Friday, October 2, 2009

Are Horseplayers Making Headway?

Alex Waldrop in his Bloodhorse piece today opened some eyes. He was speaking of the most recent NTRA Marketing Summit, and wrote of some things he thinks needs to be done. Those things are not the traditional items that we often hear and have heard for a generation - more TV time, more money for promoting to the masses, and more like that - they were horseplayer centric things that have been ignored for generations.

You have read some of these before of course, but the authors were Beyer, Crist, Maloney, Pricci, HANA, Christiansen, Cummings, Cuscuna and Wolff and others. But those folks are horseplayers or gambling experts. This is coming from an insider, to his audience - other insiders and horsemen.

......We have to recommit ourselves first and foremost to selling our game as a unique, challenging, exciting opportunity to wager on live horse racing. To that end, our primary customers are and must always be horseplayers.

..... Full competitive fields are what horseplayers want, so marketers working in concert with their respective racing departments must sell great racing opportunities to owners and trainers just like they must sell great racing and wagering opportunities to horseplayers.

..... Said another way, do some tracks need to consider a reduction in takeout? From a pure economics perspective, the answer is clearly "yes."

..... "We love horse racing but at your prices, we are forced to seek other forms of gambling which may not be as exciting but are more profitable for us." "Reduce the takeout and we will wager more money and more often." Why else would rebaters be able to lure our biggest bettors away from the live track? Tracks have tested these waters before with mixed results but it's time to plunge back into the process and find the optimal takeout rate for all parties- tracks, horsemen and players.

That is only a snippet, there is much more.

I remember only three years ago being at a wagering conference and speaking about takeout and other horseplayer centric things, just like Mr. Waldrop is speaking of. The pushback was palpable. The willingness to try new things and make a difference to grow the game, or find a price point was simply not there, and that is an understatement. Much more influential folks like Maury Wolff, Beyer, Maloney and others who sat in the same position felt the same pushback. But now it seems the narrative is beginning to change.

One of our first pieces on our horseplayer blog, just after HANA's inception was "Low Takeout Grows the Game". Horseplayers are not greedy people looking for a bigger slice so they can take home more money and stick it in their sock. Horseplayers love this game and want it to grow, by returning more betting to the game. It is nice to see insiders start to speak of growing the game with us. We're all in it together.

Mr. Waldrop will get pushback from the status-quo folks. That is assured. He is not only showing some guts to write things like this, he is showing vision and leadership. Those are two things this sport desperately needs, and I as a horseplayer applaud him for it.

This piece is contributed by a Canadian HANA member. To join us, please click here. We need your help.

Note: There are some questions about the new Equibase scratch feature (detailed below) and we will be answering those and chatting about it in the coming days.

John Pricci gave HANA a shout-out in his most recent column. Thanks John!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dennis (Ohio, USA) says:
06 Oct 2009 at 05:32 am | #
Alex Waldrop, NTRA CEO, asked after the summit:

How would you answer these fundamental questions? Are we selling the right product to the right people? Why have most track experiments with lower takeout failed to generate new handle? Do you pay attention to takeout when you play? Let me hear from you.
My comments fit there and here:

Dennis (10/01/2009 9:04 PM)
Gambling of any kind involves price; that is odds. And; equally; integrity. Horse racing has severe problems in both areas. They refuse to admit it. They refuse to accept the path that must be taken to correct it. So, decade after decade, they have meetings and discussions that always lead to the same results.

Nothing is done. More events involving bobble head dolls, 50 cent hotdogs and $1 beer. The class of gambler attracted by this offering bets very little and does not return very often. They play, they do not think or invest. Your thinking pros and semi-pros always consider price.

The direct affect of take/breakage on pools is always smaller odds. Small odds means one of two things to your real player. Wagering only when you are provided with the rare case of value. Or wagering with an entity that provides a percentage of return that offsets playing lower odds due to take/breakage. Neither of which increases churn. Your $2 bettor could care less.

Consider that, with less take/NO BREAKAGE, odds increase which in turn increases perceived value opportunities which increases wagers. More opportunity equals more churn. I also believe this provides tracks/ADWs a chance to compete with the offshore’s rebates.

Experiments, and that is all they were, in this area have been isolated, short lived and hidden. If you are going to do this, make the numbers real, make everyone do it, and advertise the hell out if it well before starting it. I played seriously for more than 30 years and quit after the pic-6 scandal when only lip service was paid to correcting the ancient system that is racing’s wagering system.

My opinion, racing has to die before it will make any real attempts to adapt. They must choose survival or extinction. $2 bettors will not replace serious players. And your serious players are dieing or wagering somewhere else that allows them to survive as well. A poorly publicized trial at some cheap bottom claimer track for two weeks with only WPS wagers reduced 1 or 2 points will NOT prove anything but what the tracks want to believe now, that less take/no breakage will not increase churn. They have a death wish and it is coming true for them.

I would return to racing if I saw cheating trully punished rather than overlooked/encouraged, a modern flow established for wagering info that instantly updates all outlets as each wager is placed (think wall street) and my own areas, WPS reduced to 10% with no breakage. That is my opinion.

For now, I continue to play poker and a few handicapping contests where I figure to have an edge. I see no value in racing as it is today, for anyone, tracks included…