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Track Tracts

Want a Racetrack Renaissance?  
All You Need is a No-Consolation Pick-All

by Gordon Pine

I dropped in on my local 7-11 convenience store last week to buy, uh, some milk and was greeted by a curious sight � a line of people wrapped right around the side of the store. Unbeknownst to me, studying the fourth race at Mountaineer, there was an 89 million dollar jackpot happening in the California Lottery. The lottery computer system was down, and these people were going to wait it out. They wanted a piece of the American Dream. No, not a house in the suburbs, a loving spouse and two kids � the current American Dream: win the lottery, tell the boss what to do with his job, and move to Bermuda.

It got me thinking � what is it about the lottery? Why aren�t these people lining up at the racetracks? Ever see photos of (or experience in person) a racetrack when there was wall-to-wall people throughout the joint, not just in the areas that haven�t been blocked off due to lack of use? That�s how it was in the halcyon days of horse racing. Sure, absolute non-inflation-adjusted handle is marginally up, but that�s hiding the fact that, relative to other gambling and entertainment industries, horse racing ain�t what it used to be. Not even close. And, amidst a more populous America, absolute attendance figures nowadays pale compared to what they were. This is far from a secret.

The way I see it, there are two things that draw people to the lottery. First, there�s the convenience. There are these little machines at every convenience store that spit out as many tickets to paradise as you could ever want. Why can�t horse racing do that, maybe for one jackpot per day? Technically, it�s a snap. It�s a matter of making it legal. Time for the muckety-mucks of racing to get our governmental representatives thinking in those terms.

But the main reason the lottery is so popular, obviously, is the huge, life-changing prizes. So what if you don�t have the shot of a mule in the Kentucky Derby? You MIGHT win. Who knows? Somebody�s got to!

The question is, why isn�t there something equivalent in horse racing? Sure, there are the Pick Sixes, and that�s a step in the right direction. When you have a substantial Pick Six carryover, interest in racing definitely goes up. But this bet is diluted by consolation payoffs and the relative ease (compared to the lottery) of hitting it. I�m not an expert regarding the California lottery, and someone correct me if I�m wrong, but isn�t it a matter of hitting six numbers from 0 to 99? That means you have a 100 to the sixth power or 1 in 100,000,000 chance of hitting the darn thing. Six numbers, doesn�t sound that hard, but it�s actually astronomically difficult.

I�m proposing something similar for horse racing. How about a Pick-All bet, where you have to pick the winner in every race on the card to win the pool? Check out the math: assuming you have a nine-race card with an average of eight horses in each race, there are eight to the ninth power or 134,217,728 possible combinations. The public could go a long time without hitting this baby. Yes, I�m aware that the probability of hitting would be higher if you played the lower odds horses, but still, this would be one difficult puppy to take down. Racetracks seem to think that the very difficulty of a wager like this makes it something they should avoid. They�ve got their analysis of human psychology messed up. It�s not the chances of hitting it � it�s what you would win if you did.

Racetracks seem to think that the very difficulty of a wager like this makes it something they should avoid. They�ve got their analysis of human psychology messed up. It�s not the chances of hitting it � it�s what you would win if you did.

And there should be no consolation payoffs. If you want consolation, go cry on somebody�s shoulder. All the money should carry-over to the next race day. And the take-out should only happen once, when someone actually wins the pool. Can you imagine how big this pool would get and how much media attention it would draw as it grew each day? They�d have to beat people away from the racetracks with sticks. Think of the renaissance of handicapping that would occur if people were competing for multi-multi-million dollar jackpots.

There � I�ve just saved the horse racing industry, and it hardly took any time at all. All we need is a convenient, no-consolation Pick-All. Have Colin Powell call me, and I�ll help him with the Mid East next week. I know I�m just a voice crying in the wilderness, but that�s my take, and it won�t cost you 25%. NC

Copyright �2001 NetCapper Inc. All rights reserved.

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