Losing horse racing bets may someday be lucrative
Proposal to be introduced at meeting on Friday
Losing bettors at Del Mar may soon still have a chance to go home with pockets full of cash.
That is, if the California Horse Racing Board, and ultimately state legislation, adopts a proposal to be introduced at today’s CHRB meetings.
The horse racing governing body will weigh in and provide direction on an idea to pool a percentage of all the money from losing bets for a weekly cash prize. Under the proposal, if a fan places a losing bet on any day of a race week that person could return on Friday when the lottery takes place.
The catch is that the bettor must be present to win, thereby increasing attendance and overall handle for the struggling horse racing industry.
“It sounds like they’re thinking out of the box, and horse racing needs that,” Fairgrounds Chief Executive Officer Tim Fennell said.
On-site bets have decreased by nearly $1 billion over the past decade. Phone and Internet wagering is now at nearly $500 million annually.
Jack Liebau, president of Hollywood Park, said prizes for losing tickets are nothing new. Previously, however, they were generally material gifts.
“I don’t think there’s any question we have to make our wagering platform, so to speak, more enticing to the wagering public,” he said.
Darrell Vienna, a longtime thoroughbred trainer, is putting the proposal forward. Jerome Moss and Jesse Choper, who make up the CHRB wagering and simulcast subcommittee, will first hear it at 9 a.m. today. They will then report to the entire CHRB at the regular meeting, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Arcadia City Hall.
The body is free to make any changes or adjustments to this proposal if and before it decides to endorse it and take it to state Legislature. A timeline has yet to be established if it is ultimately supported, and a final proposal would still have to be vetted in Sacramento.
While this idea is only aimed at on-site wagering, the industry is also now hoping to come up with a business plan that will resurrect the financial fortune of its off-track betting brick-and-mortar facilities.
A modified collective bargaining agreement between horse racing and its wagering handlers’ labor union to reduce required staffing will allow the off-track betting centers to stay operational past June 30.
However, since the experience for the participant does not change, Liebau said something still must be done to further combat dwindling attendance and the convenience of Internet wagering.
“What we have to try to do is make our satellites more user friendly,” he said.
Moss said several ideas have been discussed, including a combination of an off-track betting center and movie theatre.
“Sort of a facility inside that facility is a wagering sports bar,” he said. “Places where people can have access to and can do things other than just wager, where people can drop in for an hour, bet a couple races, get a bite, have a drink and meet somebody.”
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