Fri | Dec 6, 2019

Ainsley Walters | Tom fool, but him nuh dunce

Published:Monday | November 11, 2019 | 12:19 AM

HORSE RACING’s ‘takeout theory’ is that a higher dividend returned to punters on winning tickets will result in increased betting, because a punter with more cash in pocket would be encouraged to bet again, creating what is referred to as a ‘churn effect’.

Whereas a lowered takeout by the promoting company does return more cash to punters, Caymanas Track Limited (CTL), then, and now, Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL) faces a dilemma in pursuing a reduced-takeout policy.

In order to make up for poor sales from uncompetitive and unprofitable races, a direct result of how Jamaica’s claiming and conditions system constricts betting, CTL started leaning heavily on exotic bets conducted over multiple races.

These exotic bets include Rolling Triples, Pick 4s, Pick 6s, Pick 9 and the Placepot 8, to which SVREL added a Pick 5, ‘sucker bets’ which require punters to stake significant amounts in order to increase their chances of winning, monies that are locked into these bets from as early as the first race, up to the last event of the day.

Exotic bets tout high payout minimums of $1.25 million for winning either Pick 6, $1 million for the Pick 9, $250,000 for the Placepot and each Pick 4, all heavily advertised in the official racing publication and on race programmes, commonly known as ‘weights’.

Therefore, on an average 10-race card, there are 15 exotic bets, inclusive of eight Rolling Triples, two Pick 6s and Pick 4s, which lock in millions of dollars, accounting for probably 50 per cent of all bets staked, offering guaranteed lottery-like jackpots, which are rolled over to subsequent race-days, with even bigger jackpots, if not won.

Where the takeout theory falls apart, in the context of Jamaican racing, is that when won, little, if any, of these jackpots re-enter the tote because, in the first place, it sometimes takes days, in the case of weekend racing, for winning cheques to be prepared or wire transfers to be done.

Second, Tom might be a fool to play ‘sucker bets’, but Tom nuh dunce, as Gordon Robinson believes, so don’t expect him to return to Caymanas Park with his winnings the next race-day.

For the churn to be realised, the number of cashable tickets per race must be increased, which means most exotic bets that lock down punters’ money, from the first to last race, would have to be eliminated, allowing punters to return to the betting windows more often with winning tickets from consecutive competitive races, which do not exist under claiming and conditions.

DESPERATE MOVE

In further desperation, SVREL has adopted another dimension of exotic betting from the ‘rest of the world’, North America, making all exotic bets, except the Pick 6 and Rolling Triples, single-winner bonus bets, which simply means there has to be only one winning ticket for the full jackpot to be paid out, a ploy of using punters’ cash to boost sales for ‘jackpot rollovers to the next race meet, tying up more money, which should have been returned as dividend and creating a churn effect as cashable tickets.

Therefore, the hard-to-hit single-winner bonus ‘sucker bets’ would also have to go, but now account for almost every exotic bet, which, in the absence of consecutive competitive races, have become SVREL’s lifeblood.

Unless his looks belies his age, Robinson has been wagering on handicap racing at Caymanas Park from probably since it was first opened in 1959, when the square pegs were perfectly aligned in square holes under a British system, before the round North American black hole was tunneled in 1993, already sucking in $607.7 million of SVREL’s money, which would reach $1 billion by mid-2020, should his ‘reduced takeout’ be implemented under claiming and conditions.

It is sad that having spent his years around characters, most of whom, based on his writings, appeared to have been dimwits, Robinson has fallen to the adage ‘show me your company and I’ll tell you who you are’, by saying the levy scheme is a “subsidy”, which taxes bookmakers, who are using the British horse racing’s intellectual property to generate profits.

Ainsley ‘Jimmie’ Walters is a veteran horse-racing writer, editor and editorial/production coordinator of Track and Pools, Jamaica’s official racing publication. Email feedback to ainsley.walters@gleanerjm.com and columns@gleanerjm.com