Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ten-cent superfecta going strong


Four years ago, Sam Houston Race Park started a trend as the first Thoroughbred track to reduce its minimum bet for superfecta wagering to ten cents.

While the micro wager has spread in popularity, little in-depth study has been conducted to determine if reducing the minimum bet has been a moneymaker. Chris Scherf, executive vice president of Thoroughbred Racing Associations, would like tracks to conduct a detailed study.

Some factors to research would be percentage increase in superfecta handle, changes in percentage handle in the superfecta compared with other wagers, superfecta handle in relation to overall handle, and customer retention numbers. These other factors would help to determine if the wager is adding revenue or cannibalizing from other wagers.

“There’ve been some discussions on such a study, but there hasn’t been one,” said Scherf, who noted the wager has created goodwill with handi­cappers. “I’d be interested to see the results.”

The ten-cent wager, which started in greyhound racing, quickly has become the standard minimum superfecta wager at Thoroughbred tracks. The superfecta requires players to select the first four sequential finishers of a given race. The reduction in minimum bet allows players to wager more combinations. For instance, lower bankroll players can bet 24 combinations for $2.40 as opposed to $24 at a $1 minimum.

Sam Houston Racing Secretary Eric Johnston said the track takes some pride in being the first Thoroughbred track to offer the wager on February 17, 2005.

“We take a lot of pride in it but, interestingly enough, we also caught a lot of flak,” Johnston said, explaining that many track executives who thought the wager would hurt handle since have changed their minds.

The ten-cent superfecta proved a boon for Sam Houston as its superfecta handle increased 45% by 2006-’07.

The New York Racing Association changed its superfecta minimum to ten cents in the fall of 2007 and has kept tabs on its performance.

At the first full meeting to offer the wager, Aqueduct winter-spring 2007-’08, the average superfecta pool was up 30.6%. At the 2008 Belmont spring meeting, the average superfecta pool was up 28.3%.

“The ten-cent superfecta fueled that growth—there’s no other explanation,” NYRA President Charles Hayward said. “It’s been a great addition to our wagering menu.”

In examining a two-week period of superfecta wagers during the closing week of the 2008 Saratoga Race Course meeting and opening week of the ’08 Belmont fall meeting, NYRA determined 72% of its superfecta tickets were at the ten-cent level, accounting for 36% of the pool. Superfecta wagers at the $1 level accounted for 28% of the tickets sold and 64% of total handle.

“This low-cost betting option opens up the challenge and potential rewards of the superfecta to many more players,” Hayward said. “Ten-cent players typically build multi-bet tickets, by boxing or using part-wheels, with many more permutations than do $1 players. It’s a very popular play with our fans.”

Johnston noted the ten-cent minimum bet serves as a great introductory wager to new players