If I had a $1 for every word tweeted, posted, spoken or written about Santa Anita and the proposed reforms for that track I could have covered many a bar bill. Today I would like to address improvements that racing should adopt that have nothing to do with drugs, whips or track surfaces. For a number of reasons (i.e. politics, bureaucracy, protecting of turf, incompetence) these common sense reforms will most likely not be enacted. That being said we can always hope.
Handle would be improved if fields were fuller and the racing experience was better for the customer. To that end I offer the following suggestions.
1) Decrease the takeout. Every study shows that this will increase the churn and keep bettors and their bankrolls in better shape. The wide discrepancy in comparison to casino and sports betting must be narrowed for the game to survive.
2) There needs to be less racing so that the limited number of horses are not spread over too many tracks or dates. This could be accomplished either by some tracks closing and/or reducing their dates.
3) As a corollary to item #2, at the very least tracks within one state should cooperate. As an example, if Charles Town and Mountaineer would not run against each other the racing product would be better at both locations.
4) As a corollary to items #2 and #3, tracks within the same regions should coordinate their meetings. As an example, Parx, Delaware Park and Laurel could better coordinate their dates so as to not knock heads. This requires the smaller tracks to swallow their pride but just look at the Delaware Park handle when they have no local competition in comparison to their Saturday handle.
5) As the last corollary to item #2, each track should go back to having meets that do not last the majority of the year. Without looking it up, can anyone tell me what are the closing and opening dates for the most recent Penn National or Parx meetings? Every other sport has an “opening day” and fanfare that surrounds it.
6) When local tracks are competing against each other, it would at least be beneficial if they did not card the same types of races on the same days.
7) Place a camera right on the finish line of every track. Thank you Los Alamitos!
8) I get high definition on my phone but not at most racetracks. Why?
9) The racing marketing departments need to up their game. Promotions should revolve around increasing foot traffic with the goal being to capture some of the newcomers who come for the promotions and turning them into repeat visitors. This is not accomplished just by having another ostrich race, camel race or a sprint of jockeys out of the starting gate. Do not let this secret get out, but when a facility has good food, fun, and accommodating customer service, fans will be more likely to attend. Check out what many minor league baseball teams do to market their product. A free betting voucher to newcomers would give them the experience of making a bet. A customer service booth to answer basic questions should also be a no-brainer.
10) Have one section at every track that exclusively serves the high rollers.
11) Have one section at the track that is for adults only. In this section there will be no crying babies, and no kids to dodge. There will be booze, craft beer and happening looking staff. For the business model, see many casinos.
12) To increase their off track handle tracks would be wise to spend some money on their simulcast show. Thank you Gulfstream and NYRA for your great hosts, great production values and great information.
13) Do not charge for admission or parking. I do not pay to get into a casino.
14) Racing data should be free, or at the very least more affordable.
15) Racing should promote their jockeys and allow them the opportunity to interact with fans. Most jockeys would be more than happy to do this. Autograph booths and “meet the fan” promotions are natural fits.
I am sure many of you could add to this list. If we can increase handle this will allow for an increase in purses that is not dependent on slots or fickle government handouts. Increased purses would allow more opportunities for more ownership and more horses. More horses will lead to fuller fields and better wagering opportunities which should lead to increased handle. That is the circle of racing life.
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