Commentary: ‘Promote It & They Will Come’

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The following guest commentary was written by Greg Douglas, Hastings Racecourse publicist, in response to Ray’s piece, “Fading Newspaper Turf Writers Bad for Racing’s Key Demo” that was published last week.

In reference to your recent article  “Fading Newspaper Turf Writers Bad for Racing’s Key Demo,” there is no question that there is not much racing media left from the traditional standpoint for the daily newspapers as pointed out in the story.

I happen to be one of those track publicists who used to spend most of his time alone in the press box with an Equibase chart crew.

But as we have proven at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, there is a solution.  Through some creative thinking on the part of our young (early 30s) General Manager Raj Mutti, we have managed to attract a new and excited 19-35 demographic that complements the “old guard’” regulars.

The mission began four years ago with the introduction of what we called “Friday Night Live” racing, emphasizing that Hastings Racecourse was the place to be and place to be seen as an entertainment destination.  We included radio remotes, live bands, discounts on food and beverages and hired a team of wagering ambassadors to wander through the crowd teaching those new to the track the betting process.

Eventually, the younger demographic caught on to what live racing had to offer and it resulted in our Saturday/Sunday crowds improving to a large extent.

With the larger crowds came added media exposure to the point where Vancouver’s two major daily newspapers began assigning bloggers to Hastings and online editors clamoring for racing information and feature article suggestions, exposure that frequently made its way back onto the traditional newspaper pages. That trend continued through the 2012 Thoroughbred season, enabling Hastings Racecourse to show an increase in mutuel handles over the previous year … unique in the industry by today’s standards.

True, Vancouver is not Louisville, New York or Lexington.  But it is Canada’s second-largest city with professional hockey, football, baseball and soccer franchises.

I am pleased to advise that our press box at Hastings Racecourse has become alive again with a curious media treating racing as an important part of our sporting landscape because of the improved crowds with a much younger demographic mixing in comfortably with the traditional older gathering of race fans.

Unlike the accepted phrase “Build It & They Will Come,” I would humbly suggest that racetrack operators take a page from Mr. Mutti’s aggressive approach of “Promote It & They Will Come.”

Not only customers, but media, too.

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  • Figless

    This could easily be accomplished in Belmont’s beautiful backyard, if only someone tried. Yeah, they have bands back there, but they settle for local cover bands rather than tapping into the exciting INDY scene in nearby Brooklyn, many of those bands would play relatiely cheap and they actually have a following.

    They prefer to entertain the few regulars rather than trying to attract new patrons. And yes, they have beer “specials” which are still too expensive and consist mostly of the beer they cant sell otherwise.

    Nice job at Saratoga, and Belmont is a tough sell in autumn, no doubt, but they should be able to fill that yard on spring weekends.

  • Figless

    This could easily be accomplished in Belmont’s beautiful backyard, if only someone tried. Yeah, they have bands back there, but they settle for local cover bands rather than tapping into the exciting INDY scene in nearby Brooklyn, many of those bands would play relatiely cheap and they actually have a following.

    They prefer to entertain the few regulars rather than trying to attract new patrons. And yes, they have beer “specials” which are still too expensive and consist mostly of the beer they cant sell otherwise.

    Nice job at Saratoga, and Belmont is a tough sell in autumn, no doubt, but they should be able to fill that yard on spring weekends.

  • Tinky

    Not to be a wet blanket (I’m all for bringing exposure to new fans), but the wagering increases are almost certainly primarily a result of Hastings’ lowered takeouts, not the young people who are coming for the bands, etc.

    • Circusticket

       ”Almost certainly primarily”?  Please explain your logic.  Are takeouts lower than before?  If takeouts have not changed, then almost certainly the increases in attendance are because of the changes that were described in the letter by someone who knows from experience what they are talking about.  I believe it.  The question remains, can it be replicated and at what cost.

      • Tinky

        Do you seriously imagine that I would have made the assertion had takeouts not been lowered?

        Hastings drastically reduced takeouts in 2011, and, as always happens, the most important customers – the ones who bet significantly – responded by boosting the handle.

        Changes in attendance are a separate issue, and rarely correlate in a significant manner with handle.

        • Tinky

          Should have added that Hastings went further in 2012 with “reduced 15% takeout on Win/Place/Show, Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4 and Pick 5 wagering.”

  • Tinky

    Not to be a wet blanket (I’m all for bringing exposure to new fans), but the wagering increases are almost certainly primarily a result of Hastings’ lowered takeouts, not the young people who are coming for the bands, etc.

  • Dcurtis78

    caterbury Park does a great job attracting a younger excited crowd, it can be done. Racetracks have never been very good at promoting themselves as the place to be seen, maybe they could follow in these footsteps. And Tinky you are a wet blanket, you should cover your tacos.

    • Waquoit

      Speaking of tacos, the ones they sell at Sunland Park are pretty good and reasonably priced. I visited a couple of years ago and it was hopping. It’s the only racino I’ve been to where there seemed to be as many playing the races as the slots.

