By John Piassek
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Tuesday, December 8, was one of the bigger days of the year, as far as racing marketing is concerned. It was day one of the University of Arizona’s Symposium of Racing & Gaming. One of the major activities of the day was an exercise called “45 Ideas in 45 Minutes”. During the presentation, several racing pundits presented new ideas to innovate racing.
As might be expected, the ideas ran the gamut, from creative, to mildly interesting, to ridiculous. The University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program (@UA_RTIP) tweeted out some of the ideas. Here’s a rundown of some of the major ones presented.
“explore and test fixed odds wagering”
This idea has merit, especially among those of us who have watched horses take major odds drops late in the betting. It would allow bettors to lock in on a price on the horse that they like, without having to worry about the odds dropping late, which would in turn reduce their winnings.
The primary issue here is that it would totally ruin the concept of overlays, in which the bettor gets higher odds than they thought on their choice. After all, if a horse is posted at 3/1, but someone wanted a better price, there’s nothing that they can do about it. With the pari-mutuel system, that same horse could slip through the cracks at 6/1. It remains to be seen if this idea can be successfully implemented without controversy.
“race down beaches, city streets, canals”
This one got plenty of retweets and likes on Twitter, which boggles my mind. It’s pointlessly gimmicky and does next to nothing to encourage long-term interest in racing. In other countries, they do this sometimes (namely at Laytown, in Ireland, and St. Moritz, in Switzerland), but they’re regarded as occasional novelties at best.
The gentleman who presented this idea presented it with the mindset that it would “bring racing to the people”, but I have to believe there are better ways to do that than to have races in the middle of streets.
“horseplayers & horse owners make the game run. tell their own stories”
That’s so vague, I can barely have a reaction to it. Then again, this was presented in only tweet format, so perhaps there is a more in-depth plan to get this off the ground. With more execution, it can definitely work. Having things like the “fan/owner of the day” is a great place to start.
“create family-only areas of the track, make family-friendly atmosphere”
Some tracks already do this to an extent; Monmouth Park is known for its vast and expansive picnic area that runs almost the entire length of the stretch, and Saratoga, of course, has its famous backyard by the paddock.
However, I’m no fan of the idea of segregating race fans. So, I’d hope this wouldn’t lead to a situation in which day-to-day customers might be told where they can and cannot go within the track building. Having places where only some fans can go isn’t the greatest idea for improving customer-to-track relations.
“if a customer wants to spend $20 on an exacta box, they should be able”
Unless I’m mis-reading this (and it’s entirely possible that I am), customers have been able to do that since the exacta box was created. That’s the beauty of having advances in our tote system.
“take $100 from the purse, and place it in the win pool on behalf of each owner”
It’s a good idea on paper, but it has one big issue: if $100 is deducted from the purse from each entrant, that decreases the overall purse when the field gets bigger, which is the exact opposite of what racing should want to accomplish.
Sure, the winning owner would get a lot of money, but the rest would have their winnings cut significantly. Let’s say that the base purse for a race is $20,000. If twelve horses are in the race, and each owner gets a $100 bet on them, that’s a drop of $1,200 from the purse. The second-place horse, as such, would get $3,760, instead of $4,000. Third place gets $1,880, rather than $2,000. This may not seem like much, but over time, the declines would add up. The rich only get richer, and the losers get marginalized even more.
Besides, the owner gets more money in their winning purse, but what about the trainer and the jockey? Would they be willing to ride for decreased purses, while their owners get more money? Do you want to give them $100 bets, too, and further cut into the purse pie? It’s a slippery slope.
“dedicated role to positive racing images & storylines in TV & movies”
I don’t see too many negative roles, necessarily, in the media, but it’s a pretty harmless idea to implement.
“jockey cam 3.0: NEW visual technology to racing”
Jockey cameras have been used occasionally, and I think that they’re terrific ideas. It would be really cool to see the race from each jockey’s perspective. If a more practical aspect to their usage can be realized, it has plenty of promise.
“bring racing to the Olympics”
The idea was pitched to have racing become an Olympic sport in Tokyo in 2020, and then again in 2024, possibly in Los Angeles. On paper, it’s a wonderful idea: what better exposure could racing get than by having it on the Olympic stage? Unfortunately, it’s not very practical in execution. The racing schedules of horses would dictate that they’d be able to race, probably, twice during the Games, at best. That’s not exactly constant exposure to racing to the Olympic audience. Besides, it would leave the racing schedules of many other countries wacked out: what will their biggest races be if all their best horses are off preparing for the Olympics?
“bring children to farms, offer adoption to school classes”
The latter is an especially interesting idea. If you want to get kids interested in racing, what better way than to have them own a small piece of a horse, or get to visit a retired one, and learn about his or her career? This was one of the better ones presented, I thought.
“tracks that are not members of safety alliance should not be awarded graded stakes”
Given that pretty much every “name” track is part of the safety alliance, this wouldn’t do too much for improving safety. After all, if most graded stakes are already at tracks in the alliance, who could not fall out of it if they tried, what good does it do? Try something more innovative: like tracks which do not make efforts to support drug-free racing won’t get graded stakes. Or tracks who harbor so-called “supertrainers”. There are a lot of things that could be done, really.
That’s it for part 1 of my reaction. Coming up next: Part 2 on Friday, with more rapid-fire opinions on the ideas that came out of the symposium.
“make cool, interesting names”
“director of animal welfare”
“cross-promote with other equestrian sports”
“offer a million dollars on any given day”
“offer takeout rollbacks on lower handle days”
“salary-cap-based racing days to convert fantasy sports players into racing fans”
“invest in business and economic research”
“offer a personalized handicapping service for newcomers based on personalized data”
“revive Kids to the Cup”
“full video coverage of stewards’ inquiry process”
“centralize race officiating”
“offer rebates to losing tickets”
“limit track admission to create premium experiences”
“industry twitter dedicated to inquiries”
“gift horse—sell shares of a horse”
“stakeholders buyers guide—directory of horseplayers/horse owners business”
John Piassek is a student at Loyola University in Maryland. He prides himself as a supporter of racing in New Jersey and Maryland. John is an aspiring race track announcer, marketer and writer. His “Mid-Atlantic Musings” column on DanonymousRacing.com focuses mostly on NJ and MD racing, ways to market them, how the states can improve their racing, and how racing should start focusing on bettor-centric marketing.
You can follow John on Twitter @Theyreoff.