Alternative Actions: The players are your partners

by Frank Cotolo

Racetrack managements, adjust the definition of your harness racing product.

You present a specific theater — a show — each time you greet the public live, via simulcast or online with a race program. That show is unique among all forms of live-sports entertainment because its success depends upon the number of people participating with a deft financial interest. What other major-league sport carries such a strong camaraderie with its customers?

They’re more than customers, they’re partners, and it is time to start treating them with incessant appreciation.

Pari-mutuels players are not merely “fans.” They may like particular drivers and certain horses and they may dig the surroundings and the colorful symmetry of the races themselves, but those ingredients, even combined, don’t compare with the customer’s passion for making and hopefully winning wagers. So, are your customers truly fans? Would they be taking time out of their lives to be spectators? If your customers are fanatic (fans) about any one thing, it’s betting on harness racing.

Identifying and satisfying your betting audience is imperative to keep them playing and for creating and maintaining new bettors. Yes, they are bettors, gamblers, punters. Survival depends upon knowing them and appealing to them and wanting them to succeed. Everything about how you view them must change for you and your partners.

A bold shift in focus and policy is needed to personalize the relationship between raceway and partner (patron), whether they show up to bet at the track or they make wagers into the pools from devices outside the racing arena.

Where would you start? What would you do? Suggestions will abound in this continuing column. They are not specific plans; they are meant to inspire track managements to make the big shift in their perspective of players. The old-school methods are on life support.

What makes me so proficient in suggesting such a strong new approach? I am a player. I have played pari-mutuels and bookie-based races on both sides of the pond. I know what it’s like to walk the apron, dine in the restaurants, cavort in the clubhouses because I am a player and I have been in touch with thousands of other players, many whom were introduced to pari-mutuels betting by me. I know things must change for the benefit of all players.

King Lear told his daughter Cordelia, “Nothing will come of nothing.” In that spirit, seriously consider suggestions we will continually make to do something.

Every track needs to get to know its players by name and obtain contact information, in order to prove that the track is their partner. Swearing privacy for getting such information, the track then needs to stay in touch with its players through email, offering special plans and services, a program the track could, for instance, call “Perks For Partners.”

With a program like Perks For Partners, the track keeps a simple database of names and email addresses it can obtain, to start, with those who physically attend the programs. Have a track representative walk through the place, asking people for the information, telling them that special offers — about betting — will be sent to them. This could be the person (or one of the persons) who is a host of the in-house and simulcast broadcasts. He or she mingling with the crowd shows an interest on the other side of the camera that will convince the audience the track is actually taking notice of players.
About the special offers…
All offers should be developed concerning the players’ main interest — betting (in future columns I’ll make specific suggestions). As well, the rep has to make it known to players that everyone in the track administration wants them to win. After all, unlike a casino, the pari-mutuel system is brilliantly designed so that bettors don’t play to serve “the house.” Casinos need more patrons to lose than win. Casinos could never be partners with patrons because in order to survive they must host loser after loser — the bigger the loser the better. Pari-mutuels thrive on how much patrons wager and are never reliant upon players’ losses. What matters to the pari-mutuels system is that players play. Period.
Raceway management should ceaselessly emphasize to players a single message: We want you to win. Think of all the slogans a raceway could create that support such a partnership. Some examples off the top of my head follow . . .
At [TRACK], you are never playing with our money. Whatever you win is yours, so win all you can.
At [TRACK] every racing program promotes winners.
[TRACK] is a winning proposition.
At [TRACK] the winning is on us.
You wanna bet? [TRACK} wants you to bet and help you win.
[TRACK] celebrates players.
[TRACK]–where players are our partners.
More every month on the pari-mutuel partner revolution.