  • Dcurtis78

    caterbury Park does a great job attracting a younger excited crowd, it can be done. Racetracks have never been very good at promoting themselves as the place to be seen, maybe they could follow in these footsteps. And Tinky you are a wet blanket, you should cover your tacos.

  • Dermot Carty

    I have been preaching this for years but no one listins It appears that track management are more concerned for the super gambler and rebating than the sport

    • Charlie Davis

      I think you’re putting the cart before the horse.  You can attract all the new players you want, and if the game doesn’t provide some value, they won’t stick around.  That’s why Hastings has had success.  They lowered takeout, and THEN marketed the sport.  

      • nu-fan

        Charlie:  Maybe and maybe not.  Perhaps, the two (sport and wagering) work hand-in-hand.  In my opinion, horseracing would do best, in the long run, if they, first, develop fans who want to see horses run–and marketing needs to get them to show up.  Then, add the incentive of the wagering.  Otherwise, what is being promoted is gambling, and there is a very crowded field when one thinks of all of the gambling opportunities that is available now.  But, if the tracks can interest fans who are into horses, first, they should be able to retain these individuals rather than potentially losing them to yet another gambling interest.  But, you also spoke of “value” and that is definitiely what needs to be addressed by racetracks.  Give fans a great afternoon of enjoyment of watching beautiful horses run, great jockeys who engage with fans, yummy food at reasonable prices, some extra entertainment to supplement the racing, and few bucks extra to leave with after some wagering.  (I’m sure that there are other items that can be added for value.) It can’t be just wagering and the takeout rates; otherwise, there is competition from other sources. What works at Hasings might be different than what works at other racetracks.  I don’t know whether Vancouver is saturated with Indian casinos as is California.  And, that is one of the components (competition) that needs to be considered in the promotional plans for any racetrack.

        • Charlie Davis

          I understand your point, but I disagree.  If we were talking about a sport like baseball or football, I’d agree.  Those are sports where admission, licensing rights, and ancillary sales are the revenue stream.  

          Horse racing only has one material revenue stream though, and that’s takeout.  The only way to increase revenue(material revenue that is), is to increase handle.  The only way to increase purses, is to increase handle.  

          Sure, there is a lot more competition now than there once was, but how many of those games are possible to beat?  Horse racing, with a low enough takeout, is beatable in the long run.  Slot machines, in the long run, are never beatable.  I think horse racing will draw a more sophisticated type of gambler, one who expects to win some of the time.  The guy who used to put $100 into his ultimatebet poker account, doesn’t have anywhere to put his money now.  That’s the person we should be trying to attract in my opinion.  

          And Hastings does have quite a few casinos around it.  It’s part of a casino, with the same entrance even.  No argument that different things will work at different places, but just wanted to answer your question about the area.

          • nu-fan

            Charlie:  I know that revenue comes primarily from the wagering rather than attendance but, from what I understand, attendance dropped when simulcasting came into existence.  Prior to that, if a person wanted to place a wager, they had to go to the track and wager on the races there.  Today, one doesn’t have to attend any of the races to wager.  But, could that be one of the reasons that the sport is declining? With fewer people going to the races to actually see the horses run, and connect with that experience of attendance, did interest also drop in this sport?  I really think it is extremely important to get those grandstands filled up again and with fans going more than just once in a blue moon.  I believe that fans need to really attach themselves to this sport and, then, hope that they transfer that interest into action with some wagering.  To put faith into those relatively few higher rollers may be precarious.  Having a broader market of fans (and those $2 bettors) may be a safer base for this sport to support it.  Also, I don’t know how many of the younger crowd would wager in high dollar amounts, and these younger fans are so important to horseracing.  Otherwise, this sport will diminish as the older fans/wagers go to their finaL destinations.  I think this is a case of which comes first?  The chicken or the egg?

      • Concerned Observer

        Lottery takeout is over 35%. It has grown and grown …..as we shrink. Takeout is a factor but not the only factor and as so many old-line horsepayers want to advocate.

        • Charlie Davis

          The lottery also caters to a lot of “dumb money”.  Most of them know they’ll never win, and just do it for the chance at a big score. I think racing could learn from that and offer lottery bets that don’t require a ton of handicapping.  I’d love to see quick-pick tickets for the races, but that would require a concerted effort by the industry, which I don’t see happening any time soon.

          As I wrote in my last response, horse racing draws a more sophisticated gambler than lottery and slots, a gambler that at least expects to win some of the time.  You won’t see poker players buying many lottery tickets, and those are the guys I think we should be focusing on.   

          • kyle

            The appeal of the lottery has nothing to do with gambling, even bad, stupid gambling. It’s about fantasy and escapism. For a dollar or two you get to spend a day or two imagining what you would do with all that money. Not only can racing not duplicate that experience it should not try. The more we emphasize the big score the more players we canabalize and the more churn we impede. That said, there is one event in racing that would lend itself to an actual lottery and that’s The Kentucky Derby.

          • Charlie Davis

            Actually, Sweden has done it very well.  That fantasy of winning millions obviously attracts a lot of people, and if they got to watch a race, rather than watching a ping-pong ball drop, I think we’d convert some to racing fans.  

