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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Opinion: The Game is Broken

Horseplayers have become increasingly more and more fed up with the way the industry is being run. Horsemen withholding signals from ADWs, track management's disdain towards the customer, trainers who are constantly rewarded for cheating, and a tote system based on obsolete technology - these facets of the game and more have resulted in an industry that is, to put it kindly, no longer mainstream.

An entire generation now exists who could care less about racing.

Yet, over the past two decades while racing has been alienating itself from an entire generation of potential new fans, almost all other forms of gambling have seen explosive growth. Go to almost any casino and you will find a young vibrant crowd (the generation that racing failed to win over) having fun feeding tokens into slot machines.

There is a formula for success in business that I remember from a strategic management class I took in college. Ok. I turned 50 in the past year so I've been out of college and part of the real world for a while now. But what they taught us back in 1977 is every bit as valid today as it was back then:

Define your market space and target customer. Understand your target customer's needs and wants. Figure out how to satisfy those needs and wants and (amazingly) your business will grow.

Every successful Fortune 500 company practices this. By itself it doesn't guarantee success. But failure to practice it practically guarantees failure.

The reason I get so pissed off at the people who run the horseracing industry is that they so completely fail to put this into practice.

And failure to put this into practice just widens the chasm that exists between the industry and its customers. I am both amazed and disgusted by the way that horsemen and track management continually appear so completely clueless that a problem even exists at all.

There is a gap between those running the horseracing industry and the customer. This gap has been widening for decades. But track management and horseman's associations continue to act as if no problem exists at all. Stagnation of handle growth and a faltering industry is the result.

They haven't listened to the individual horseplayer. Ever. But they will listen to horseplayers in numbers. Together we can accomplish that first step: We can make them aware.

Every form of gambling except horseracing has enjoyed explosive growth in the past two decades. Instead of growing while other forms of gambling have prospered, horseracing handle has actually stagnated. Why? Handle stagnation is the direct result of an industry whose management continually fails to listen to and address the needs of its customers.

Handle is the one thing that drives the industry. Increased handle means more revenue for race tracks. It means more money that can be distributed back to horsemen in the form of purses. It should be obvious to track management and horsemen that there's just one thing and one thing only that they should be focusing on: promoting handle growth. But they haven't done that. Instead they manage to operate the industry in a way that prevents handle growth instead of promoting it.

Frankly, this hurts racing and we at HANA have had enough.

By banding together in numbers we can finally get industry management to listen to and address customers needs and wants. That will only lead to one thing: Handle Growth. And when that happens everybody wins.

This opinion piece is from Jeff at Jcapper.com, a full-time player, software developer and fan.

2 comments:

Michael said...

Wow, what a powerful comment! Took the words right out of my mouth. The industry has got to start listening to the fans. This was a great article. Hope every president at every racetrack across America reads it and heeds it. Poker, slots, roulette wheels - they're not for me. As far as I'm concerned, horse racing is the only game in town. Thanks HANA, keep the wheels turning!

Anonymous said...

"Go to almost any casino and you will find a young vibrant crowd (the generation that racing failed to win over) having fun feeding tokens into slot machines."


You haven't been near a slot parlor if you think this is the demographic that frequents them.