Opinion: Horse Racing Needs Innovation ‘More Than Ever’ To Survive

by | 09.12.2017 | 10:28am

Much has been written about what horse racing should do to attract new fans to the sport. It seems that opinions are divided between those that feel the sport is dying to those that do not believe the outlook is that bleak.

In a column written for Gaming Today, Robert Mann believes that innovation must be at the forefront of racing's quest to grow. Mann says that tracks that have come up with new wagering ideas – such as Kentucky Downs' Jockey7 Wager and the ‘Pick 10 Survivor Wager' that The Meadowlands will implement during its upcoming race meet as positive steps. Legalizing sports betting across the country would also help.

“Horse racing needs innovation more than ever.,” Mann says. “More than just praise for new ideas, monetary support by the players and the industry is what's needed.”

Read more at Gaming Today

  • Steve viuker

    The demise of Monmouth Park into a sad shell of a racetrack; known more for food trucks and obnoxious trainers who cheat and curse in public, is all you need to know

  • Concerned Observer

    This is an amazing article. Totally pointless. Racing needed innovation 30 years ago, before it let it’s followers and ardent fans disappear. Today, it will need to attract a whole new core group and that is unlikely. It is not that many innovative ideas have not been floated, it is that the leadership (mostly big breeders) are still making a lot of money selling high end yearlings, or operating their casinos…so who cares about racing’s fate?

    As I have said before. “Horse racing is the Sears of the entertainment industry”. And you know how well sticking to your traditional business strategy and operations processes has worked for Sears.

  • Steve

    In most cases, high level racetrack management are out of touch with innovation, if you propose a new idea to them, they look at you like you’re from another planet, and low level management are afraid to try something new for fear of losing their job if it doesn’t work.

  • MikeB

    I’ve been playing for 40 years, but because of many factors I no longer play stateside
    tracks. For the last 4 years I’ve been very content playing just the Hong Kong races.
    What a refreshing change from what’s being offered in the States. There are so many positive aspects to their game it’s just incredible. The bottom line is that they concern themselves with their patrons FIRST by providing a game that’s veracious and totally transparent. It’s a wonder why the local racing jurisdictions just don’t get it. They simply seem to ignore the slow demise of their game and have refused to initiate any real positive changes. Offering wagering gimmicks is a far cry from what’s really necessary to improve the local game and attract new players.

  • Blue Larkspur

    They still don’t get it, do they?
    Racing will not attract anyone new until it becomes cheat free and dedicated to the horse, which includes funding after care.

    • Buckpasser

      Exactly. Further they need to work on getting more states to be able to have parimutuel betting. My state of NC doesn’t allow it as do many other states.

      I’ve been a fan since the 1950’s and racing has always been behind the curve in innovation. Previously horse racing could just muddle along because they were the only gambling permitted in many states. Now that has changed dramatically.

      Further once the casino subsidies are gone or at the very least dramatically lessened, horse racing has better figure out another stream of revenue, or they are gone.

      Finally, the horses have to race more and stay around longer to attract the fans. The early retirement of top horses has been killing the sport for years.

  • Bob83

    This is ridiculous….lower the prices at the tracks for concessions. It’s not much harder than that to generate more people at the track.

    $10 for on Coors light bottle at Del Mar??? A six pack at the stores cost $5.00.

    I’ve never been to Saratoga and I’ve heard it’s worse there. Santa Anita isn’t much better.

    Track management always wants to compare the prices with other major sporting events but you can’t do that because horse racing is not the same thing.

    People need a reason to go to the track because 80% of the people there could care less about the sport itself and they aren’t fans. If you don’t give them a reason to go, they just won’t.

    This isn’t rocket science.

    • wmk3400

      As much as I love the place Saratoga is brutal. I always eat at a buffet before I enter the grounds. The prices for everything are way beyond ridiculous.

    • Dave Hunter

      I went to 33 days of the Saratoga meet and never even bought a DRF there, let alone any food items. I had not been there in 6 years and I was gobsmacked at the food and beverage price increases.

      • wmk3400

        Dave, I chuckled at your post (sorry, no insult intended). Were you shocked? I mean they charge five dollars admission at a time when most east coast tracks have casinos and charge nothing. Even the track program (I didn’t go this year so I don’t know what they charged) is more than other tracks that I patronize which is many.

        Not that you need to listen to me but the buffet at the harness track is pretty good and they open at 12pm. There’s a Golden Corral off exit 15. Eat whatever wherever but jam it down before you enter. They are truly the last vestige of racetrack operators running their business as if they are the only game in town. As much as I love the place their product is not hands down the best (check the purses at Kentucky Downs this year). Tradition, history and ambiance are fine and ducky but sooner or later they, the NYRA will manage to kill the golden goose. They always do.

        • Dave Hunter

          I chuckled at your post, too (no offense taken or meant). I either brought lunch with me or ate prior to going and brought an afternoon snack, usually the latter. As to the product, the longer the meet went on the more 5 and 6 horse fields we saw. And yes, I played KD and will play Keeneland this fall.