            I’m not saying to replace our current betting menu, I’m saying to supplement it with something like this: http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/horse/columns/story?columnist=finley_bill&id=2940196″It is estimated that 1 million people a week play the V75, many of them buying it off track at places like grocery stores. ”

        • nu-fan

          Concerned Observer:  And, the lottery and gambling (such as slots) are easy.  No researching is needed.  Horseracing?  Sure, some people wager on the “prettiest” horse or a horse named the same as their uncle but others who are more interested may pay more attention to the breeding, past performances, type of track surface, etc.  Most people do not do that.  Too much effort.  Easier to pull the handle of a slot or go with some silly set of numbers based on birthdays, etc.  But, win or lose, if the fans enjoy their afternoon at the races, they may return to have another relatively inexpensive day at the races.  Eventually, they may learn some of the basics of wagering and start making a few bucks.  Takeout rates may be more of an issue for those who take their wagering seriously but, in reality, how many of these are there?  Enough to support horseracing or to help it grow?

  • Dermot Carty

    I have been preaching this for years but no one listins It appears that track management are more concerned for the super gambler and rebating than the sport

  • Circusticket

     ”Almost certainly primarily”?  Please explain your logic.  Are takeouts lower than before?  If takeouts have not changed, then almost certainly the increases in attendance are because of the changes that were described in the letter by someone who knows from experience what they are talking about.  I believe it.  The question remains, can it be replicated and at what cost.

  • Concerned Observer

    The new owners at River Downs did a small amount of advertising and promotion (vs. zero for the old owners) and easiy doubed attendance.

    Have you noticed?

    Casinos advertise and promote

    ML baseball  advertises and promotes

    The NFL  advertises and promotes

    NASCAR  advertises and promotes

    Rock Concerts  advertise and promote

    Even Broadway plays advertise and promote

    So why is horse racing invisible in most cities?

    • Dcurtis78

      I have talked to people who live within blocks of various tracks and didn’t know the track existed. All the time, I will say have you been to “_ _ Racetrack” the answer, no, what is it, where is it, they have horse racing?

      • nu-fan

        Dcurtis78:  So true.  However, I must have traveled the freeway past Golden Gate Fields hundreds, if not thousands, of times and seen the track before I went to my first race.  And, when one thinks of the tremendous amount of commute traffic that drives by it every day, wouldn’t you think that there would be a huge crowd attending that racetrack? In reality, the stands are too often half-filled.  There needs to be that “hook” that pulls people in for their first time to really start obtaining fans.  That is one of the things that marketing is supposed to do: come up with ideas and special events that get people to just show up and see what the racetrack is all about.  So many ways to implement promotional strategies to accomplish this.

  • Concerned Observer

    The new owners at River Downs did a small amount of advertising and promotion (vs. zero for the old owners) and easiy doubed attendance.

    Have you noticed?

    Casinos advertise and promote

    ML baseball  advertises and promotes

    The NFL  advertises and promotes

    NASCAR  advertises and promotes

    Rock Concerts  advertise and promote

    Even Broadway plays advertise and promote

    So why is horse racing invisible in most cities?

  • Tinky

    Do you seriously imagine that I would have made the assertion had takeouts not been lowered?

    Hastings drastically reduced takeouts in 2011, and, as always happens, the most important customers – the ones who bet significantly – responded by boosting the handle.

    Changes in attendance are a separate issue, and rarely correlate in a significant manner with handle.

  • Tinky

    Should have added that Hastings went further in 2012 with “reduced 15% takeout on Win/Place/Show, Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4 and Pick 5 wagering.”

  • Dcurtis78

    I have talked to people who live within blocks of various tracks and didn’t know the track existed. All the time, I will say have you been to “_ _ Racetrack” the answer, no, what is it, where is it, they have horse racing?

  • PTP

    The Tinkster remembers. He’s like an elephant. That types.

    Via Bill Finley on ESPN.com a few years ago:

     ”On the heels of Santa Anita raising its takeout, something that has
    clearly alienated many customers, Hastings went in the opposite
    direction. Mutti decided to go the extra mile for the fan. Not only did
    they lower the takeout, they put in Wi-Fi throughout the grandstand,
    upgraded their graphics package for their video presentations and
    created a Pick Five with a carryover component. The Pick Four takeout
    went from 22.3 percent to 15, a decrease of 36 percent. “We are trying
    to reengage the horseplayer that we might have lost, not only locally
    but throughout the marketplace,” he said.”

    Hastings has been customer friendly since the Raj took over.

    PTP

    • nu-fan

      PTP: Some businesses, when their business slows down, will cut expenses. And, one of the first things that they will cut are their promotions. Other companies realize that when business gets tough, they may need to put more money into promotions to keep it alive. Looks like Hastings did what business is taught to do but too frequently ignore: increase promotions and spend a little money to upgrade and attract more customers. This is basic business but, again, often ignored when business gets tight–and, they die a slow death.

  • PTP

    The Tinkster remembers. He’s like an elephant. That types.

