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.
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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!