Saturday, January 05, 2013

Give Fans What They Need: Educate, Entertain, Enrich

On the New York Fan Council Recommendations to the State Racing and Wagering Board, continued from Thursday, January 3

Track Televisions for Live and Simulcast Racing: “Track operators should take an inventory of where TVs are located and ensure that sufficient TVs of adequate quality (HD, large screen) are available where patrons are located.”

Tracks and simulcast venues need to be told this?

Web sites: “Raceways should review their Web sites and determine what additional information would better serve their fans and make that available… information such as: Simulcast schedules; claims and equipment changes; beginner handicapping information; cancellation and refund polices; takeout rates and public transportation information…”

Tracks and simulcast venues need to be told this?

Simulcast Patron Accommodation: When tracks remain open for simulcasting after the conclusion of racing, steps should be taken to ensure that fans can easily exit the facility, access their automobiles and exit the parking lot.

This is code for safety and security. Ever leave Aqueduct Race Track in the dark after simulcasting? That’s when the real excitement begins.

Scratches & Equipment Changes: “The Racing and Wagering Board should review its rules and regulations regarding scratches and equipment changes. Fans feel that lack of this knowledge in sufficient time undermines racing integrity…”

This is code for poor service and the lack of knowledge about what the customer—read bettor—really needs.

Automated Teller Machines/Customer Service: The issue of automated teller machines (SAMs) was brought up at each track. While it seems track management has encouraged SAM usage to speed up transactions and reduce the number of live tellers needed, there were complaints at each forum about a lack of sufficient live tellers…

“SAM use could be even better encouraged by having available staff nearby to fix machine problems and tutor new and struggling users until they feel comfortable with the technology. At Saratoga Race Course, in particular, fans complained about nonfunctioning machines.”

Tracks need to be told this? In 2013, Saratoga will celebrate its 150th anniversary. Some of those SAM machines could probably use a tune-up.

Rewards Programs: “Track operators should investigate possible implementation of rewards programs for patrons similar to casino rewards programs… While NYRA does have an existing rewards program, it should be reexamined to ascertain how many fans it actually rewards. The Council believes that fans should be rewarded not only for substantial wagering but for regular attendance… and some degree of moderate wagering.”

Meaning: To grow the betting economy from the middle-class out?

Fan Education: Track operators should take education of their fans seriously… ‘Racing 101’ courses for beginners, handicapping aids, new owner seminars...”

Some of this already is being done, and rank-and-file bettors, the lifeline to the racing industry, need to become further sophisticated. There’s no such thing as too much information; show bettors the best way to access data that best suits their style of play and betting comfort zones.

Facility Upgrades: “…Racing fans deserve comfortable areas with modern services to watch races and handicap so that they stay engaged in the sport.”

Tracks and simulcast venues need to be told this?

Signage: “…For example, the customer service office at Belmont Park does not appear to have a sign on it.”

Hard to imagine, I know, but accurate.

Implementation of an “I LOVE NY Racing” promotion: New York State Department of Economic Development focuses on a number of “I Love New York” campaigns.

“The newest initiative, launched earlier this year by Governor Cuomo, expands the “I (heart) New York” campaign to include other activities (e.g. “I (camp) New York,” “I (fish) New York)… New initiative is readily adaptable for horseracing and should be implemented (“I (horserace) New York”).

“The Racing Fan Advisory Council suggests that a small, fractional portion of revenue from wagering handle could be dedicated to develop and support the “I Love New York Horseracing” Campaign.”

Absolutely not to the last portion of this recommendation. The advertising campaign cannot come out of a fractional portion of the betting revenue. You cannot lower takeout and add expenses at the same time.

Besides, New York horseplayers already pay the salaries of SRWB members. If by lowering takeout handle rises, then the state benefits as well from a healthy racing industry. New York State, in its own self-interest, must make an investment in horse racing; that money should come from the state’s advertising/promotional budget that already exists.

As for the campaign’s thrust, I cannot think of a better use of a television campaign than one that promotes world class racing. There is no international sport; diverse, colorful, engaging and intellectually challenging. And what other brand of entertainment offers an opportunity to leave an event with more money than when you arrived?

Is that difficult? Of course. Impossibly difficult? Hardly.

Written by John Pricci

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