    Via Bill Finley on ESPN.com a few years ago:

     ”On the heels of Santa Anita raising its takeout, something that has
    clearly alienated many customers, Hastings went in the opposite
    direction. Mutti decided to go the extra mile for the fan. Not only did
    they lower the takeout, they put in Wi-Fi throughout the grandstand,
    upgraded their graphics package for their video presentations and
    created a Pick Five with a carryover component. The Pick Four takeout
    went from 22.3 percent to 15, a decrease of 36 percent. “We are trying
    to reengage the horseplayer that we might have lost, not only locally
    but throughout the marketplace,” he said.”

    Hastings has been customer friendly since the Raj took over.

    PTP

  • Waquoit

    Speaking of tacos, the ones they sell at Sunland Park are pretty good and reasonably priced. I visited a couple of years ago and it was hopping. It’s the only racino I’ve been to where there seemed to be as many playing the races as the slots.

  • Michael Fisher

    I suggested that in Maryland we take some that money we are getting and buy apage in the Baltimore Sun and put the entries and results with an article of interest everyday.  The answer was I don’t think they would do that.  But anything is better than nothing which is what we are doing in Maryland right now.  I think your idea is a great one.

    • Noelle

      I’m in Maryland, too, in the DC suburbs and I agree completely that NOTHING is done to promote Maryland racing.  I see lots of advertising for WVa’s Charlestown Races and Slots but nothing at all for Laurel or Pimlico.  Laurel Park is just a short distance down Route 1 from the University of Maryland – has Laurel’s management tried targeting those kids?  Raj’s ideas sound great.

      • L Hartley2

        perhaps kids trying to get through college don’t have the money to waste on horse racing.

        • L Hartley2

          meaning to waste on gambling.

          • Brian Schartz

            As a college kid, I cut my teeth in racing going to an uninspiring OTB.  I was probably a terrible customer, generating maybe 50-100 bucks in handle per trip on the good days, playing $2 WPS bets for the most part.  I never made or lost much money, and the racing industry did not make a fortune off of me either.

            But something happened along the way.  A racing fan was created.  I am engaged in the sport as an owner, breeder, AND bettor.  And now my typical daily handle is 10x it was 18 years ago.

            We can all be short sighted and say today’s marketing investments to any particular customer segment may show poor returns on tomorrow’s results, but perhaps we need to redefine “tomorrow.”

          • nu-fan

            Brian:  Great comments!  I’ve seen some who belittle the $2 bettor but that is where new fans usually begin until they get a better grasp on how wagering works.  And, when I go to Golden Gate Fields, I see a lot of young 20ish fans in the stands and assume that they might be UC Berkeley students.  Why wouldn’t racetracks be thinking of the future and cultivating these new fans?  It seems like such a no-brainer but, in reality, many businesses are run by those who have very little forward thinking abilities and go to the usual old bag of gimmicks from decades ago.

  • Michael Fisher

    I suggested that in Maryland we take some that money we are getting and buy apage in the Baltimore Sun and put the entries and results with an article of interest everyday.  The answer was I don’t think they would do that.  But anything is better than nothing which is what we are doing in Maryland right now.  I think your idea is a great one.

  • David

    God bless him, he’s trying. 
    Solid promotion and improving facility (actual physical/geographic moves
    in some cases) are key element if racing is to reverse the trend.  But this business has to recognize the
    pari-mutuel model needs the kind of reform that has more winners leaving the
    place than is currently the case.  Successfully
    creating trial by potential new customers isn’t the problem as much as inabilities
    to nurture them up the user curve.  Even
    if the new guys like what they see, they get beat over the head enough that they
    quit coming.  Just saying.

  • David

    God bless him, he’s trying. 
    Solid promotion and improving facility (actual physical/geographic moves
    in some cases) are key element if racing is to reverse the trend.  But this business has to recognize the
    pari-mutuel model needs the kind of reform that has more winners leaving the
    place than is currently the case.  Successfully
    creating trial by potential new customers isn’t the problem as much as inabilities
    to nurture them up the user curve.  Even
    if the new guys like what they see, they get beat over the head enough that they
    quit coming.  Just saying.

  • Charlie Davis

    Hastings has not only lowered takeout consistently, but they are very responsive to players, and after creating an attractive gambling product, they marketed it.  They offer value to long-time players like myself, as well as attracting new players.  I think they’ve done a fantastic job, and it’s why I go up to visit annually.  

    I drive up to Vancouver(4 hours) more often than I drive to Emerald Downs(half an hour), and that’s because they deserve my patronage.  Way to go Raj, Greg, and everyone I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with.  

    Now get to work on Tri and Spr takeout!

    • Sophiam

      Hi Charlie!

      I’d love to speak with you. I’m the new Director of Marketing at Emerald Downs and I’d love to save you your gas money! You can email me at sophiam@emeralddowns.com or call at 253-288-7719. Same goes for anyone else I can assist in my role here at Emerald. Cheers!

  • Charlie Davis

    Hastings has not only lowered takeout consistently, but they are very responsive to players, and after creating an attractive gambling product, they marketed it.  They offer value to long-time players like myself, as well as attracting new players.  I think they’ve done a fantastic job, and it’s why I go up to visit annually.  

