Brick and Mortar Contests ?

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 12, 2017 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

For years I made treks to Beulah, Louisville-Trackside, Churchill, Keeneland, Arlington, Turfway, and many others. The trip with friends and conversation was worth a million bucks. – As we would walk into large buildings prepared to put on the best contest possible. The top three would be going to Vegas, and the rest would be going home with a story and plan for the next one up. – That was my handicapping life for a long time. I qualified four times for the Horse Player World Series and the NTRA contest. The meeting of friends as we waited in line was like the weigh in for a heavyweight match. Plenty of trash talk with the promise of what waits ahead. – These have fallen by the wayside and they are getting harder to find. – When I think back about the drive to our favorite ovals, these were some of the best times of my life.

Last night was a drink and dial moment with a good friend. He is the kinda’ of guy who loves the sport and the people are starting to be the best part of his job. – That is a sign of great things to come. He knows the business inside and out and has always been interested in the contest scene, but his schedule kept him on the outside looking in.

For the record “Brick and Mortar” contests are held at the track themselves. Usually a large overhead with lunch and a program or a Daily Racing Form. – Players loved going and the day of activity was filled with prize giveaways and fun. Making any money was pretty tough and then came the advent of playing online. You could play from home without making travel plans, staying over night and plunking down the cash. At the end of the day, they could take a toll on your wallet. Now, think about playing on your computer from home. It was much more affordable to stay at home and still have the same shot at qualifying for Las Vegas and the life-changing payday. – The days of gathering and playing with friends were coming to a crawl and where we once would make 4-5 treks have been replaced with making one trip on the road and the rest at home.

That was until this past weekend. I was sitting in the race book with some very good handicappers. They missed the gathering at the track. There was something about making the trip and the camaraderie was one-of-a-kind. – It was an hour spent with friends that led me to think about some new ideas for reviving the old ways. – I wouldn’t want to see ten of these mega contests at a track, but two would be just fine. Just think, real horse players coming to your track again.

I picked up the phone and called a good friend of mine. – He’s involved in many behind the scenes operations and loves to get out and about with the players. When I first spoke of the idea he didn’t make much of our conversation. In the end, he could see himself running one of the best contests around. – I’m not one to blow my own horn because it’s a waste of time and breath. But, I have run some of the best contests in a 200-mile radius. I am first and foremost a player at heart, and if I can bring any ideas of having a contest or two in a calendar year, who knows? It could be a great deal of fun and a way to showcase your racing product. – I like to keep the overhead low, the takeout at zero and a contest where you have confidence in managers. – I know, sounds too good to be true. But really it’s not. – Having a contest is not about making money off of the players but rather a time to showcase your facility and gain player confidence. – Why worry about making a few bucks on fees? If players like the place, they’ll make some extra wagers and you’ll gain handle for the day. – That is my plan. Break even and allow your greatest asset to enjoy the races. – I know it doesn’t fit the business model for many tracks, but it could be a marketing tool that reaches out to real handicappers. And if all goes well, you can bet dollars to donuts players will start marking their calendars for next year. –  I told him I would help him get it off the ground and be right by his side. – ” No worries, we’ll create a contest where players trust the process and they’ll be back.” We’re not trying to make money once or twice a year, we’re investing that they’ll play the product a few more days a year and maybe grow to follow the circuit. – He likes the idea but now it’s up to you? – Would you play in a well-run contest with no take out and a prize structure? Toss in qualifying for the World Series of Handicapping and a travel voucher and let me know your thoughts. – Has this outlived its time, or would you make the trek to a track that cares about players and what they enjoy? – We’ll see what the player have to say….