I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Coming Back !

Many moons ago I worked for a small track in Kentucky. Those who know me are familiar with where I’m talking about. But I digress. – This isn’t about making friends; and using their words. It’s just business. – This track had seen their best days. A rival track passed full-card simulcasting, and the first stage of riverboat gambling had docked in nearby Indiana. The wagons circled and the inner-sanctum leaders locked themselves in a private office for a week long meeting. After this long stretch grasping at straws, the leaders came out and had a meeting with all managers to disseminate the new message. – ” If the patrons don’t like what we’re doing, they can go to the other track.” – Most would think it was not much of an attempt at holding ground or retaining patrons, and it wasn’t. It was just the opposite. They thought the people would bow their heads and walk back in and play. If not, it would give the track ammo for the legislature to help with alternative gaming. – That was twenty years ago. Nothing has changed, and the people never came back.

Tracks do a horrible job at retaining good players. They don’t need to buy them all a limo, but you have to invest in your players. Patrons who gamble are the lifeblood of the track. If it were not for them the horses would be running for blue ribbons. – I knew an everyday player who was a hardworking blue collar man. He had a free Daily Racing Form waiting, and a couple seats in the private room. He was definitely worth it, and never let us down. From time to time he would ask for something above and beyond, and we could stimulate his play by offering him the “gold ring” items if he played at the next level. – He lived up to the task and we repaid his loyalty. But those were the good old days. – One day he walked in with two well heeled players and stopped up to grab his DRF. We told him they were cut off (per management) and the room was closed off for personal invites from the upper management only. – This man who never missed a day and played in the neighborhood of $5,000 per day turned away quietly and walked away for life. That was 20-yrs-ago, and he plays blackjack at the casinos. I haven’t seen him at the track since that day.

I was chatting with a good friend this morning. A blue-collar worker who makes a pretty good living. He loves to play, and if we had about 100 more like him we’d call it a very good day. – He has the disposable income to play at a level that would surely draw the attention of any manager. – I asked him point blank. ” What are we not doing as tracks / ADW’s to satisfy your needs. What could we do better to gain traction ?” – He had no problem answering honestly, and wanted it to be known only because he loves the game. ” I’m not much of a complainer, and bitching doesn’t do more than waste time. There are many more players just like me, and most of them feel exactly the same.” – This fella has qualified for all the Las Vegas contests, knows all of the name players you read about everyday. He’s a player. He loves the sport, and wants it to survive. He is one of the biggies you see holding the big checks on the front of the racing magazines. Believe you me, he has passed me so many times in contests I have foot prints on my back. Here is a quick summary of what he would like to see. Now keep in mind, this is one of the bigger players EVERY track or ADW would love to have.

1.) – There has to be a uniform policy on drugs, and trainers who are caught cheating. Make the penalty severe enough to make them shudder just to think of it. – This makes the game more transparent, and fans believe in the players. – If there is a trainer caught “cutting corners” by using illegal methods. Fine them heavily, and make the suspension fit the crime. Make sure the horses are suspended as well and this will keep owners informed and on top of what is going on. – If a state suspends a trainer / rider / agent / groom / veterinarian. It should be impossible to work in the industry until a lengthy suspension has passed. – Players gamble with more confidence if they know tracks come down fast and hard on cheating. – I guess that makes sense. Once upon a time when there was an infraction, it was posted on the back pages of the DRF. Where has that gone ?

2.) – When the Kentucky Derby arrives, the stands are not filled with horse players who keep the game alive 365 days a year. They are packed with sponsors and advertisers. – I know it’s a part of business, and there should be a grand place for them. But not everywhere. – ” I hate to hear when well-known ADW’s have a lottery and you get tickets in Papa John’s Stadium while once a year players sit in the grandstands. – ” I will play more than the entire group of suits and Derby hats that fill the box seat sections. The Derby is for the players. I wager more on the ADW level than most, and I have as much chance of getting a couple of seats as I do getting Super Bowl tickets.” – He’d pay for them. He has no chance as the track makes enough money on two days jacking prices to carry them the entire year. – That won’t gain me many friends, but they know it better than anyone. It’s just business. – Same goes for the Breeders’ Cup which was a day created for the fans to celebrate the Thoroughbred. The tickets originally were going to be around the same price if not a bit more to cover extra costs. This would allow fans to come in herds to be a part of the game they support. – Not the once a year party-goers who drink and take selfies.

Our brief conversation got me to thinking. Plain and simple, he was right. Racing has cried crocodile tears long enough. – There can be free DRF‘s for your top 30 players. They will send you a pack of comps for advertising with them. The only time seats cost money for the track is when they buy them from the company. Do not make players pay to sit. If you charge for marquee days like; Derby, Preakness, Belmont, and the Breeders’ Cup. Make it an affordable fee. Not a mortgage your house cost. – No parking or admission charge ever again, and free valet parking for the top 30 players everyday. – Keep the place clean, well-lit, and food prices where the track makes a profit and not a killing. – Every person working at the track has a small laminated phone list on one side, and days of operation and schedule on the other. Never again will the words ” I don’t know” suffice as an answer. – Have a catering cart with three large urns of FREE coffee as the early bird players arrive. – Every person that is a manager, or head of a department will be accessible and should get out and know the players. – I know for fact this can be done, as I was part of it for years. I’m not proclaiming to be the end-all-know-it-all. I just listen to our greatest asset. The horse players. – I did this morning, and I hope others may now.