One of the most compelling aspects of handicapping to experienced horseplayers is the sheer number of wagering choices. This allows for creativity based on your opinion of the race to maximize the potential return. It’s a game within a game and mastering the balance between handicapping and proper ticket structure creates a chess match between you and your fellow pari-mutuel participants. However, it also creates confusion and trepidation to potential new customers that are already sports fans and bettors, but have avoided playing the horses. This is a key demographic racing should court with vigor.
Most racebook / sportsbook setups cleanly separate the horses from the other sports wagering opportunities. When an NFL fan walks into such an establishment to plunk down a few bets and watch the game, chances are little to none that placing a wager on the horses is even remotely top of mind. However, strategic placement of simple horse racing bets on the same electronic readerboards as the sports wagering menu would drive more interest and more betting in the book if coupled with easy to understand wagers in the form of simple prop bets. For instance:
Belmont Race 3: Who will finish higher –#1 Karakorum Kenny (-110) or #7 Catienus Cathy (-110)?
Strategically placing a simple wagering opportunity on the regular sports board with the selected track and race simulcast feed shown amongst the other televised sports rather than segregating it gives the product a fighting chance to be consumed by a wider audience. Simplicity is paramount. While watching and wagering on a three hour telecast of one the four major sports, selectively offering something in the mold of what is described above can potentially get people watching and betting who would ordinarily avoid racing altogether. Perhaps some of these folks will eventually become regular players over time.
In lieu of massive change that this sport needs (the consistent themes that the industry refuses to address effectively, issues articulately summarized by Cary Fortias, Jeff Platt, Dean Towers and countless others over a span of many moons), we’re left with addressing tiny incremental items that perhaps collectively can make a difference.