          Quite frankly, Saratoga is all about the owners and really doesn’t care about the patrons.

          • wmk3400

            Cool Dave. I would need to lug a picnic basket with me to enter Saratoga unfed. I eat as much as the horses do so I overeat before entering and work it off by walking miles in circles while I’m there.

            Yup, Saratoga is all about the elite which is AOK with me since I knew it before I entered. I stay in Albany at Chateau 6 or at the Travel Lodge off Wolf Road in Colonie when I’m in the area or else I couldn’t afford to go.

            People will argue about Saratoga being “the best” when it comes to the quality and maybe it is but it isn’t as good as it once was, not even close. Back in 1980 after Genuine Risk won the Derby and placed in the Preakness and Belmont she was rested until August. They carded a prep race for her which was the first race on opening day. Imagine that! Last year I was there on opening day. The first race was a maiden claimer. There were years back in the 70s, 80s and early 90s when there were no maiden claimers carded. One year they had only one which was for $300K/$100K. I’ve never seen that condition before or since and some of the horses that ran in that race were very good and had good careers. It ain’t the same these days no matter what anybody says otherwise.

  • anne russek

    innovative gambling ideas will appeal to one type of fan, the gambler. And since most gambling is considered to be an addiction , racing will be known as a sport that drugs horses, disposes of them via slaughter when they are finished with them, and focuses primarily on addicts as their fan base. What an innovative plan that is! unfortunately even an addicted gambler does not want to bet on horses that never win week in and week out at tracks that are more depressing than the home life that most gamblers are trying to escape from in the first place, and trainers and jockeys who , at best, are” has beens “that never were…….Maybe racing needs to acknowledge that more people know about what happens to thoroughbreds after racing(slaughter) than they know about who won last years Kentucky Derby. How many other sports have a fan base that feels sorry for the athletes that are competing? The only hope for racing is probably to offer less racing. Instead of saturating the industry with tired, unsound, non competitive horses, maybe there should only be three or four major racing circuits offering competitive racing, at all levels, that would enable the industry to enforce drug regulations and provide transparent alternative aftercare for its equine athletes.

  • Eric

    Unfortunately the “innovative” ideas that have been given to gamblers in the past 5-10 years have not actually had a positive impact.

    The “jackpot” style wager is something I would consider innovative, and I would even call it a financial success for some tracks such as GP. But its a horrible bet (very high daily takeout) and it really doesn’t do much good for the bettors.

    The Pick 10 survivor wager shouldn’t even be offered. The same top 5% of high roller players are going to win the bet over and over again by playing bigger tickets and merely outlasting smaller players. Big scores should be based on superior handicapping, not by merely outmuscling most of the pool with a big ticket with enough coverage to survive and outlast all the minnows in the pool, Bad idea for most bettors.

    Trakus technology had the potential to be innovative, but the technology has made no improvement since being introduced. If Trakus data can’t be trusted, then what good is it? Since there are obvious errors in the data, there are probably less obvious errors as well that are misleading bettors.

    Calling exchange wagering “innovative” may be a stretch because its been in use everywhere else in the world, but in the US it is the . But Betfair did a poor job of developing the online wagering platform, has done a terrible job of educating the potential customers in the NJ market (note to Betfair – airing the same commercial incessantly doesn’t help prospective bettors get over the apprehension of not understanding how the exchange works), and has had zero success making the wager legal outside of NJ. Very few people are really benefitting from exchange wagering.

  • Tom Davis

    A newcomer to the track must cash a few tickets or he won’t be coming back. Even if he ends up losing only a couple bucks at the end of the day, it was inexpensive entertainment because he cashed something. Plus it’s fun to cash. But if he bets these exotic wagers that are offered, forget it. He won’t cash a thing.

  • wmk3400

    There are some very interesting comments regarding this opinion piece that I agree with
    for the most part. Besides the actual issues that plague horseracing itself I’d like to add the following to the discussion:

    With the advent of racino gambling horseplayers ALWAYS are dealt with as being inferior to the slot and table players and I don’t care where I go, it is a constant. I’m a customer, not an A/H. If I’m treated with disdain I go elsewhere. If you act as if you don’t
    need or care about doing business with me then I won’t give it to you. I’m quite mobile and in fact with the internet I don’t have to go anywhere to have all the action I can handle.

    Most tracks are very uncomfortable and poorly conceived. Furniture is often a chiropractors’ dream. I also cannot fathom why indoor lighting is always dim. If indoors I need a flashlight to read a program. I don’t get it.

    Many facilities have ancient self-serve betting machines that needed to be replaced years ago. Also the ones that have individual TVs at seats even if they are free need to replace them every generation or so (and some like Delaware Park have the stones to charge for horrible old ones).

  • Al McBean

    gimmicky bets like the jockey 7 has zero effect on the sports popularity..it would be fairly easy to make horseracing as popular as any sport not named football but until the people that run the varying jurisdictions ban all drugs from the sport and make the integrity of the game there highest priority I would just as well see the game slowly die than become more popular.

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