The Man With the Plan


Wynn Las Vegas Race and Sports Book - Las Vegas, NV, United States by ...


What do you do with a bad ass bar, a race book, and a new race course ? – You try to build a fan base that comes for the races and stays for the fun. – The world of a racino is a creature unto themselves. They are part race track, and part casino. It doesn’t matter what type of gaming is on the main floor, it is the whole package. – There is that one-of-a-kind bar that offers a bevy of big screens showing all of the big games, and the scrolling score board. Music pumps up the levels and the frequent happy hours keep the place packed. – The gaming floor is pristine and ready to bring you the action packed rapid fire experience you can only get getting your game on. Oh, and last but not least. There is live Thoroughbred racing. If you see the pecking order you’ll notice racing is in last. – Long ago before the property was bought and redesigned, racing was the main draw. For the sake of being a little dramatic, racing should always be your lead in. If were not for the horses running in circles, your new glitzy gaming empire would be less attractive.


I have looked at the numbers from Las Vegas reports showing every state, and how they are doing. If you look closely, most, if not all racino / casinos do better when the live racing product is on track. It has been my experience that the management doesn’t lend too much belief in the numbers, and have been quoted as not paying attention to the competition. – Now that may be a single entity, but I think down deep that racing is viewed as the “Ugly Step-Child” of the gaming world. Notice I used the term “gaming.” – This is a sanitized word that makes gambling seem more palatable. It is fun to play games like your kids do on all sorts of devices. Racing has always held a proud stance on gambling. It is a fast paced thundering game that only gets better if you have a wager on the race. – Long ago it was the big three: Boxing, horse racing, and baseball. You can find horse racing somewhere between Jai Alai and Bocce Ball if you look closely to the charts of popular sports. – Racing has a Triple Crown winner, the tracks are focusing on the fan experience, and the big mammoth tracks are slowly being replaced by smaller versions as the fans do not turn out in the 30,000 daily attendance figures that would’ve been read in the papers long ago. But maybe that’s Ok. – Give this a think before you start heading for the buffet.


Racing is a sport of beauty and pageantry. There is nothing like the energy between the human and equine athletes. But the mindset has to be changed. “Less is more.” – Less racing days with better purses. Instead of 10 live races, have 8. The fields will be better no matter what the quality of competition, players love to gamble on mid-level claimers for big payouts. – If you check the racing season overall business numbers and the non-racing financial reports, and I’ll bet you’ll see that during racing the bottom line is better. – This is the reason there needs to be a synergy between the two opposite side of the coin. Have more cross-promotion between the two, and don’t worry you’ll be taking away from one side of the business that is more lucrative. Keep it clean, well lit, ready to serve, and open the doors. Allow guests to enjoy everything you have to offer. – The sports bar, the dining choices, Thoroughbred racing, and the gaming experience. Your facility will not be a slot palace with horses running somewhere, you will become a destination.


With the exception of a handful of tracks, the new track of the future needs to have seating for 4,000, an open apron area that allows players to get closer to the sport, and plenty of fan education. – The old days of having 20,000 patron crowds are over. Keep it big enough to accommodate, and small enough to be intimate. Horse players need a larger race book area. Now before you cry about costs, think about this. The old percentage of handle was 90% from on-track and 10% from off-track sources. – That has flipped and you’ll see 10-20% from on-track at best. You need to build a race book that holds 400-500 fans with individual TV’s, and large screens that capture the action. These are the folks who will be providing most of your 10% on-track handle and they’ll be betting off-track signals where you’ll eventually make most of your revenue. The seating must be free, or at least make the players use loyalty points to secure their seat. – You need a race book manager that knows everyone, where they sit, and how to get them what they need. – Urge loyalty card usage to get the best comps, and stay away from giving away free items for the masses. Use this tool for your biggest players only. There needs to be a small VIP room where the big players can go. This will be their home, and if you treat them right they’ll be loyal for years to come.

When live racing ends, this is where racing stays alive. Have free handicapping contests on your slowest days where loyalty card players can play in a four-five race contest for small money prizes, merchandise, and free or reduced dining bounce back offers. Before you start bitching about the ownership not wanting to foot the bill, you need to drive this point home with tact and enthusiasm. Have plenty of references to other tracks who are successful and show the benefits of investing in your players. Remember, once live racing ends this is a wonderful opportunity to have free handicapping seminars on a Saturday morning before the races, and offer up a light breakfast and programs. I’ll bet you start seeing the place fill up early. – Simulcast time is a great way to re-connect with players, create loyal players, and find the new ones. If there is a finance person sweating bullets about not doing the same for the VLT’s. Remind them the racing fans have to walk by them on the way in and on the way out. Here is your time to capture their attention.


Do not assume the new owner knows everything about racing. They may be versed in the gaming universe, but they’ll be throwing rocks at the horses not knowing what to do. – Before you go to work, get to know your job in racing. If you do not have an infrastructure conducive to attract and reward loyal players, your business model is destined to fail. – Take a look at Mountaineer. They are cutting dates, purses, and have asked for a dramatic reduction in racing dates. I remember thinking this was the model for all tracks to follow. – Think small with big results. Keep your facility streamlined to eliminate waste and excess cost, and never work in a place that wants to eliminate racing. From the many models I have studied, this is the beginning of the end. You might as well pull the “Johnny Paycheck” method and kindly tell them to take this job and shove it. – Once it starts leaking money, they’ll have no problem having security walk you to the door.