takeouts are pretty simple. The horseplayer will spend less time betting and watching races. They are less likely to get families and friends involved in horse racing. Therefore, when they quit or die, they have not brought in any new blood to the game.

We are experiencing this phenomenon big time right now throughout the industry. Those in their forties (like me) or older are pretty much the last generation of players who were introduced to the game because most horseplayers lasted longer back in the 60's and 70 and early 80's, prior to the dummy money being lost to lotteries and slots, and prior to simulcast wagering, where players could bet more than 8 or 9 races a day (which eroded bank rolls very quickly as takeouts remained the same), and prior to when exotic bets like triactors and superfectors were available in the majority of races (at a takeout of 25% or more in most cases, these appealing high return wagers upped the mean takeout horseplayers paid out on average from around 18% back in the late 70's to 21% today).

I saw a relevant quote on Twitter this morning. I believe it dates back to the 30's or 40's: "You don’t gamble to win. You gamble so you can gamble the next day." - Bert Ambrose (Band Leader). The racetracks understood that back in the 30's and 40's, but don't understand it, or care today.

Ok, time to get off the soap box and provide the Best and Worst Takeouts for North American tracks (approximately 70 tracks):


Win, Place, Show
Hollywood, Los Alamitos 15.4%
Santa Anita, Del Mar, Golden Gate Fields 15.43%
Northlands Park 15.8%
Note: Hastings has a 12% takeout on show bets, but has a 17% takeout on win & place.

Exactors and Doubles
Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga 18.5%
Note: Retama has a 12% takeout on doubles, but has a 21% takeout on exactors. Tampa Bay Downs has an 18% takeout on doubles but a 21.5% takeout on exactors.

Churchill Downs, Keeneland 19%

Meadowlands 15%
Churchill Downs, Keeneland 19%

Pick 3's
Retama, Sam Houston 12%
Churchill Downs, Keeneland 19%

Pick 4's
Meadowland, Monmouth 15%
Churchill Downs, Keeneland 19%

Pick 6's
Gulfstream 15%
Hawthorne 16%


Win, Place, Show
Turf Paradise, Yavapai 20%

Doubles and Exactors
Fort Erie 26.2%
Assiniboia, Suffolk Downs 26%
Arapahoe 25%
Northlands Park, Stampede Park 24.8%

Penn National 31%
Philadelphia 30%
Assiniboia 29%
Fort Erie 28.2%
Calder, Woodbine 27%
(Note: Woodbine ups the takeout to 27% for any track on their HPI or simulcast menu, which means that a triactor that when a triactor pays $810 at Keeneland or Churchill, Woodbine will pay their customers only $730 for the same bet.

Penn, Philadelphia 30%
Assiniboia, Presque Isle Downs 29%
Calder 27%
Hastings, Woodbine 26.3%

Pick 3's
Assiniboia 29%
Calder 27%
Woodbine 26.3%
Fort Erie 26.2%

Pick 4's
Assiniboia 29%
Penn National 28%
Calder 27%
Fort Erie 26.2%

Pick 6's
Woodbine 26.3%
Philadelphia 26%
Pimlico 25.75%
Laurel 25.75%

The troubling thing about the tracks that have the highest takeouts, is that most of them have slots. This illustrates the short sightedness and idiotic greed displayed by many racing execs and horsemen who do have a say in takeouts as well in many jurisdictions.

As many sharp bettors know, there are ways to combat high track takeouts and still play the ponies. Exchange betting as offered by Betfair has attracted many Canadians, and ADWs like Horseplayersbet.com, which offer decent player rewards, are available to many American horseplayers.

For a nearly complete, nearly up to date chart of sortable tracks takeouts, click here.


Steve Zorn said...

Nice summary. The high rates are, of course, obscene. Even the "best" rates for WPS betting are probably considerably higher than the optimum. Whenever HANA can produce a study that shows us what the optimum rate is (i.e., the rate that produces the greatest income over time -- not per race), we'll be a lot better off.

