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Monday, August 19, 2013

You would be intimidated too!

(This was a blog I wrote on the Today's Racing Digest website.)

Imagine yourself going to a race track for the first time in this day and age. You enter the gates, you buy a program and you are basically pushed into a tilt-a-wheel ride as your head spins from all the race track and betting lingo.

You go to try to make a bet at the windows, but others are yelling at you to hurry up and you still really don’t understand what you just bet.  There are all these TV’s with different races going on.  Is that the track I want to play?  What are all these grids with numbers in the infield?  What about the horse?  What are those bandages around its legs?  Why is its tongue tied?

Basically, that’s what a newcomer has to deal with when they go to the races unless they are with others that know what they are doing. At most all race tracks, there is little help for a newcomer and it has been that way for years. Another way to look at this is playing craps for the first time.


You see all these places on the table to place a bet, there are chips all around, dice are thrown and there is a guy with a stick who controls the game. It is intimidating if you don’t know what to do and it is similar to being a first timer at the track.

Most every track nowadays offers nine types of wagers: Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Double, Pick 3 and Pick 4.  Other than the WPS wagers, exotics wagering can be played different ways: straight, box, key or wheel.  As a newcomer, you would be expected to know what each bet is, how to bet it and how it is paid off.

True, many tracks offer seminars which explain a bit about wagering, horses, jockeys and trainers and there are websites which can help as well.  However, most of these seminars last around one hour before the races begin and you are left on your own afterwards.  What about those who have questions during the races?

This past spring at Keeneland, they introduced “Betologists” which were people they employed to roam around the facility throughout the day answering questions about horse racing and wagering.  This is a good way to be pro-active by going to the customer instead of the customer going out of their way to find help.

I’ve never understood why race tracks are not very pro-active.  It seems they just open the doors and let people handle it on their own.  What if there was a seminar or a type of class that was offered outside of the race track?  Give people an understanding of what goes on before they go.  Let them go to a mock betting window and make mock bets at one of these seminars so they know what to expect when they do it for real.  Then, show a race or two and show the payouts to let them understand what types of bets paid what.

Now that race tracks have the newcomer at the track, how do they get them to come back?  What if they try a promotion that the advanced deposit wagering websites do for newcomers by offering a cash incentive?  Bet $50 get back $50.  A race track can do the same, but maybe for a less amount of say $20.  Bet $20 today and we’ll give you a $20 wager voucher for the next time you attend the races.

We as horseplayers can only help the tracks so much with helping bring new people.  Maybe the tracks can help themselves by going outside of the track with some horse racing classes to help give newcomers a head start.  Then, how about some “Betologists” like the ones at Keeneland to help newcomers from the first race to the last.  And finally, give newcomers a reason to come back with a cash incentive.  Maybe all this can help with the intimidation factor which may lead to more newcomers attending the races and help reverse the current trend of declining live racing attendance.

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