(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.