And it doesn't matter that most horseplayers don't consciously think about takeout rates. If, at the end of the day, they don't have enough money left to play tomorrow, they won't.

dana said...

Great post, it's both surprising and disheartening that that some of the highest take outs come from tracks with slots. In fact, it's outrageous... thanks for pointing it out.

Scott said...

Just for information purposes, here are some international figures:

UK Tote pools
Win - 13.5%
Place (1,2,3) - 18%
Exacta - 26%
Trifecta - 26%
Quadpot (Pick4) - 26%
Jackpot (Pick6) - 29%
Placepot (Pick6 for the place) - 27%
Swinger (Any2 or PlaceQuinella) - 26%
Scoop6 (weekly multi-track jackpot with bonus and place dividends) - 30%
Super 7 (Pick7) - 30%

The UK Tote is a lame duck, it doesn't compete against bookmakers.

Australia (rough figures)
Win and Place - 14.5%
Quinellas - 14.25%
Trifectas - 19%
Doubles - 18%
Superfecta (first 6 horses in order) - 20%
First 4 (US superfecta) - 22.5%
Quaddies (Pick 4) - low 20s

Both countries have the rates set by government/the industry in order to fund the industry, not by track which is where the problem really lies in North America.

The other point I don't think you've covered is the roundings. They also get swallowed by the tote companies. When you bet a horse paying exactly evens (1/1, 2.0), the next bet will push those odds to a "true" price of 99/100 (1.99). In Australia, the next price below evens is 9/10 (or 1.90 for a $1 unit). That's another 9c out of the dollar they are taking away from bettors. What do your tracks do in that situation??

Cangamble said...

Thanks for that info Scott. I think you might be talking about breakage rules. Here is a piece I wrote about it.

Anonymous said...

So CG do you or don't you bet Fort Erie?

Cangamble said...

RG, I'd be more comfortable answering questions regarding my personal betting by email.

Anonymous said...

I've said it many times Horseplayers do not benefit from slot machines.

Anonymous said...

For everyone's education, London Bookmakers' hold on all racing bets it close to 30% as they set their own lines. Shops that pay track are pretty close esp on exotics as they limit payout. This is why they can offer the player incentives they do. However, they can void bets at any time and many are dropping racing all together.

Scott said...

sorry, that last post is so factually inaccurate the guy should be in politics.

No UK bookies are dropping racing - it's lead product for most. New internet startups run by foreigners might start with football and avoid racing. If I'm wrong, feel free to name a company.

No UK bookie pays 'track odds' by which I mean tote price. However most bookies allow their clients to bet through the tote - greater distribution for the pools, and the bookies get a cut from takings.

There are no limits on exotics - exotics are a very minor product on UK racing, so much so that trifectas (pool) and tricast (same bet but calculated at fixed odds) aren't offered on all races. Bookies voiding bets? Yeah right. There are regulatory bodies to prevent that without valid cause - usually when the player is trying to be fraudulent or abuse an obvious error.

Bookmakers set their own prices as they take risk. Closing SP (starting price) averages 1.5-2% per runner, so it might be 112% overround on an 8 runner race but 150% on a 30 runner handicap. But these prices change all the time - the true calculation is what the Aussies call 'top fluctuation' - ie the worst price for a bookie throughout betting (highest for bettor) and where most bets would be made - that % per runner would be closer to 0.5%.

I'm an advocate for totes, exchanges and fixed-odds bookmakers, they all have their place and competition is good for everyone. But please, let's stick to the facts rather than hearsay and negative rants from people with grudges in betting forums...

James Johnson said...

Sounds like wonderful report!

Anonymous said...

thank you cg...before i can get a return on my money...I have to give away 15-30+ %...and then get lucky and afterwards pay breakage this means...i've cut back on my gambling...and honestly...will keep it that way...big days will get the big plays...but i'm out of the weekly grind...thanks for the insight...i hope your blog opens some eyes