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Friday, March 19, 2010

Convenience & Price

There was a nice bookend of pieces linked from Equidaily.com yesterday.

The first from columnist and horseplayer Richard Eng spoke of the Monmouth experiment this year. Like quite a few people in racing, and we have spoken of this many times on the blog, Richard believes that subsidy money in a grand experiment should be used to subsidize demand as well.

What I suggest is a reduction to 10 percent takeout in the straight pools, win, place and show. The takeout is currently 17 percent. The 7 percent difference is in essence a subsidy for horseplayers. Between higher returns to bettors and more handle because of an improved racing product, the Monmouth churn in straight pools should explode. The increased revenue will theoretically offset givebacks by the track and simulcast outlets.

Considering Monmouth is courageous enough to make this great experiment, why not include us players, too?


Monmouth has a fairly good takeout grade of C+ for 2009. They have, as has the Meadowlands, the best pick 4 takes around, and they provide value. But I, like Rich wonder, if they go to a 50 day meet, get field size up, and lower takeout, they could easily be the best (or near best) track to play in terms of horseplayer value in North America. If their meet goes well this year it would be something to think about for 2011.

Second up, the Trackmaster blog has a piece on playing from home.

When I’m out at the track these days, it’s mainly to have a good time and enjoy the sport up close with family or friends. My gambling results are usually not that great and I’m ok with that, because when I play seriously it’s from home. Most of the time I’m out with people who are relatively unfamiliar with the sport and wagering in general so most of my time is spent educating them on the finer points and how to place bets. I love introducing new people to the sport and if my handicapping suffers from it, so be it.

I could not agree more. My time at the track now is a social one. And I do not mind that a bit. The track, its sights and smells, the camaraderie, the splitting tickets to have some fun, is all good.

He makes a good point about laptops, however. Tracks are simply not laptop friendly, and with so many people using them for race replays, software and the like, it is something that tracks must do better. I remember going to a track about a year ago on a vacation and asked if I could plug in my laptop and use it at a simulcast center. I had all my forms, software and everything I use to handicap on the computer. After some time, the manager came out and said no. I was planning to give them some good revenue, by betting through the windows but they refused. Because I had done so much work I went to my hotel room, made my bets through an ADW for the races, and that was that.

I am not sure that is a proper way to do business. When bettors want to give you money and support your live racing, you should never turn them away.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Monmouth issue - agreed except you still need to lower the host track fee. ADW's and other racetracks can't take or live with a 10 % takeout on a 5-7 % Host track fee. You guys are always talking about reduced takeout. I understand as a player myself but from the business side you need to include HTF's with all your conversations about takeout because out a reduction in host track fees commensurate with the reduction of takeout it will never happen.

Once again someon in the industry did something in the right direction and here you are asking for more. If they do the lower takeout next year you will want free admission and free programs. it never ends with the players that is why track management turn a blind eye, rightfully or wrongly, that is what happens.

On the laptop issue. I was involved in management of a race track that had a big player room, high rollers. The track provided free programs, free food, exclusive tellers, free handicapping data, free valet, free everything. Of course it was not enough and the players wanted to bring in their laptops which we stopped. They continued to complain using the same agrument you are making.

We provided each sitting station with its own computer but we blocked porn sites, and offshore sites and all ADW's except our own. They still complained. We provided them VPN connectivity to their own computers so they could access their own data but still blocked other ADW's and they still complained.

In the end it came down to they would run out of cash at the track and still want to wager with their friends, get all the free services, and then go bet with another ADW.

You just cant do that. People, many if not most people will take advantage of your good will.

No good deed goes unpunished!

Anonymous said...

You forgot the wise old rule when at a racetrack-grease the palms of the staff-I do that all the time and get whatever I want when i go to the racetrack

Anonymous said...

I appreciate reading anon's post, but ...........

For the quote: "Once again someone in the industry did something in the right direction and here you are asking for more. If they do the lower takeout next year you will want free admission and free programs. it never ends with the players"

Why the hate? All I read on the blog article was this: "They have, as has the Meadowlands, the best pick 4 takes around, and they provide value. But I, like Rich wonder, if they go to a 50 day meet, get field size up, and lower takeout, they could easily be the best (or near best) track to play in terms of horseplayer value in North America. If their meet goes well this year it would be something to think about for 2011.

gee whiz, someone saying "good job" but wondering if they can increase business and become one of the best tracks to play in the country with a few more experiments. Sounds like a good thought to me. Racing should look to build and get better, not regress.