    I drive up to Vancouver(4 hours) more often than I drive to Emerald Downs(half an hour), and that’s because they deserve my patronage.  Way to go Raj, Greg, and everyone I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with.  

    Now get to work on Tri and Spr takeout!

  • Noelle

    I’m in Maryland, too, in the DC suburbs and I agree completely that NOTHING is done to promote Maryland racing.  I see lots of advertising for WVa’s Charlestown Races and Slots but nothing at all for Laurel or Pimlico.  Laurel Park is just a short distance down Route 1 from the University of Maryland – has Laurel’s management tried targeting those kids?  Raj’s ideas sound great.

  • Charlie Davis

    I think you’re putting the cart before the horse.  You can attract all the new players you want, and if the game doesn’t provide some value, they won’t stick around.  That’s why Hastings has had success.  They lowered takeout, and THEN marketed the sport.  

  • L Hartley2

    perhaps kids trying to get through college don’t have the money to waste on horse racing.

  • L Hartley2

    meaning to waste on gambling.

  • Brian Schartz

    As a college kid, I cut my teeth in racing going to an uninspiring OTB.  I was probably a terrible customer, generating maybe 50-100 bucks in handle per trip on the good days, playing $2 WPS bets for the most part.  I never made or lost much money, and the racing industry did not make a fortune off of me either.

    But something happened along the way.  A racing fan was created.  I am engaged in the sport as an owner, breeder, AND bettor.  And now my typical daily handle is 10x it was 18 years ago.

    We can all be short sighted and say today’s marketing investments to any particular customer segment may show poor returns on tomorrow’s results, but perhaps we need to redefine “tomorrow.”

  • Rpres43

    I enjoyed playing Hastings this year thanks to low take-out.  Pk-3, pk-4 and pk-5 had a zero take-out if bet thru Twinspires.  Ky Downs is also doing a good job attracting a largely non-horse racing crowd with numerous promotions for their very short season.  I flew up from Orlando and thoroughly enjoyed my self , though their take-out would be more palpable if lowered to match KEE and CD> 

    • David

      Yes, cost of the product does motivate current players but I
      fear the product isn’t at all inclusive enough.  If you lower the hold from 20 to 10 or even more you basically still
      play to the same house; yes, churn increases and you get a brief spike for
      tracks and (especially) purses but the same guys will gradually give it back
      and, if you don’t get new blood, you arrive at the same place.  Whether the return is 80 or 95% you’ve got
      to spread the wealth more than what’s happening now.  With due respect to passion exhibited by regular players, they/we
      shouldn’t be writing text on how to fix this thing. Advertising agencies
      compete for creative awards that oftentimes have no relationship to how
      respective clients are doing financially. 
      A complete assessment in this case would be query Hastings on how it does
      over an extended term with lower takes (net up or down w/margins).  And those new guys prompted by dollar hot
      dogs and bands?  They tend to get blood
      in their shoes and don’t know what “take out” and “handle” is. Gotta find a way
      to make ‘em think is not a suckers’ game.  Racing would be better served to put the current situation in the
      hands of a qualified, disinterested think tank and make a pact to do whatever
      it is that’s prescribed.  LOL.

  • Rpres43

    I enjoyed playing Hastings this year thanks to low take-out.  Pk-3, pk-4 and pk-5 had a zero take-out if bet thru Twinspires.  Ky Downs is also doing a good job attracting a largely non-horse racing crowd with numerous promotions for their very short season.  I flew up from Orlando and thoroughly enjoyed my self , though their take-out would be more palpable if lowered to match KEE and CD> 

  • nu-fan

    Brian:  Great comments!  I’ve seen some who belittle the $2 bettor but that is where new fans usually begin until they get a better grasp on how wagering works.  And, when I’ve go to Golden Gate Fields, I see a lot of young 20ish fans in the stands and assume that they might be UC Berkeley students.  Why wouldn’t racetracks be thinking of the future and cultivating these new fans?  It seems like such a no-brainer but, in reality, many businesses are run by those who have very little forward thinking abilities and go to the usual old bag of gimmicks from decades ago.

  • David

    Yes, cost of the product does motivate current players but I
    fear the product isn’t at all inclusive enough.  If you lower the hold from 20 to 10 or even more you basically still
    play to the same house; yes, churn increases and you get a brief spike for
    tracks and (especially) purses but the same guys will gradually give it back
    and, if you don’t get new blood, you arrive at the same place.  Whether the return is 80 or 95% you’ve got
    to spread the wealth more than what’s happening now.  With due respect to passion exhibited by regular players, they/we
    shouldn’t be writing text on how to fix this thing. Advertising agencies
    compete for creative awards that oftentimes have no relationship to how
    respective clients are doing financially. 
    A complete assessment in this case would be query Hastings on how it does
    over an extended term with lower takes (net up or down w/margins).  And those new guys prompted by dollar hot
    dogs and bands?  They tend to get blood
    in their shoes and don’t know what “take out” and “handle” is. Gotta find a way
    to make ‘em think is not a suckers’ game.  Racing would be better served to put the current situation in the
    hands of a qualified, disinterested think tank and make a pact to do whatever
    it is that’s prescribed.  LOL.

