04/29/2014 7:10PM

Giwner: Lower minimum bets make sense


When the Meadowlands announced on Monday that it would be lowering its minimum wagering level for pick four wagers down to 50 cents, there were clearly some mixed feelings. There are two basic points of view in this ocean: whales vs. fish.

The whales, in theory, like higher minimums because they limit the exposure smaller bettors can have in multi-race exotics. At a $1 base, a $48 ticket will buy you 48 possibilities. At 50 cents, that number doubles to 96. The more people that can spread, the lower the price will be for the whales.

I’m certainly not a whale, so perhaps I’m biased, but I fail to see the negative with lowering the minimums. One person argued that the lower minimums would eliminate carryovers. Well, there have been exactly zero carryovers in 2014 and only three in 2013. That’s three carryover wagers out of hundreds of pick fours.

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For me, as a person who likes to limit their multi-race wagers to a range of $32 to $96, these new minimum levels are not only my best friend, but the tracks, too. When I examine a pick four, I develop a play using all the logical horses and decide whether it is a financially feasible play. If the initial investment comes to a number over $200, I pack it in and wait for the next opportunity. If the play is below that number, I look to see if I can eliminate a horse or two and head to the windows.

You see, when I decide that the wager is out of my reach financially, the track doesn’t get my money, especially considering that the majority of my play is done away from the track. It’s not like I’m stuck at the track and will be looking for action. I can easily turn on the TV and watch the Yankees or Game Of Thrones.

Digging deeper, tracks make money via churn. Contrary to popular belief, tracks gain increased revenue when you win and reinvest. So using the theory that people tend to plow their winnings back into the pools, if more people are able to play the pick four and more people also cash tickets on the pick four, the track should profit in the end.

Getting back to the arguments against lowering the minimums, I read the following Tweet:

“Meadowlands moving Pk 4 to 50 cent min is a travesty, if you're chasing big scores I suggest moving ur action to @BalmoralPark or @NfldPark

All due respect to both Northfield and Balmoral, but there is no doubt that pick four pools at the Meadowlands will continue to dwarf those at Balmoral and Northfield. I can also point to major Thoroughbred tracks across the country that offer similar wagers at the lower minimum. Did bettors stop playing Belmont when they lowered their minimum bet? I find it very hard to believe that a major bettor, one who follows the Meadowlands daily to make a solid profit, is simply going to close shop and start researching from scratch at another track just because of the lower wagering minimums.

The same person we spoke about earlier also Tweeted:

“Very short sighted vision from what is usually a sharp mgt team. They now have ZERO wagers that would attract whales.”

First of all, I would question how many whales are actually betting into the Meadowlands’ pools. According to track officials, there were only three late pick four wagers placed on Saturday (April 26) which exceeded $750 and when you drop the whale requirement down to the $500 level, only three more tickets were punched. Basically about 10% of the total pick four pool came from “whale type” players. Surely lower minimums would attract enough new money to offset this small total, if these whales even stopped wagering on the bet.

More interestingly, the pick five (which offers a 50 cent minimum) pools are up almost 10 percent year over year and there have still been five carryovers since the beginning of 2013 despite the lower minimum.

The bottom line is that the benefits of a lower minimum wager outweigh the possible pitfalls. It’s not like 20 whales are lined up outside the Meadowlands’ door trying to get in and now they are going to look elsewhere for their daily action. I’m thinking that if one whale swims away, the 20 fish that take its place will make up for the loss.

At the very least, the Meadowlands, which launches the new 50-cent wagers on Friday (May 2), can count on this fish to play the pick four more often.

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Robert Pandolfo More than 1 year ago
What he said.
Joel Weiner More than 1 year ago
The whales can go back to playing their 6 figure pick 6's for $2 a pop at Belmont.
Gene Falcone More than 1 year ago
Another thing about lower minimums, is you can save on paying the taxman by playing 50cents twice instead of hitting over $600 for $1!
Jeff More than 1 year ago
I think there is a third option;"whales" that I know would not care!Maybe there are different types of whales out there,but the whales that I know do not bet pick 4's and do not bet $750-.
Jack H More than 1 year ago
Finally you and I agree on something. Nice to be able to go 4by4by4by4 and be in the pick 4 for $128. I can now throw a few horses I like in with a heavy favorite and have a chance for a nice score. If the favorite wins I break even.
Derick More than 1 year ago
It was bound to happen eventually, Jack.
Sal Carcia More than 1 year ago
To me, there is really no reason why horseracing couldn't lower the minimum wager even more. Let the bettor choose the denomination. We are stuck in the era where parimutuel machines could only handle one denomination and type of bet. In the slots business, I have seen half penny slots. As far as the whales go, is there anything else you would like?