Behind the Velvet Rope

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 24, 2013 in General Discussion, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

Every track has a special place where big players can hide. Well, maybe hide is a bit strong, but they want out of the mutuel lines and enjoy personalized service. They are deserving, but how does one go about getting on the list behind the velvet rope? For many moons this was my job as Player Development Manager at Turfway Park. Here are some thoughts that allowed me to serve our best players.

For the most part tracks have evolved into the loyalty card game. This tool allows management to understand the behavior of the guest, and it must be fluid. There should be no set of concrete rules. To be an effective manager and player concierge, you have to have a few aces up your sleeve. The ability to incent players to move into the next tier can be pure magic. It is not always about that lame snail-mail piece that arrives home for the wife to see. The ability to pick up the phone and have that personal connection, or even better when the guest feels comfortable enough to call you for that “extra” special perk. Use this in concert with the loyalty card, and it becomes a motivational weapon.

Horse players can be like kids. They want what the other guy has, and if not why can’t they have it? I once told an employee that the easiest answer to give is “yes.” But, sometimes the answer is “no.” You have to be able to bring both with equal explanation. Sometimes we fear telling a player “no” that we go into an apologetic tone that becomes insulting. Keep it simple, and keep it all business. Always have something to incent them such as a free program, or a drink on the house. I know it won’t make it all better, but it shows that you follow through with your word. If you are given decision making power use it wisely. Many times we fall prey to being the “yes” man. Players at a higher level know the game. Sometimes the answer will be no, and most understand this. Make sure you keep a “to-do” list in your pocket. Keep a special note to reward a player on the next visit. It doesn’t have to be a lobster dinner, but just recognizing them with a little extra something.  I used to keep three boxes of track ball caps in my office. When I would walk around the plant, I would approach players with a competitors cap. I would ask them the same question. “Would you like a couple of sharp lids for you and a friend?” They would always answer yes, and then came the fun part. “All that you have to do is toss that old cap in the trash, and these new hats are yours.” Other players would be watching, and the guest in question would chuckle and put that hat in the trash can. I did this a million times, and I was never turned down. When we finished, other guests would approach me for the same offer. I would tell them I’ll be walking around a little later, and we’ll see if we can get you looking good in a new Turfway cap. Simple and easy. It doesn’t take a million dollar item to make people happy.

A tracking system is a unique tool. There is no more guess work, and this made my job more effective. I would pull down a report to show if a big player was doing well. I would just happen by the bar that night, and ask the bartender to put a couple of beers on base for them. It’s always good to make a winning night a little sweeter. On the other hand, when I saw that a whale was bleeding from the gills. I would show up with a next day Daily Racing Form and buy them dinner that night. It won’t bring back that bankroll, but it will show them the love when they needed it most. Shoe leather has to be burned. Everyday, and frequently. Just don’t focus on the big players, and keep an eye out for players on the rise and how you can incent them to the next level. All players are important, but they will not rewarded at the same level. By being available, the guests feel like they have a personal connection to the track. It is important to be out there everyday. This goes for more than just the manager. Everyone is a part of the process, and it makes guests feel recognized and appreciated.

So how do players get into that private room? INVITATION ONLY… This makes it special, and will be hand delivered with credentials and what they can expect from our staff. I want others to see me handing that gold envelope. Just like in grade school, everyone wants a piece of candy. I want you to ask me how to get there, and we would head back to my office. I’ll pull up your profile, and work with you to get you to the next level. You’ll leave feeling informed, and you’ll always have a free valet pass, admission passes, or program voucher. I like to end on a good note, and it doesn’t have a real cost attached. Everyone is important, but at different levels of rewards.