February handle was down 11.6% as reported today. Of course the economy is a culprit, but beware the red herring of blaming only that. Racing has been losing market share for some time. In this graph we see what has happened the last several years. Racing was losing handle as the economy was growing.
Let's hope 2009 is the year we start to address customers and betting handle in a long-term growth way.
Graph Source: Jockey Club 2009 Fact Book. Equineonline.com.
I strongly believe that exceptional customer service, rewards programs, contests, fan education and accessibility to track management are a great start to turn around the slumping pari-mutuel handle. Naturally, marketing is also a key component.
This is an amazing sport with fans (those that are left) who want to see horse racing and racetracks to thrive. By reaching out to core players and casual fans, we create ambassadors of the sport.
I could go on and on, but for the sake of simplicity, I won't. But I feel the solution to our problem is easy: Listen to the customer.
Garrick - I could not agree more with the first sentence of your comment with a special emphasis on the first item, exceptional customer service. Inadequate and apathetic customer service is far too prevelant in racing, and its a weakness that will need to be corrected if racing is to have any hope of reversing its decline. While there are a few bright spots in racing with examplary customer service, such as Arlington Park, they are very much the exception rather then the rule. It is unfortunate that what is considered a basic tenet of good business in most industries is assigned such a low level of importance in racing.
Rebates, rebates, rebates.
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