Gamblers, Handicappers, and Visitors

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 20, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

The track was jammed, and traffic is thick. Getting a parking spot was tricky, and finding a seat is a job. But, that was horse racing. The lines were so long you’ll stand and handicap while waiting. That was the scene long ago, and if you head out now. There aren’t enough people to start a fight. You won’t find that “newbie demo” unless there is a free band or $1 beers. With the action and crowds swirling, the mutuel lines are wide open. Tracks are in full handle-hunter mode. They come armed with brass and staff attempting to educate the masses. Yep, educate the crowd while they’re suppose to be betting. This sounds like a tall order, and it is. But, there is no harm in trying I suppose. How about a little something new?

Create a library of short “how-to-wager” videos located on your webpage? The poker craze began with guys playing in basements, and working their craft to be the next name on TV. Nobody was watching, and they picked it up at their speed. The next generation won’t be coming out with Uncle Ted or grandpa. They embrace social media, and learn the game differently than we did. New players can peruse your library and study the parts of the game that keep them interested. I see newbie crowds in casinos. They are dressed up and hanging out with pals from the office, or out for a night on the town. Why not let them come prepared before they get there? Nothing like knowing what you’re doing. If you doubt the angle, stop by any low limit blackjack table on a Saturday night and I’ll bet you’ll see new players holding onto a card of when to hit, split, or double down. Create the how-to videos, and they’ll feel more comfortable when they come out to play. Would you stand in a line that said “beginners” in a packed house environment? Me neither…

What if the track has a loyalty card? Then about 50% of the work is done. When they sign-up, you have the ability to communicate in a manner that fits their needs. Quick email blasts talking up double point nights, special buffet prices for the new player, and get them involved with reward drawings and behind the scene tours. Do you think a new player would enjoy talking with the track handicapper, or a big-name handicapper brought in to give them the secret sauce? It works, and if you have any doubts. You’ll see casinos having “free sessions” of learning how to play. Stop by, have a few beers and learn at no cost. When you see them on Saturday night, they’ll look like they’ve been doing it for years.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching this for years. I used to conduct handicapping seminars, and we would start with “handicapping 101.” Two weeks later there would be a “handicapper workshop.” Two weeks later we would be having “professional handicapping.” Now, that’s not to say we have every winner in every race. But we would break down the race card with how-to and what-you-should-do tips. Give a player a winner and they cash, teach them to handicap, and they’ll play forever. I don’t know how many times seasoned players would stop up and visit after the seminar and say, “I didn’t know about the speed ratings and track variants.”

There are three types of guests at the track. – Gamblers, handicappers, and visitors. Gamblers will bet on anything at anytime. They don’t need to think it out and seek the action. There is nothing wrong with this, and from time-to-time they hit big. Lack of preparation and patience will be their undoing in the long run. Handicappers are a cerebral group who like to do their homework. They enjoy the process of finding the contenders and putting together the winning ticket. Visitors are standing in a group talking drinking that $1 beer, and only come out to be a part of the scene. There is nothing wrong with any of these guests. But why not try to keep them engaged in the action? If there is a free drawing, it should be limited to loyalty card members only. This is your drawing card, and you’ll be able to understand your crowds behavior. Should we send them a free program as a new player? How about grabbing the handicappers with special seating where they can study and be comfortable? The $1 beer guest is important as well, and you can send them email blasts with upcoming events, special ticket purchases, and draw them in with on-line education videos. See, we can reach everyone without grabbing them, teaching them bits and pieces, and hope they make a bet. Scrap the task force recruiters who rove the track looking for new players. On marquee days, you’ll see some great first time player events with America’s Best Racing Ambassador’s. They have it right there, and make you feel comfortable at your speed. No pressure, and no in-your-face tactics. As we round the turn and stumble around finding the elusive “newbie.” Give them ease of motion learning, and allow them to have a grasp before they park the car. I’ll bet dollars to donuts you’ll have a better shot at creating the next generation of players.