Commentary: Horse Racing’s Chance Of A Lifetime

by | 05.17.2020 | 5:30pm
The Churchill Downs grandstand was empty for Saturday's opening day, but more than $14 million was bet via advance deposit wagering accounts

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the greatest advantage for horse racing above all other sports in the U.S.:  interstate online wagering. Other sports do not have a similarly significant advantage as horse racing does with this platform to generate revenue from the gambling dollar. Hence, with virtually all other sports either just starting to play again, or not yet resumed, horse racing is the focus for the wagering public. And wagering they are!

On Saturday, Churchill Downs and Santa Anita each handled more than $14 million. This amount far exceeded last year's same day handle. From Fonner Park to Los Alamitos, name any racetrack able to run races and generate handle via online platforms – the results are staggering! Record-breaking handle is the norm.

The horse racing industry must act and act now to retain a newly found consumer; many of these new betting consumers are usually attracted to more mainstream sports.

But, horse racing has them now. We must retain them now. We must act now to do so. The horse racing industry must spend advertising money to gain more visibility with the betting public. Even with these record-breaking numbers, so many more players are out there looking for “action” tomorrow. Let's capture them today.

The strategy is fourfold:

  1. Spend advertising dollars now while other sports are not spending.
  2. Focus on the betting public and create a greater awareness of the horse racing industry to capture the interest and imagination of the massively large betting public. Let them know how easy it is to wager online. Once customers are allowed on-track, these new online players will try the product in its live format.
  3. Focus on a retention campaign for the newly found customer playing the races while other sports are not available.
  4. Build market share for online horse racing wagering dollars while other sports are not active on advertising platforms.

Other sports are soon to be active. We must strike while we have the best ever opportunity to capture newly found customers, retain our new customers and our loyal customers, and therefore, increase market share.

Attention horse racing industry leaders: Please talk to each other today. Let's create a strategy and put a plan together to make horse racing more mainstream again. As Dan Fogelberg so eloquently sang in the “Run for the Roses” lyrics he wrote, “It's the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance.”

George Bradvica is a lifelong lover of horses, starting on his uncle's farm in Riverside, Calif. He's worked in marketing, operations and racing departments at Southern California tracks since the 1980s and is currently employed by the 22nd District Agricultural Association in Del Mar.

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