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Thursday, April 30, 2009

80-20

Derby week is here, and that is upon us, but I would like to share something with you regarding the recently completed Gaming Summit in Windsor, Ontario that I attended.

At dinner one of the nights a racetrack employee said this to me: "When you get to know people in the business-end more and more, do you have a different view of us?"

I answered "Yes. This is a fine business with passionate people. I admire what many of you want to accomplish for us as horseplayers and horse owners, as well as the business overall. However, I find that this is the only business in the world where 80% of the people want to change things for the better, but the other 20% stop them from doing it."

The people I was speaking with all agreed with that statement.

This is something we see far too often in racing. With several powerful organizations that all agree change must happen it would seem change would happen. But there are factions in each group that simply will not let go of the status-quo. They have been the problem for years, and continue to be to this day.

Until we have some sort of organization that simply says no to these factions we will be fighting an uphill battle. At HANA we will not stop fighting against the status-quo, and we tried to forge relationships with the same-minded people who want to join the fight with us.

As for HANA's appearance it is tough to gauge of course. Virtually everyone there mentioned that they liked what we were about, and what we had to say. But that could have been them being polite. I do think however we are well-received. And I do know this: People are paying more attention to us, and our brand is growing.

On the Future of Wagering panel we spoke about where racing is going with new markets and what might be done to grab these new markets. Mainly we focused on new investment. As members know we have previously called for an internet wagering task force, and a tech panel for racing to move us to new markets. We stressed that this business will never be able to charge 22% takeout via the internet and we want them to start moving towards lower pricing for the tech savvy new markets. I think they are starting to see this. After all, it is not hyperbole. The people in the audience have stock trading accounts and pay $7 a trade. They know that they would not pay $300 a trade like they did before by having to call a broker, or walk into his/her office.

On the Betting exchange panel I was delighted to meet Mark Davies, Managing Director at Betfair. As most know they now control TVG and the business has high hopes that they can bring some of the nuance of their marketing and business model to that franchise. Some know that they have grown from 36 to 2.1 million customers in eight years at Betfair. They are now the 4th largest web start up out there, only trailing Facebook, Craigslist and Wikipedia. They clearly know the gambling market, and I was impressed. They reiterated that horse racing is their core business and that they are committed to seeing it grow via increasing handles and marketing the sport. Since we at HANA have the same view on that, we meshed well and got along nicely. I was happy that Mark spent an hour or so with me after the session so we could chat about horseplayer issues and growing racing, here across the pond.

We at HANA hope to attend many more of these conferences as we believe that we must work together to grow racing; and the horseplayer needs to be heard. We thank the organizers for inviting us.

Enjoy your Derby weekend everyone. Let's hope for a great race, and good luck at the windows.

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