Derby weekend is a refreshing reminder of what is great about this sport: Pageantry, high quality racing, parties, and a festive atmosphere with something for everyone. It also serves as a nice, albeit brief diversion from the everyday reality of the politics, business, and institutional level of inaction that threatens this sport we love.
Unfortunately, the industry won't see most of the 165,000+ people or their money until the next first Saturday in May. The population at large, no matter how much fun they had this past weekend, is highly unlikely to become regular customers. When the huge Derby crowd heads home from Churchill Downs back to their respective local markets, the product gets infinitely harder to consume. Each jurisdiction has different ADW rules and ease of consumption. If you were with a group of people from ten different states that are not regular horseplayers but loved the Derby, each will have a different way of getting down bets on subsequent races of interest. That is, if they are lucky enough to reside in a state where it’s legal for them to do so remotely.
The racing product is too difficult to consume and too complicated for the once or twice a year customer to enjoy on a regular basis to become a full time enthusiast. While Churchill Downs put on a great show over a fantastic weekend, the casual fan will slip though the cracks. When the short-term high of the Triple Crown wears down and the dialogue once again resets to focus on slot machines, medication issues, breakdowns, and disputes, we’ll all yearn for a time when human and equine stars dominated the narrative instead of bickering, ineptitude, and inaction. If the industry keeps paying lip service to what ails and continues to ignore fundamental problems (the least of which deal with marketing the game correctly to attract a wider audience), even the Kentucky Derby is at risk of becoming extinct.
-Board Member JD-