  • nu-fan

    PTP: Some businesses, when their business slows down, will cut expenses. And, one of the first things that they will cut are their promotions. Other companies realize that when business gets tough, they may need to put more money into promotions to keep it alive. Looks like Hastings did what business is taught to do but too frequently ignore: increase promotions and spend a little money to upgrade and attract more customers. This is basic business but, again, often ignored when business gets tight–and, they die a slow death.

  • nu-fan

    I’ve been thinking of making my way north to the tracks in Portland as well as Vancouver.  Now, it may be put on my front burners to do so.  Hastings seems to be in the current era.  They are doing things right according to basic business.  I also remember a story I heard about how that track helps educate some of their jockeys and other staff members by teaching them the English language.  How progressive of that track!  I am seriously getting impressed and, now, want to check them out first-hand. Wonder if Mario will do another short stint there sometime in this upcoming year?  Would be perfect timing for a visit.  By the way, Vancouver is such a cool city.  Great restaurants, neighborhood shopping, and gorgeous views throughout the city.  Been there a couple of times but missed going to Hastings.  Won’t miss it the next time! 

    • David

      Portland’s a great town as well.  Went to P Meadows briefly last fall while visiting with my (Portland resident) son and wife.  Fortunes don’t seem as bright (as VC). Re: http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/arts-and-entertainment/sports/articles/portland-meadows-gambles-on-a-comeback-november-2012

      • nu-fan

        David:  You’re right.  I’ve been to Portland as well.  Very cool town.  Wish I can remember one of the restaurants I ate at; it was some time ago.  It was in the downtown area and pretty much at the top of a high rise building.  They had the best rack of lamb I have ever ate!  The Pacific Northwest is so lovely.  But, I do watch some of the races, on television, from Portland Meadows.  I kind of like the smaller tracks.  Don’t feel as “lost” or overwhelmed.  (I think I’m due for a vacation!)  I’m looking forward to checking out the link you’ve provided. Thank you.

        • Sophiam

          While you are in the great Pacific Northwest, please be sure to stop by Emerald Downs. We are only 30 minutes outside of Seattle and have the best view of Mt. Rainier in the Puget Sound. Our taco bar is dynamite as well. I’d be happy to have you as my guest. When you are ready to make plans please reach out to me: Sophia Mangalee, Dir. of Marketing, Emerald Downs. Email: sophiam@emeralddowns.com or call 253-288-7719. All the best and Happy Racing!

  • nu-fan

    I’ve been thinking of making my way north to the tracks in Portland as well as Vancouver.  Now, it may be put on my front burners to do so.  Hastings seems to be in the current era.  They are doing things right according to basic business.  I also remember a story I heard about how that track helps educate some of their jockeys and other staff members by teaching them the English language.  How progressive of that track!  I am seriously getting impressed and, now, want to check them out first-hand. Wonder if Mario will do another short stint there sometime in this upcoming year?  Would be perfect timing for a visit.  By the way, Vancouver is such a cool city.  Great restaurants, neighborhood shopping, and gorgeous views throughout the city.  Been there a couple of times but missed going to Hastings.  Won’t miss it the next time! 

  • nu-fan

    Dcurtis78:  So true.  However, I must have traveled the freeway past Golden Gate Fields hundreds, if not thousands, of times and seen the track before I went to my first race.  And, when one thinks of the tremendous amount of commute traffic that drives by it every day, wouldn’t you think that there would be a huge crowd attending that racetrack? In reality, the stands are too often half-filled.  There needs to be that “hook” that pulls people in for their first time to really start obtaining fans.  That is one of the things that marketing is supposed to do: come up with ideas and special events that get people to just show up and see what the racetrack is all about.  So many ways to implement promotional strategies to accomplish this.

  • nu-fan

    Charlie:  Maybe and maybe not.  Perhaps, the two (sport and wagering) work hand-in-hand.  In my opinion, horseracing would do best, in the long run, if they, first, develop fans who want to see horses run–and marketing needs to get them to show up.  Then, add the incentive of the wagering.  Otherwise, what is being promoted is gambling, and there is a very crowded field when one thinks of all of the gambling opportunities that is available now.  But, if the tracks can interest fans who are into horses, first, they should be able to retain these individuals rather than potentially losing them to yet another gambling interest.  But, you also spoke of “value” and that is definitiely what needs to be addressed by racetracks.  Give fans a great afternoon of enjoyment of watching beautiful horses run, great jockeys who engage with fans, yummy food at reasonable prices, some extra entertainment to supplement the racing, and few bucks extra to leave with after some wagering.  (I’m sure that there are other items that can be added for value.) It can’t be just wagering and the takeout rates; otherwise, there is competition from other sources. What works at Hasings might be different than what works at other racetracks.  I don’t know whether Vancouver is saturated with Indian casinos as is California.  And, that is one of the components (competition) that needs to be considered in the promotional plans for any racetrack.

