Never Too Late to Be What You Might’ve Been

by Ed Meyer

posted on July 10, 2019 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | 1 Comment >>

There are many versions of a race track today. It can be the one where your grandpa used to take you as a kid, or it can be a racino with gaming. Or maybe, a casino that came in and turned your quaint little oval into a glitzy place with music, giveaways, and huge crowds. – You didn’t think the little track could survive without some form of help, did you? – Some love the new looks, and others have a bad taste for change. – If you step back and take a hard look. You’ll find your old stomping grounds are changing.

Your track is hurting so bad it’s going the way of the dinosaur. – Purses are drained and your patron base is like a ghost town. – You can always smell the odor of slow death when the faces you’ve been seeing for years are being let go. – They call it downsizing or restructuring, but it means you won’t be going to work on Monday. – If you doubt my explanation, just ask Suffolk and Portland Meadows as they are the latest casualties after 84 and 73 years respectively.

Racing became complacent. – “Build it and they will come” is a line from a movie.  Help is needed and changes need to be made. – The reason it seems so daunting is that there have been no changes for a long time. We’ve just opened the doors and expected them to come. – That used to be the old way of thinking. Boxing, Baseball, and Horse Racing were the “big three” spectator sports. – 30 minutes in between races, months between big boxing matches, and baseball games had the same seat for a $1 as it did for $5. The only difference is how close you sat. – Your little track has been purchased by a nameless entity you won’t learn until weeks from now. – All you know is there are going to be some changes, and you just hope to be a part of it. – Then you find out the name of the new company and everyone starts acting ready for the new boss. – But, the process is slow and seems like nothing is happening.

Okay, maybe you fall into one of the above or not. – Doesn’t matter. Change is the only medicine that will allow a future to continue. Like it or not, it is the only way to keep things moving forward. – Racing had many of years where it was king and all it had to do was open the doors and advertise in the newspaper. – But, as you know, those days are in the rear-view mirror. – We didn’t tend the fire and awoke to a cold reality. – Trust me, there will be incredible stories of turn-around ventures where gaming companies take a shine to racing; while others use it as a reason to keep the gaming license on the wall. – Overall, there will be some that flourish and others fade away like smoke through a keyhole.

The Racino / Casino model – There are forms of new gaming and most do major renovations to give the old track a face lift. – Race track food is replaced by fine dining, buffets fit for a king, and glowing signage you can see for miles. – The idea is to build up the racing product with simulcast race books, and hope the gaming area players venture over and watch your live product. – The giveaways and promotions are created to draw new players that are now called guests. They enjoy the glitz and glamour they once had to go to Vegas to enjoy. – Racing can grow if you have the right people in charge who are allowed to make some changes. –  From what this life-long gambler has noticed is there is a gap in dedication. You need to hire people who know racing. You have to know what players really want and enjoy. – If they’re there, you’re there. That’s the secret sauce of getting to know your player base in racing. It won’t have the same profit margin as the gaming side but it can grow to be a unique part of your operation. – The Machiavellian principle applies; ” You must be present to be effective.”

Hire the best racing secretary, and allow them to create a solid staff that will grow. – You don’t want to keep a revolving door and keep changing the nameplate on that office door. Grow the purse account with a “boost” from the gaming side and slowly taper it off. This will allow for bigger purses and draw solid fields to begin. The simulcast handle will keep it growing the rest of the year. After a time, racing will have to stand on its own. Give them the boost needed to get started.  – Have the best track superintendent to ensure a safe and solid racing surface. Funny thing, if you have a safe surface you’ll draw bigger outfits to run their horses at your oval.

On the gaming side of the operation, you can have schedules of workers, team members, and employees. – On the racing side if you are having live racing it’s all hands on deck. – Marketing, advertising, managers from all walks. Be present and be available. – You don’t have to give away the fort,  but you have to be on hand to listen and get to know your patron base. This will grow attendance and wagering more than any type of advertising. Racing Player Development is just as important as on the gaming side. Many operations tend to overlook this. You have to run a full staff from open until 5 pm. Then, you can cut back as the night cards start up. – When racing fans have that person to speak with you gain their confidence.

There is plenty of cross-promotion to be utilized. – There is a track in Indiana that really got behind the racing product. – Handle grew and players came by the busload. Horse racing got that needed shot in the arm and was a major success. – When it was purchased, I noticed the dedication wavered and it slowed down greatly. Funny thing, if you don’t care or invest in the product why should gamblers? – Racing may be declining in some areas of the country, but if a company is dedicated to keeping it alive. The report of the death of horse racing may have been greatly exaggerated. – Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw