John E. Mooney is tired of watching buses from Maryland go through Delaware on their way to the slot machines at Atlantic City, N.J., so he's doing something about it.
Mooney, general manager at Delaware Park, is convinced that most of the gamblers are slot-machine types and not headed for the tables.
"The slot machines pay off at 85 percent," he said Friday. "So we've created a pick three bet that pays the same amount. Instead of taking out 25 percent the way we usually do for exotic bets, we're only taking out 15 percent. We hope the customers realize it is the same as the slots."
Mooney calls it the "Win 3" wager. There's the standard requirement of a winning ticket having the winners of the fifth, sixth and seventh races.
His publicist, Steve Kallens, points out that at Philadelphia Park, the takeout on the big exotic bets is 30 percent. That's before the other 70 percent of the money is redistributed to winning bettors.
Based on a $10,000 payoff at the 25 percent takeout level, under the new system, the winner would get $3,000 more, Mooney pointed out.
The takeout on regular win, place and show bets is at the 17 percent level. Exacta and Daily Double bets are taxed at a slightly higher rate.
Mooney had to get special permission of the Delaware State Racing Commission and the state attorney general's office before reducing the takeout formula. In theory, the state might lose out on some money as its share of lost revenue. But Mooney hopes that less money taken out will attract more gamblers.
In doing so, he may have scared other operators of pari-mutuel ventures around the country.
Traditionally, the operators of race tracks and jai alai frontons want larger shares of each betting dollar.
There are a few studies that show each time the takeout goes up, a few more racing fans are turned off.
But many operators besides Mooney see horseplayers as caring only about cashing a bet instead of looking at the mathematics of it.
Delaware Park will shut down Nov. 4 after a meeting that began March 17.
"It'll be a short vacation," Mooney said. "Early next year, we'll be at the legislature. We've got a slots bill we want to push through."
Mooney and the horsemen who race at the track tried for two consecutive years to win approval of legalized slot machines to be installed at the track. The profits would have been divided among the track, the state and horsemen in the form of purses.
Gov. Michael N. Castle vetoed the bill in 1989, and the slots forces failed by two votes to get the veto overridden.
The prospects of the Unbridled-Summer Squall race in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs had such appeal that the New York City off-track betting shops even took advance bets on the race yesterday.
Betting on race day will be available by way of simulcasting at Laurel Race Course and the intertrack facility at Pimlico Race Course.
Unbridled, the Kentucky Derby winner lost to Summer Squall in the Preakness but the two haven't met since.
A field of 10 is expected. Among them is Restless Con, who won the Haskell at Monmouth Park.
Pat Day remains on Summer Squall. Jose Velez Jr. rides Unbridled.
The track oddsmaker lists Summer Squall as 6-5 favorite; Unbridled is second at 5-2. Restless Con is 12-1 with him.
Unless fans go to Laurel or Pimlico to watch the race on closed circuit television, they can't see it until tomorrow at 9 p.m., when ESPN shows the race during an hour show.
Activity picks up Saturday at area tracks. That afternoon, Fair Hill conducts one of the few hunt meets in the nation offering pari-mutuel betting.
Nine races, headed by the Manly Steeplechase Challenge Cup, will be run at Fair Hill.
For this meeting, Fair Hill will be the only Maryland track to offer the Jackpot Superfecta, in which winning bettors must pick the first four finishers in one race. The Maryland Racing Commission gave its approval only for Fair Hill.
The track has added an odds board that permits 12 betting interests. In the past, only 10 betting interests in a race could be offered at the track near Elkton.
That night, Charles Town conducts the West Virginia Breeders Classics. The races are limited to horses sired in West Virginia. It is copied from the Maryland Million but offers purses that are not as rich.
The races can be seen Sunday, Sept. 30, by tape delay, on ESPN on a half hour show at 8 a.m.