Three Things Racing is Missing

It may be small to casual fans, but for the lucky who invest time and energy into the sport, it may be a bit bigger. – There was an opportunity to chat with a gent who was filling in this weekend. He is an electrician by trade and was running the matrix board to make a few extra bucks. – The first day we met he said he wasn’t interested in the horses and just does his job and leaves. But after two days and his first exacta, he is already making plans for Keeneland, the Kentucky Derby and beyond. Maybe we’ve had the answer the entire time and just been overthinking it.

Tracks have “Bet-Specialists, and Bet-Doctors” who roam around and help that elusive demo of new players who come for the cheap beer and bands. That’s all good, but they don’t bet. Think of it as going to a bar and ordering water to watch the free entertainment. After my new friend cashed his tickets and started calling his wife to make plans. I started thinking it wasn’t that hard to get him engaged in the process. Here are a few simple things that may help get others involved.

1. – Instead of the hard sell and in-your-face helper. How about having a library of learning on your website. – John seemed to wish there was an easy central place to learn when you wanted on your time. He uses his computer time to learn about cooking, home repairs, and how to take care of his new puppy.  This is the first key to teaching. – Put up videos with real gamblers who speak to the level of the new gambler. It is a fine line between helping and talking down to folks, and real gamblers who care enjoy sharing the secrets. – As I showed him how to read the first half of the program day#1, and the rest on day #2. He was chomping at the bit to wager his $2 on day #3. Step-by-step, and take it slow. Betting at the casino is rapid fire and easy. We need to work hard to create “baby-bites” of information for fans to peruse on their time without feeling on the outside. It worked on a guy who had NO interest in betting. – He can’t wait to go to work this week.

2. – Your website is your best friend. Use it for a video tutorial from the track handicapper to talk about who and what to bet today. Give some easy to use tips, where to go for help, and your A+ wagers for the day. – The new demo can be accessed by phone, iPad, or tablet to get the “professional advice” to help them prepare. – Your video department can have it up a couple of hours before the card, and players can pick it up when they want it. – I don’t like the “Bet-Specialists” who roam. If they come up to you, that is like saying “hey, you look like you’re lost, can I help ?” – I guess it sounds good, but it’s invasive. Take the money you would have paid the specialists and put on your best clerk for a beginners only window. They can take the time, and have helpful sheets or a special tip sheet for the new player. “I don’t know or don’t have the time is not an answer any longer.” – We have to work three times as hard to make it easy for new players. Give it time, it will payoff.

3. – Have a “Happy Hour Handicapping Seminar.” – This would happen from race #3 to race #7. There are bar specials, free finger foods, and a free tip sheet targeted for new players. – I wouldn’t charge players to enter, and there would be short sessions where the track handicapper could talk to the group for 8-10 minutes and get them excited to wager. – You may have to jump start the group, and have it in a semi-private area where folks will want to hang. Have drawings for tickets to marquee races, program vouchers, and I’m sure you can find a sponsor who could underwrite the event and you could make it even bigger. – How about having a couple jockeys come up and talk for a few minutes about who they are riding, or trainers talking about what to look for. We’re going to have to work three times as hard to make what was once easy. But that’s the reality of fighting for the discretionary dollar.

Racing can survive, but it will take some work. Think of it like investing in the future, or planning for tomorrow. Take your time, get people involved slowly and make it fun. Have group wagers where there is a chance to score big for a small investment. I watch the young demo roll in every Friday, and they have the band cranking up as soon as racing ends. They won’t bet for anything. You don’t need to intimidate, or talk over their head. We’ve been doing that too long, and we better step up with a new plan now. Or those majestic Thoroughbreds will be replaced with a bank of slot machines where people stare at a screen and play rapid-fire games. – As the newbies walk in, have a QR code at every entrance where they can use their smart device to have a free download for a tip sheet or beginners program. You have about three minutes as they walk in to engage customer service. People who wager don’t want an in-your-face advertisement on what to do and waste your time. You would rather be sitting with others enjoying an adult beverage. – Racing used to be a communal game where gamblers would talk, debate, and have friendly arguments. But they were talking and not sitting still at a slot machine. – Next time you hit the casino pay close attention to all the talk at the slot terminals. I bet you won’t see much other than ” excuse me, are you sitting here ?”