Los Angeles Times columnist Braven Dyer took a closer look at how Santa Anita payed out winnings to bettors in this 1938 column, published two days before the track’s Hundred-Grander handicap race.


The Sports Parade
Mathematics of Place Pay-off on Seabiscuit Reveals Tremendous Revenue to Santa Anita Through Medium of Breakage
By Braven Dyer
Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1938

Some of the clients were sitting around discussing the place pay-off on Seabiscuit at Santa Anita Saturday. One of them contended that instead of $2.40, Seabiscuit should have returned only $2.20. Another couldn’t understand how Aneroid could pay $17.80 to win and then drop clean down to $3.60 to place. As a matter of fact, due to the fact the California tracks “break” on the dime instead of the nickel as is the case at many other racing plants, the payoff on Seabiscuit actually was LESS than the figures you get if you go into the mathematics of the case. Whittled down to pennies Seabiscuit should have paid $2.54 to place. But California tracks receive the breakage which in this case was 14 cents to Santa Anita on every $2 place bet made on Seabiscuit. The breakage on place bets along on Seabiscuit netted Santa Anita a shade better then $1,800. The California Horse Racing Board states that the breakage percentage is 1.6 of all money wagered. During the last meetings, for instance, Santa Anita received the staggering sum of $482,672 in breakage alone. It should be pointed out that Santa Anita, under the law is entitled to take 8 per cent of the money wagered. Arcadia officials voluntarily cut this to 6 per cent, but in receiving the breakage almost make up for this deficit.

Once in a great while there are occasions when the track is stuck with what they call a minus pool. This happened at Santa Anita last week when Alex the Great, Blue Breeze and Valley Lass ran as an entry, taking third. Because so much money was wagered on the three-horse entry to show there wasn’t enough dough in the pool to pay ticket holders $2.30. Under the law, tracks must pay 10 cents on every dollar. Santa Anita had to dig down for $780.00 to make up for the deficit so that those who bet on the entry would get what the law says they must receive. Mort Shaw, in charge of pari-mutuel wagering at Santa Anita, believes this is the first time there has been a minus pool at the Arcadia track. It happened at Hialeah recently, too, when War Admiral run.

Quick Watson, the Adding Machine
In the case of place bets on Seabiscuit and Aneroid this is how the figuring is done: A total of $55,390 was wagered on all horses. Deduct 4 per cent for the State and 6 per cent for Santa Anita, which leaves $50,301 to be divided between Seabiscuit and Aneroid. Add the $27,020 bet on Seabiscuit and $8826 wagered on Aneroid and you get $35,846. Subtract this sum from the total amount wagered, $50,301, and you have $14,455. This is the amount to be divided between the Seabiscuit and Aneroid place betters, in addition to the original money wagered. Divide $14,453 in half and you have $7,227, the amount to go to each of the place horses, or those who wagered on them. There were 13,510 $2 tickets on Seabiscuit, or the equivalent thereof. This sum divided into $7,227 gives you 54 cents, or the amount, plus the original $2 wager, returned to Seabiscuit backers. The same method gives you $1.63 on Aneroid, which with the original $2 closely corresponds to the actual pay-off price of $3.60. In this case, breakage to the track was 3 cents on every $2 bet, or a shade over $130 to Santa Anita.

Seabiscuit paid more to show $2.60, because there was more money wagered in the show pool ($70,770) and less ($23,273) on Seabiscuit than in the case of the place pool. All of this intricate figuring is done in jig time by the giant American totalisator which Mort Shaw says is superior to the Australian tote board in use at many tracks. The first tote board was introduced at Hialeah in 1933 and now all the major tracks have swung in line.

Merry-Go-Round of Sports
Arthur Siegel, capable sports editor of the Boston Traveler, is here for the handicap… Did the races the other day with Dorothy Poyton Hill, the diving girlie… Asked if Babe Ruth would ever manage a big league club, Arthur’s reply was a positive “no”... Says Babe was slated to move up when with the Braves, but went high hat, made his own rules and lost the best chance he had.

Exod, which ran last in the second race at Santa Anita Tuesday, is owned by Eddie Anderson, famous Negro radio and screen comedian… He’s best known as “Rochester” on Jack Benny’s program… Maybe the steed should be matched with Jack’s Maxwell… And by the way, are assistant starters supposed to slap horses in the rumble seat at the start? One gave Who’s There a terrific whack with a rope the other day and Who’s There won the race…


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