Speaking during the public comment period of today's Ohio State Racing Commission  (OSRC) meeting, Thoroughbred Idea Foundation (TIF) Executive Director Patrick Cummings raised concerns regarding changes to the provisions of the jackpot pick six wager at  the state's Mahoning Valley Race Course. 

"Seemingly without public notice, Mahoning Valley has flipped the terms of the jackpot pick six from where it was in March to where it is through its current meet," Cummings said after the meeting, "and we wanted to ensure the Commission was made aware through the proper channels as it seems the Ohio Racing Rules require, and to investigate the measures the track took to make the public aware of the change."

When racing closed for the season at the eastern Ohio track, the jackpot pick six wager had a 20% takeout with 30% of the daily pool withheld if there was no single ticket winner - yielding an effective daily hold of 44%. A total of 70% of the net pool was paid to the multiple winners on a given day should no single ticket winner exist.

A carryover of $2,620 was held from the end of the meet in March and offered, per Ohio rules, at the start of the next meet, which opened on October 23. Written approval is required to change elements of the bet.

"The difference is that while the actual takeout remained the same, at 20%, the track has changed the daily withholding for the carryover to 70%, which is what they had been paying out back in March. Combining this takeout and withholding rate yields an effective daily hold of an astounding 76%, which we believe to be the highest such rate in North America for this bet type in Thoroughbred racing."

"This is not a category where Ohio wants to be at the top of the pack," Cummings told the Commission. 

TIF has been critical of racing operators for allowing jackpot bets to proliferate across racing in the last decade. 

"Jackpot bets are the opposite of what racing needs," Cummings added after the meeting.

"These bets limit customer churn, which limits the opportunity for horsemen to earn purses from racing wagering. It defies all conventional logic to offer jackpot bets and limit the opportunity to grow wagering on racing, a metric in our business which has declined by nearly 50% when adjusted for inflation over the last 20 years," added Cummings.

"Some tracks have paid greater attention to this in recent times, either eliminating jackpot bets or offering them on far more favorable terms."

On a very positive note, several tracks have recently removed jackpot provisions from some wager types, while others carry more favorable terms on returning a large chunk of daily wagering which limits the daily hold.

Fair Grounds removed the jackpot provision from its pick five pools when its 2020-21 season launched in November, while Century Mile in Alberta abandoned the jackpot provision in its super high five midway through its 2020 meet. ​​​​​​​Today's card at Fair Grounds features a $27,704 carryover on its late pick five, paid to any number of winning tickets with all five winners.

Churchill Downs, whose "Single 6" bet pays 90% of the daily pool with just a 15% takeout, yielding an effective daily hold of just 23.5%, is among the most player - and horsemen - friendly jackpot wagers given the substantial daily payout provision.

Scott Borgemenke, Chairman of the OSRC, indicated his appreciation that the topic was raised and that, at least to his knowledge, the remarks from the TIF included new information to him. Chairman Borgemenke requested a copy of the remarks for review so that the issue could be examined further. 

The entirety of the remarks are printed below:

Thank you, Chairman, for the opportunity to offer a public comment on behalf of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation once again.

I wanted to raise your attention to a situation at Mahoning Valley as it relates to that track’s jackpot pick six wager.

When the Mahoning Valley season concluded in March, it was operating a jackpot pick six bet type with a 20% takeout. When no single ticket winner existed for a particular day, 30% of the net pool (after takeout) goes to the carryover jackpot with 70% of the net pool paid to all winning tickets with the highest number of winners that day.

This sort of division yielded a daily, “effective takeout” of 44%, meaning that if there was no single ticket winner, 44% of the daily amount bet was withheld, combining the takeout and the carryover.

Obviously, a 44% effective takeout is quite high, but in the nationwide landscape of jackpot bets, falls in about the mid-range of pricing for such a bet.

When racing resumed at Mahoning Valley in October, and without seemingly any public notice to the change, the terms of the jackpot withholding were altered. While takeout remained at 20%, if there was no single ticket winner, Mahoning Valley transferred 70% of the net pool to the jackpot and paid 30% of the net pool to the multiple ticketholders with the most winners that day.

So, the numbers were flipped – in March, 70% of the daily pool was paid and 30% withheld. In October, and every race day since with a carryover, 70% of the net pool is withheld and 30% paid.

This is troubling for a few reasons, but most notably, the impact to the bet’s daily effective takeout has changed substantially with this adjustment, going from being in middle of the pack at 44% in March, to where it is now, with a daily effective takeout of an astounding 76%.

The Mahoning Valley Jackpot Pick Six now has, to our knowledge, the highest daily effective takeout on ANY bet offered to Thoroughbred horse racing customers in North America.

This is not a category where Ohio wants to be at the top of the pack.

For some comparison, in recent months, the daily, effective takeout from others with similar bets types include Churchill at 23.5%, Charles Town at 34%, Aqueduct at 40%, Laurel at 52%, Indiana at 60.75% and the California Fairs at 70%.

Turning horse racing wagering into lottery-type bets is bad for horse racing. Sustainable wagering from horse racing emanates from supporting high churn bets, not lottery-type bets such as this. Racing benefits from continued customer wagering – but on days when the bet is not hit by a single ticket (which has been 25 of 27 race days to date this meet), 76% of the daily pool is withheld.

So besides offering this comment, we wished to submit two items for your consideration upon further examination – has Mahoning Valley received written permission by the Commission to make this change, and why was it not better communicated to the public?

There was a carryover when racing stopped in March – a total of $2,620 – that money was available in a revised Jackpot Pick 6 bet with these new withholding terms when racing there resumed in October.   

By changing the terms of the jackpot withholding – from 30% in March to 70% in October and every day since, there has been a substantive change in the wager, which based on a reading of the Ohio Racing Rules, specifically, Chapter 3769-3-40-J-2, should have required written approval.

It’s entirely possible this was received.

Less understandable, however, is the lack of transparency regarding the change.

So, while we are unarguably against the proliferation of these bets, especially ones which carry an outrageous daily effective takeout, almost no communication about the change from Mahoning Valley is a poor experience for customers.

We would greatly appreciate the Commission’s attention to this matter.


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