09/01/2004 11:00PM

Bet superfectas for a dime


LEXINGTON, KY - Hinsdale Greyhound Park in New Hampshire was prepared Friday night to initiate 10-cent minimum betting on superfectas, an option that at least one Thoroughbred racetrack, Keeneland Racecourse, is seriously exploring.

Hinsdale is initiating the 10-cent minimum in the hopes of spurring handle on its superfectas, which is typically $1,000 to $2,000 per race, according to track president Joseph Sullivan. Hinsdale does not export its simulcast signal to any out-of-state locations, but the track runs an account-wagering operation available nationwide to bettors.

"We're a small dog track, and supers have never been a real popular bet," Sullivan said. "Plus, we're in real competition with the casinos in Connecticut, and this has a little bit of a slot element to it, in throwing up all those combinations with a small bet."

The new minimum will allow bettors to cover 10 times as many combinations compared to a superfecta wager with a $1 minimum. For comparison, a $1 superfecta wager using one horse on top and four horses to fill out the bottom three slots costs $24; the same wager at the dime minimum will cost $2.40.

Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky., is "seriously interested" in offering dime bets for superfectas, according to Jim Williams, the track's director of communications. However, Williams said that several hurdles have to be overcome, including overturning a state regulation that establishes $1 as the minimum bet at any racetrack in the state. Keeneland is scheduled to open its fall meet on Oct. 8 this year.

"We're looking at it as something we could do immediately, but that may not be practical," Williams said. "There are some challenges that still need to be resolved."

The dime-minimum concept borrows somewhat from a common practice in Australia called fractional betting, in which bettors can construct exotic wagers at any denomination. For example, a player in Australia can bet $10 worth of exactas using as many horses as he or she likes, and the totalizator system will determine what the denomination of each combination is, based on the total amount bet. Recent estimates have shown that 20 percent of bets through the national network in Australia are fractional bets, according to J. Curtis Linnell, the wagering analyst for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau.

Although the dime minimum will make combinations in the superfecta far more affordable to a wider swath of players, the practice does carry risks. Because players can cover so many combinations, payoffs for winning bets are likely to decline because more winners will split the pool. Without the chance for a score in the tens of thousands of dollars, which is typical if only one bet wins the pool, that could discourage big bettors from playing.

Victor Harrison, the director of sales for United Tote, the bet-processing company that supplies wagering services for both Hinsdale and Keeneland, said that United Tote has not identified any serious problems with implementing the dime-minimum.