  • David

    Portland’s a great town as well.  Went to P Meadows briefly last fall while visiting with my (Portland resident) son and wife.  Fortunes don’t seem as bright (as VC). Re: http://www.portlandmonthlymag….

  • Charlie Davis

    I understand your point, but I disagree.  If we were talking about a sport like baseball or football, I’d agree.  Those are sports where admission, licensing rights, and ancillary sales are the revenue stream.  

    Horse racing only has one material revenue stream though, and that’s takeout.  The only way to increase revenue(material revenue that is), is to increase handle.  The only way to increase purses, is to increase handle.  

    Sure, there is a lot more competition now than there once was, but how many of those games are possible to beat?  Horse racing, with a low enough takeout, is beatable in the long run.  Slot machines, in the long run, are never beatable.  I think horse racing will draw a more sophisticated type of gambler, one who expects to win some of the time.  The guy who used to put $100 into his ultimatebet poker account, doesn’t have anywhere to put his money now.  That’s the person we should be trying to attract in my opinion.  

    And Hastings does have quite a few casinos around it.  It’s part of a casino, with the same entrance even.  No argument that different things will work at different places, but just wanted to answer your question about the area.

  • Concerned Observer

    Lottery takeout is over 35%. It has grown and grown …..as we shrink. Takeout is a factor but not the only factor and as so many old-line horsepayers want to advocate.

  • Charlie Davis

    The lottery also caters to a lot of “dumb money”.  Most of them know they’ll never win, and just do it for the chance at a big score. I think racing could learn from that and offer lottery bets that don’t require a ton of handicapping.  I’d love to see quick-pick tickets for the races, but that would require a concerted effort by the industry, which I don’t see happening any time soon.

    As I wrote in my last response, horse racing draws a more sophisticated gambler than lottery and slots, a gambler that at least expects to win some of the time.  You won’t see poker players buying many lottery tickets, and those are the guys I think we should be focusing on.   

  • nu-fan

    David:  You’re right.  I’ve been to Portland as well.  Very cool town.  Wish I can remember on of the restaurants I ate at; it was some time ago.  It was in the downtown area and pretty much at the top of a high rise building.  They had the best rack of lamb I have ever ate!  The Pacific Northwest is so lovely.  But, I do watch some of the races, on television, from Portland Meadows.  I kind of like the smaller tracks.  Don’t feel as “lost” or overwhelmed.  (I think I’m due for a vacation!)  ‘m looking forward to checking out the link you’ve provided. Thank you.

  • nu-fan

    Charlie:  I know that revenue comes primarily from the wagering rather than attendance but, from what I understand, attendance dropped when simulcasting came into existence.  Prior to that, if a person wanted to place a wager, they had to go to the track and wager on the races there.  Today, one doesn’t have to attend any of the races to wager.  But, could that be one of the reasons that the sport is declining? With fewer people going to the races to actually see the horses run, and connect with that experience of attendance, did interest also drop in this sport?  I really think it is extremely important to get those grandstands filled up again and with fans going more than just once in a blue moom.  I believe that fans need to really attach themselves to this sport and, then, hope that they transfer that interest into action with some wagering.  To put faith into those relatively few higher rollers may be precarious.  Having a broader market of fans (and those $2 bettors) may be a safer base for this sport to support it.  Also, I don’t know how many of the younger crowd would wager in high dollar amounts, and these younger fans are so important to horseracing.  Otherwise, this sport will diminish as the older fans/wagers go to their finaL destinations.  I think this is a case of which comes first?  The chicken or the egg?

  • nu-fan

    Concerned Observer:  And, the lottery and gambling (such as slots) are easy.  No researching is needed.  Horseracing?  Sure, some people wager on the “prettiest” horse or a horse named the same as their uncle but others who are more interested may pay more attention to the breeding, past performances, type of track surface, etc.  Most people do not do that.  Too much effort.  Easier to pull the handle of a slot or go with some silly set of numbers based on birthdays, etc.  But, win or lose, if the fans enjoy their afternoon at the races, they may return to have another relatively inexpensive day at the races.  Eventually, they may learn some of the basics of wagering and start making a few bucks.  Takeout rates may be more of an issue for those who take their wagering seriously but, in reality, how many of these are there?  Enough to support horseracing or to help it grow?

  • kyle

    The appeal of the lottery has nothing to do with gambling, even bad, stupid gambling. It’s about fantasy and escapism. For a dollar or two you get to spend a day or two imagining what you would do with all that money. Not only can racing not duplicate that experience it should not try. The more we emphasize the big score the more players we canabalize and the more churn we impede. That said, there is one event in racing that would lend itself to an actual lottery and that’s The Kentucky Derby.

  • Charlie Davis

    Actually, Sweden has done it very well.  That fantasy of winning millions obviously attracts a lot of people, and if they got to watch a race, rather than watching a ping-pong ball drop, I think we’d convert some to racing fans.  

