Imagine this scene: A high-priced management consultant asks for a meeting with officials of the three Maryland tracks. Having convened the group, he offers a proposal.
"Gentlemen," the consultant begins, "I am aware that your industry is beset with problems. Your customers are bored and they are defecting in great numbers. Your attendance and handle are steadily declining.
"However, I have devised a plan to help you. It will generate greater fan enthusiasm, and it is guaranteed to increase your daily handle by at least $25,000 a day. Moreover, implementing this idea will cost you virtually nothing -- except, of course, for my fee, which will be $100,000 for revealing this idea to you."
Given such an offer, I believe that Messrs. Ken Schertle, Al Karwacki and Chick Lang would leap to accept it. Their tracks need help. So I hope they won't take the same idea lightly when it is coming to them free, from a source they have often regarded as a crackpot. I blush to say that my idea -- the Guaranteed Pick Six Pool -- is a stroke of genius.
The Pick Six-with-Jackpot is the most exciting bet in racing. When nobody hits all six winners, a portion of the pool is carried over to the next day, and when nobody hits for several days, the pot can hit gargantuan proportions. In California, when the carryover pool is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the whole racetrack community goes into a frenzy. Maryland doesn't have such large pools, but when the carryover at Laurel reaches even the $20,000 level it stimulates great interest.
The trouble is that the pool rarely gets this high. When there is little money in the carryover pool, or none at all, horseplayers know it's irrational to play the Pick Six. Taking a serious shot to win it requires a healthy investment, and players won't do that when they know the most they might win is $3,000 or so.
So the carryover pool grows slowly at first. Because fields in many Pick Six races are small and easy to handicap, and because tickets here cost only $1, somebody usually wins before it grows to an attractive level.
But Maryland tracks could make the Pick Six attractive every day by taking two steps: First, increase the denomination of tickets to $2, so that the pool would grow faster. Second, announce there would be a guaranteed pool of $25,000 on any day. Even if the Pick Six had been won yesterday, and today's crowd were betting only $5,000 on the gimmick, there would be a $25,000 payout.
In theory, the tracks would be running a risk. In practice, their guarantee of a $25,000 pot would probably be academic. This is what has happened each time the carryover pool has reached $25,000 at Laurel this fall: Date ------Carryover --Amt. ---- Wagered --- Oct. 21 ---$25,662 --$25,093 -- Oct. 22 ---$39,777 --$56,743 -- Nov. 11 ---$25,796 --$29,585 --
Tracks across the country have witnessed the same phenomenon. When the carryover pool reaches a sufficiently attractive level, money bet on the Pick Six almost always will exceed the carryover pool. So a track can safely offer a guaranteed payout of almost any size.
By ensuring the Pick Six would be worth $25,000 every day, Maryland tracks would get a larger handle every day. The jackpot would grow bigger and faster; there would be days when the carryover was greater than $100,000 and the day's handle on the Pick Six would exceed $100,000. The concept of the Guaranteed Pick Six Pool is a sure-fire winner.