The fall opening weekend for harness racing at Colonial Downs also featured the opening of a new grandstand wagering area devoted to video games with a wagering twist. In one of the simulcast areas the racetrack installed thirty touch screen video game machines. Games include a slot-like spin wheel and poker. On the wall are the traditional simulcast screens with races broadcast from across the country.
By making a $10 trifecta wager at designated flat and harness tracks—on opening Sunday Philadelphia Park was the selected track—a patron was given a plastic card with 1000 points on it. Swiping the card in one of the video game machines then entitled the bettor to play the video games, with the possibility of winning a $10,000 prize or accumulating points that can be cashed in at penny a point.
A player who used up 1000 points without winning can make another $10 trifecta wager thereby adding 1000 points to his or her plastic card. The card does not expire and may be used at subsequent visits to the track.
The business plan from the point of view of track management and the horsemen is quite simple. Increased handle by promoting trifecta simulcast wagering at certain tracks, which would not normally occur, results in more revenue for Colonial and the Virginia HBPA horsemen’s purse account. That is achievable because the commission, or take out, on trifecta wagers at certain tracks, like Philadelphia Park, is a relatively high thirty percent. The takeout on win/place/show wagering at most tracks (including Colonial) is around 18%, and is usually in the 20% range for “exotics” like exactas, trifectas, and pick four wagering.
The difference between a 30% trifecta takeout at certain tracks and lower takeouts on wagers at other tracks makes it feasible to pay video game winners without hitting too hard the track’s pocketbook. And, of course, if the bettor hits the trifecta funding his video game playing so much the better. When it comes to revenue, churn is the name of the game in pari-mutuel wagering.
If the video games prove popular, Colonial will keep the grandstand simulcast area open year round instead of closing it when there is no live racing at the track. – Frank Petramalo.