11/25/2015 5:42PM

Giwner: Full speed ahead for the Yonkers European simulcast mission

Mike Lizzi
European handle on the November 15 card at Yonkers was over $1.6 million Euros.

While it is great for owners and horsemen that harness racing purses are supplemented by casino revenue, the ultimate survival for the sport needs to be based on handle. When the No. 1 pari-mutuel handle track in the industry (Meadowlands) is losing money, clearly there is a problem.

The solution is equal parts simple and difficult—find more people to wager on racing. Takeout reductions, rebates and promotions will only do so much to lure new people to any one product. And if one track makes a big move in takeout, aren’t they most likely taking customers away from another track, Thoroughbred or Harness?

If there is one thing we have learned from Yonkers Raceway sending its signal to Europe (French PMU) it is that our product is more popular in Europe than in the U.S. Well, at least the Yonkers product is more appealing overseas.

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: Real-time insights from the DRF Harness team this Saturday at 6:50 p.m.]

The numbers don’t lie. Yonkers is averaging $52,186 per race in handle during 10 November cards scheduled at night (7:10 p.m. post) and $28,758 per race in three Sunday morning (11:10-11:25 a.m. first post) cards. Guess what the average handle on each race was in Europe?

Yonkers simulcasted seven trotting races on each of the first three Sundays of the month for total handle of over $4.2 million Euros and an average just above $200,000 Euros per race.

The solution to the problem of small pools and lack of interest lies in world-wide simulcasting. And maybe the end-game is finally inching closer after the success of the $1,000,000 Yonkers International Trot last October.

“The SOA of NY and Yonkers Raceway have always approached this as a long term process,” said Standardbred Owners Association Executive Director Alex Dadoyan. “We are building a relationship and making inroads into a new and very large and important market. We are just over one year into the relationship and I think overall things have gone pretty smoothly. There is tremendous long term benefit for owners, breeders, horsemen and bettors in the success of this venture. We are working hard towards taking some next steps, including possibly a look at commingling some pools on a limited basis in the coming year.”

Dadoyan, along with SOA President Joe Faraldo, will head to France next week to review the first year relationship with the French PMU and plan for future success.

As of now, the calendar for European simulcasting next year is expected to be similar to the 2015 schedule. That includes racing on Tuesday afternoons and the return of the International on October 15.

“There are a couple of more Sundays which are the strongest wagering days, averaging more than $1 million euros each Sunday. There are 11 on next year's calendar while 9 were scheduled in 2015 (and only 8 were simulcast),” said Dadoyan.

Getting back to handle figures for a moment, it is worth noting that Yonkers recorded its highest European handle to date when $1,639,328 Euros were wagered on the seven simulcast races on November 15. That placed total handle for the card at almost $2 milllion.

Granted tracks wishing to participate in simulcasting across the Atlantic would have to offer morning or afternoon post times, but wouldn’t it be worth it if doubling and tripling handle was possible? That doesn’t even account for the possibility of increased handle due to the newfound viability of betting into larger pools. No longer is your $100 win wager going to send the odds on a freefall.

Switching bases slightly, have you seen some of the wagers offered overseas via the French PMU? The one that caught my eye was called 2sur4. The bet requires you to choose any two of the top four finishers in order to cash. How many times have you bet an exacta where your horses run first and third or second and third? Now you would cash.

The 2sur4 is a great way to increase churn and create a positive experience for everyone by increasing the number of winning wagers. Check out the payout table from Race 1 at Yonkers on November 22. The order of finish was 2-7-12-3.

2 - 7

€ 9.00

2 - 12

€ 9.00

2 - 3

€ 9.00

7 - 12

€ 9.00


€ 9.00


€ 9.00

Let’s hope the future holds more forward thinking—commingled pools, bigger fields, longer distance racing, new wagers, lower takeout, cooperation—so we can evolve as a sport and position it in a position to succeed.