The hushed tones are starting to gain volume. Your favorite track you’ve watched over the years is now in bad shape. If you don’t feel comfortable with the facility, you’ll watch crowds turn into small groups. – We used to go early to find a seat, and this has been replaced by show up late and sit anywhere. – This has led me to create a mental list of what I need to be the loyal customer that has dissipated into the mist. Look around, those familiar faces are leaving and not coming back.
* Keep the facility well lit and clean. It starts in the parking lot showing the path to the doors, to the restrooms, your seating area, and trash receptacles. – I have chosen to make the trek and start me off with the right mindset. – Many tracks still try and keep the entire building open like they did in the 60’s. No need anymore. – Make the building smaller by closing large empty dining rooms and narrow your focus. Keep your main floor open and have other floors open on special days that focus on bands, brews and cheap eats. – People love to be where others are hanging and even though they may complain about crowd sizes. They usually stay away from empty areas. – Creatures of habit really enjoy the extra efforts that don’t cost much. After all, if you can’t take care of the restroom you won’t be able to serve the needs of the patrons.
* I used to watch hundreds of players bring in large coolers. Not many bother to bring in beer or alcohol, but they pack lunch, snacks and drinks. They are going to be there all day and want to keep money in their pocket instead of spending on concession fare. – This has the feel of the old time “pack a lunch crew” but food and beverage is a big money maker for the track. Many ovals use this stream of income to offset the smaller handle. No problems with this, and I probably speak for many smaller players. Give the patrons a varied selections with specials of the day and low cost beverages. – If this sounds cheap, you may be surprised of how many will stay home to save the money. – Give players a great location to stop in and grab a bite and make a few wagers. You may be surprised if you keep the race book well lit, clean, and offer up solid fare as you want players to hang around and go the distance.
* Give players a little something extra and it goes miles in perceived value. – Have a “second chance” drawing for losing tickets and have a drawing every 30 minutes for a free program, food voucher, or tickets to an upcoming event. – People love to win and really get behind it when they don’t have to pay to enter. – On live racing days have a “free” handicapping contest. Just find a sponsor to create a prize pool and we’re not talking a million dollar purse. I would be willing to bet the horsemen would want to take part in this endeavor. If you had a $1,000 pot to shoot for, the players hang around to watch and wager. – Nothing like a chance to win something for nothing as the handle grows daily.
* Never have a charge for parking or admission. They have outlived their time and this of course does not apply to a handful of tracks that put on the marquee events. – Gamblers are not charged at the local casino to park or enter, and why would you ? – Valet parking is a premium service and your restaurant is another. That part makes a bit of sense, but don’t overcharge players. You want the money going through the windows.
* Have an announcement board detailing events, tickets, and allow fans to make plans to join you for the big events. – The announcer can be a good source of informing you of events to come and important races coming up.
* All management needs to make a couple treks round the building daily. Let the patrons see you and be available for questions or concerns. Fans feel like they have a voice when they can stop you and bend your ear for a couple minutes. After all, it is their place and you would want to know what drives their interest.
As you start building on the crowds and get to know your players. You’ll start seeing a solid spike in attendance and handle. Value the small gains as they could be the gateway to having larger crowds. – Once you start seeing a difference, be sure to reinvest your gains back into the facility and fans. It may have the sound of a hamster wheel and it is. – The more you provide and better you serve, the more loyal the players become. As the handle starts to grow, have more giveaways, contests, and special perks for everyday players. – Did you ever notice how the big casinos have constant drawings and names being called to come back for a chance to spin the big wheel; choose your lucky horse, or win some money ? – The same can be utilized at the old track. It may start small but it can grow if you employ the above process.
Treat gamblers fair and they remain loyal for the long haul. – It won’t happen in one week, and if you look back they didn’t loose interest in a quick clip. Slow is the process and the rewards will be the same. – Look at it as building for the future and don’t be afraid to try something new. Race tracks have always played too close to the vest and seem a little hesitant to pull the trigger on a new promotion. – Jump in and you may see a difference. – You can always go back to doing nothing and expecting a change.