As for the laptop stuff, it sounds like you are very frustrated. A lot of us are in our jobs, but these things happen with all businesses - welcome to the world. Blaming customers for your problems and throwing your hands in the air might make you feel good, but it does not provide a solution to the problem. The ones who survive find a way to make things work, the ones who go out of business complain.

Phil

HANA said...

Anon,

Regarding the host fee question - we take that very seriously and have no less than four blog pieces about host fees and their relation to takeout so far in 2010. We trust that horseplayers are educated and do not need to be spoon fed, so we do not qualify each lower takeout item with a full discussion on host fees.

Thank you for the comment.

HANA

Anonymous said...

No hate guys....I know what HANA stands for and am grateful that there is someone out there carrying the players voice. I don't mean to come across that way but obviously I do. My shot was not at HANA but at Eng's comments "What I suggest is a reduction to 10 percent takeout in the straight pools, win, place and show. The takeout is currently 17 percent. The 7 percent difference is in essence a subsidy for horseplayers. Between higher returns to bettors and...."

It was this comment I felt Eng was saying "alright you did "this" but that is not enough you need to do "that". Why not wait to see whether "this" works. How about just a simple "great job, hope it turns your business around".

My comments are normally directed to "the other point of view", that from a business perspective. Somehow these ADW's and tracks have to pay the bills and a reduction in takeout without a reduction in HTF is brutal on the business side of life. I agree, I think an effort to do both at the same time, or a ongoing practice, experiment, or whatever you want to call it would have great results but other than Tioga that is not what has happened in the past.

Also, no I am not saying you need to spoon feed the players but what ends up happening is others (non players) read this and think they can cherry pick reduced takeouts and not address the other side (HTF) of the business so I try to do my little part and make sure that if they read your point that they also understand there is a consequence to that reduction, especially if they also don't lower the HTF. I realize it is not a HANA concern so I will hold those comments going forward.

On the laptop issue I am not frustrated nor complaining at all. We made numerous adjustments at great expense "to make it work" (as you say). Again, I was just pointing out the reason WHY the tracks are resistant to allowing laptops. I never remember sitting in weekly meetings around the boardroom saying "how can we get one over on the player, or get one over on the horsemen". It was always what can we do to provide excellent customer service, drive attendance, increase revenue, cut costs and partner with the horsemen and the unions.

There is always a thoughtout reason for decisions such as not allowing laptops or not, or reduce your meet to 50 days or not to reduce your takeout. It is never as cut and dry as many of the players think. "Cut and dry" being "oh they just want to hose us".

Trust me I never heard that said in over 27 years of being in senior management at racetracks!

Anonymous said...

most tracks, on most days, are ghost towns. If players want to come to the track and play on their computers let them, its better than having no one there at all. they arent asking for any amenity that a motel 6 doesnt provide.

Either way, people that want to bet on their computers and access replays, their sw, and a familiar betting interface and a funded account are going to. Because they prefer it. Right now, that means staying home and betting ADW.

Rather than ban it from the track, embrace it, and transition your business model so that it works for you.

Are you telling me the tracks cant cut deals with the top couple ADWs that the takeout from any wagers booked through the tracks block of IP Addresses (i.e. made via the tracks WIFI network) get split at a rate more akin (closer to) to an on track wager? Has anyone ever tried?

Are you risking even more intermediation of your customer by doing that? Maybe, but any more than losing those on site customers altogether (and forever)? Probably not.

-c

HANA said...

Thanks for the comments. Very good.

For laptops/Wifi, Theresia was looking to build a list, perhaps for our player resource page of tracks that are laptop friendly. So maybe we can get on that, by polling members/readers and doing some digging. I am sure a lot of at home players/vacationing players would think twice if they know they can bring their handicapping tools with them.

HANA

Anonymous said...

the ship is going to continue to sail as well, if it hasn't already, with large screen cell phones and always connected, long battery life slates and small smart book devices that use 3G and 4G cell access. Wifi will become a nice, but non fundamental, service.

It already is, but will increasingly become over the next 2 years or so -- impossible to control the customers behavior and decisions, even while they are on premises. So prime directive for the tracks is figuring out how to make it work for them, not trying to stem the tide of technology and consumer empowerment that is the always on, always connected internet.

Creative destruction and all that, there just really isn't any choice.

-c

Anonymous said...

Right now the tracks seem to be using the 1999 Sony music playbook for a lot of these things. The music companies clung to the misguided belief you could charge bricks and mortar prices and make people buy a $20 cd in a new age. It was not the case and they paid dearly for it.

Allowing customers to bet your product with a minimum of inconvenience and maximum of ease is the only option, whether they like it or not. Business history is littered with carcasses of business who wish things are what they are not.