Non-Carryover Pick Six Takeout Drops; OTB Balks

As some lawmakers and off-track betting corporations push for an increase in pari-mutuel takeout, New York regulators March 30 agreed to lower the takeout on certain pick six wagers at New York Racing Association tracks.

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board backed a plan proposed by NYRA to lower the current 20% takeout rate to 15% on non-carryover days, or days when there is a fresh wagering pool. The lower takeout takes effect April 1.

The board ordered NYRA to report back within 90 days on the impact of the takeout reduction.

NYRA has been pressing for lower takeout levels for several years. In the case of the pick six, it believes, according to racing board documents, that the best way to encourage big carryover days is to bolster betting on all non-carryover days. Reducing takeout from 20% to 15% will spawn higher carryovers when there is no pick six winner, NYRA said.

NYRA has told regulators it expects pick six handle on non-carryover days to increase by 10% because of the takeout reduction. OTB corporations, which insist NYRA's march to lower takeout rates hasn't produced the financial benefits NYRA claims, opposed the pick six takeout reduction.

New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. president Raymond Casey told regulators in a letter the NYRA proposal would cost New York City government, which gets NYCOTB profits, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Casey raised the possibility the OTB would have to stop taking pick six wagers on non-carryover days.

"This is not something which we would want to do, but given that the last takeout reduction drained almost $3 million in revenue annually from NYCOTB alone, it would be the only responsible path to follow," Casey said in his letter.

In other action, the board approved a NYRA request to let its hiring of certain, one-day workers at racetracks be exempt from certain state occupational licensing requirements. Background checks on the temporary workers, hired for special-event days, will still be required.

The racing board also approved a rule to give stewards more latitude when they decide whether to disqualify jockeys for interference during a race. The change eliminates the "automatic nature" of the existing disqualification requirement and relies more on the experience and judgment of the stewards to decide whether disqualification is merited.

"Presently, there is some confusion as to whether the stewards must disqualify even when the outcome of the race might not be affected," the board stated in its rulemaking change when it was proposed in December. It cited cases where a horse crosses in front of another to avoid a "more serious circumstance."

The board said stewards believe the change will "provide a firm basis for the exercise of their judgment in a particular situation." It said the industry wants the change to end what it believes is "an unfair and inappropriate impact" of the current disqualification regulations.