This was a special day for my son. The 12-12-12 date sparked his interest in the end of the world, and would it effect what the lunch room would serve. I told him not to worry, and things would be just fine. There are folks that read into things and try to predict the future. As he walked out the door, I started wondering about the state of racing. Could it be the end, or are things just fine?
For the tracks that feel there should be no rebates, or special rewards. They are just lying to themselves. I was at a handicapping contest, and was approached by three friends that extolled the virtue of the sites they were betting. Some were telling me that 8-10% was being deposited into their accounts. How can tracks even begin to compete, or most ADW’s offer 1%? This is a slap in the face of players. Would I jump from one site to the next for 1%? The answer was simple, no… I don’t think that I am speaking alone. And if you doubt that, just call around and ask your local player development director “why such a low kickback?” But before you cancel your account, see if this would move you. How about the state pulling together, and sharing players? Oh, I know it is every track for themselves. But how about offering your top 10% in the state some tickets to the Oaks or Derby? When the Bluegrass Stakes takes place, why not offer the top 200 players in the state a couple of reserved seats with a free program? When the Lane’s End Spiral brings the next wave of Derby hopefuls, why not have the top 200 players in the state bring a guest and enjoy a clubhouse view with a full dinner? How about creature comforts? Free on-track live programs, or a 25% discount at the concession windows? How many people want to go up and watch a live race called by the announcer? What about a group photo in the winner’s circle, or being able to make reservations to go the paddock area and watch the big horses being saddled? Oh go ahead and keep your 1%. If you think that will keep me in the game you may have missed by a mile. I like to be treated fairly, and want to be appreciated by the track or ADW. This is not just empty talk as I have worked at three tracks in my life. They all offer unique racing, but they miss on the details. One of the best was the late John Battaglia from Latonia. He would be available for all, and be the ear that catered to the players. Just pay attention to them and listen to what they have to say. Act as if your job depends on it, because it actually does. Long story short, make the racing in your state a destination-place and not just another track.
Less is more is something we have heard at one point or another. When I first started going to the races, there were double-headers and 12 race cards. Now the game has changed. And whether it be casino competition or other forms of gaming, racing has taken a major blow. This may seem like news from the world of the obvious, but we are doing nothing about the problems. I feel that as a fan who loves the sport. There needs to be less racing. This may not sit well with many, but just hear out the details. The states would have to stop taking each others dates, and work cooperatively. How about taking 20% fewer dates, with the same purse structure? The pots go up, more horse come to run, and the handle increases. Everyone is happy. This does not apply to the boutique meets where racing is still king and money is no object.
Let there be some down time. I am aware that players will go to on-line gaming, and that’s great. But give the fans a little break, and get back to enjoying the races again. It is so easy to point and click and pick up your phone that we have lost the tradition of going to the races. The down time was when fans could recoup a bankroll, and look forward to coming back to see the horses. For the naysayers that claim the dollar only goes so far, they haven’t been paying attention to casino monthly handle reports. Players have always wagered via bookmaker or OTB when they couldn’t come to the track. But some important lessons can be learned from how we did things long ago.
Is 12-12-12 the end of racing? Naaah… But it could be just a little wake up call for the stale managers that act like parrots and carry the same lame message to the floor. Lets try something new and invest in our product. Heal any labor disputes, and get your staff behind the message. Get excited about the game, and everyone that draws a check should be thanked for bringing new ideas to the table. The future will be bright with mobile wagering, exciting new wagers, and interactive social media as we look to the next racing meet. If not, what do we have to lose? We are facing problems, and there isn’t one week that goes by without someone pronouncing that racing is dead. It may be injured, and in some cases on life-support. But it can all turn around if we approach the problem from a “can-do” attitude.