    I’m not saying to replace our current betting menu, I’m saying to supplement it with something like this: http://sports.espn.go.com/spor…“It is estimated that 1 million people a week play the V75, many of them buying it off track at places like grocery stores. ”

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    Like our nation “THE GAME” has been been run in the ground by a bunch of SELF SERVING GREEDY BA$TARDS…Thats all about to CHANGE!!!…ty…

    • David

      Racing analogist to the Nation at large?  Personally, I don’t think those boys on the
      Hill are going to change things for us one way or another any more than I feel a
      new group of “SELF SERVING GREEDY BA$TARDS” will help racing.  Just
      why are things about to change? 

      • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

        Its time for it…Period…ty…

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    Like our nation “THE GAME” has been been run in the ground by a bunch of SELF SERVING GREEDY BA$TARDS…Thats all about to CHANGE!!!…ty…

  • David

    Racing analogist to the Nation at large?  Personally, I don’t think those boys on the
    Hill are going to change things for us one way or another any more than I feel a
    new group of “SELF SERVING GREEDY BA$TARDS” will help racing.  Just
    why are things about to change? 

  • Harry

    Will somebody tell Maryland officials of this new concept of promoting horse racing instead of keeping everything a secret. No billboards,no radio ads, no television ads no nothing promoting horse racing in Maryland. Why, the market between Baltimore and Washington is a great market to entice fans to come to either Laurel or Pimlico.Mr.Stronach must have told his management team just “open the doors and if they come fine and if they don’t that is fine also. The Howard County property is worth plenty dollars.” Sad so sad!!!!

    • nu-fan

      Harry:  I would think that your comments could be applied at many other tracks as well.  Yes, it is sad.

  • Harry

    Will somebody tell Maryland officials of this new concept of promoting horse racing instead of keeping everything a secret. No billboards,no radio ads, no television ads no nothing promoting horse racing in Maryland. Why, the market between Baltimore and Washington is a great market to entice fans to come to either Laurel or Pimlico.Mr.Stronach must have told his management team just “open the doors and if they come fine and if they don’t that is fine also. The Howard County property is worth plenty dollars.” Sad so sad!!!!

  • Convene

    Ironic, isn’t it, that Hastings can be rising even though it’s in a smaller market while all Ontario can do is make sure to kill its tracks dead. I wonder why we couldn’t do better here. Then I remember that our local TV station couldn’t even be bothered to notice the Breeders Cup even existed. Heck, they didn’t even broadcast a word even about Canada’s premier race, the Queens Plate! Too busy lamenting, I guess, about the spoiled babies of the NHL pouting over their million-plus dollar salaries. I emailed the channel about the Breeders Cup with zero response. Maybe with the death of racing in Ontario, horses will head west and boost Hastings to the stature of Woodbine – and pay their tax dollars to that region instead of Ontario.

  • Convene

    Ironic, isn’t it, that Hastings can be rising even though it’s in a smaller market while all Ontario can do is make sure to kill its tracks dead. I wonder why we couldn’t do better here. Then I remember that our local TV station couldn’t even be bothered to notice the Breeders Cup even existed. Heck, they didn’t even broadcast a word even about Canada’s premier race, the Queens Plate! Too busy lamenting, I guess, about the spoiled babies of the NHL pouting over their million-plus dollar salaries. I emailed the channel about the Breeders Cup with zero response. Maybe with the death of racing in Ontario, horses will head west and boost Hastings to the stature of Woodbine – and pay their tax dollars to that region instead of Ontario.

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    Its time for it…Period…ty…

  • nu-fan

    Harry:  I would think that your comments could be applied at many other tracks as well.  Yes, it is sad.

  • Trulyengaged

    Try as they might; I’ve been there and these young fans are not horseplayers and will not become horseplayers, they don’t even like to gamble. 

    Handle is not up at Hastings, field size is ridiculous and so is the quality of racing.  There comes a point in time when these smaller tracks need to realize they are no different than the larger ones.  Why don’t they try and get more revenue from the fans they have that like to spend their expendable or non expendable gaming dollars on horse racing already by treating them decently. 

  • Trulyengaged

    Try as they might; I’ve been there and these young fans are not horseplayers and will not become horseplayers, they don’t even like to gamble. 

    Handle is not up at Hastings, field size is ridiculous and so is the quality of racing.  There comes a point in time when these smaller tracks need to realize they are no different than the larger ones.  Why don’t they try and get more revenue from the fans they have that like to spend their expendable or non expendable gaming dollars on horse racing already by treating them decently. 

  • Sophiam

    Hi Charlie!

    I’d love to speak with you. I’m the new Director of Marketing at Emerald Downs and I’d love to save you your gas money! You can email me at sophiam@emeralddowns.com or call at 253-288-7719. Same goes for anyone else I can assist in my role here at Emerald. Cheers!

  • Sophiam

    While you are in the great Pacific Northwest, please be sure to stop by Emerald Downs. We are only 30 minutes outside of Seattle and have the best view of Mt. Rainier in the Puget Sound. Our taco bar is dynamite as well. I’d be happy to have you as my guest. When you are ready to make plans please reach out to me: Sophia Mangalee, Dir. of Marketing, Emerald Downs. Email: sophiam@emeralddowns.com or call 253-288-7719. All the best and Happy Racing!

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