Part three: Summing up the value of promo events for bettors to increase business

by Frank Cotolo

Part 1 | Part 2

What follows is the final part of this mini-series exploration on increasing business using promotional events that include bettors — as in drivers’ tournaments.

This finale is testimony to the potency of the first two parts, captured by using the absurdity of opposites. This approach attempts to explain to track administrations that racetrack promotions excluding participation of bettors —arguably the pari-mutuel racetrack’s coveted customers — are futile for business.

The following promotions are based upon actual racetrack promotional events. They are explained simply, and then we add acerbic comments bettors are likely to make (because cynicism is the basic tone of pari-mutuel bettors). The comments highlight the promos’ irreverence to a bettor’s pari-mutuel experience.


Free Delaney Downs [sic] track-labeled beverage tumblers for all attending the races on (date). The official track logo is printed on the tumbler and is available as long as supplies last.

Plus, a professional racetrack bugler is live and plays the traditional call-to-post melody in the winner’s circle before every race.

Bettors say:

“Sure, a free cup, but no free coffee in it.”

“I know a guy collects racetrack tumblers and tries to sell them on eBay.”

“You could buy five tumblers for what they charge for the coffee at this track.”

“What’s the difference between a trumpet and a bugle?”

“Can the bugler play ‘Taps’ if we have a losing night?”


Delaney Downs is a great place for the collegiate crowd on (date). Show your valid college student ID and get special drink prices, half-priced race programs, one $2 wagering voucher and more.

Bettors say:

“Geez, sorry I lost my valid college ID 20 years ago.”

“They’d get more people coming if they held ‘College Drop-out’ night.”

“If they can put away their phones and watch the races it’ll be a miracle.”

“All the night needs is a live bugler.”


Bettors buy in for $300, of which $100 goes to prize money and $200 is their betting bankroll. Contestants must wager $10 win and place on any 10 races on the 15-race program. Players keep all pari-mutuel bets earned. The winners of the contest are the players with the largest bankrolls at the end of the race card. From the prize money, the winner gets 50 per cent, followed by 25 per cent for second, 12 per cent for third, 8 per cent for fourth and 5 per cent for fifth.

Bettors say:

“The best handicapper never wins these things.”

“The best handicappers never enter these things.”

“So I could lose all of my $300 in the contest? I can do that on my own.”

“In Las Vegas, handicapping contests you get all you can eat and drink while you play. You don’t here.”

“Can you break even if you don’t win the whole thing?”

“Are there refunds or rebates?”

“Is there a live bugler for the races on contest night?”

The handicapping-contest promotion is a prime example of a poor way to involve bettors in promotions. Most public relations people think it is a great, if not the best, way. In fact, it has
a psychological flaw — it demands a bettor pay to play. Were a handicapping contest to offer a guaranteed purse distributed the same way as the buy-in type, a bettor would react to it like he or she does for a huge carry-over exotic pool. If the track offered a five-digit “purse” for the first five winners, the lure to play would greatly increase. The track could still ask for an entry fee if it amounted to pocket change (or the price of a beverage tumbler).

Big prizes for handicapping contests could be sponsor supported. The track would connect with one or more local or international products/services to come up with a five- or even six-digit purse. Advertising the contest to attract players should emphasize “the pot” and the “no (or minor) entry fee” angles.

All advertisements must make reference to the fact there is no buy-in to participate and win a cash prize. There is another important thing to emphasize; it is a condition that no other handicapping contests ever suggest — no experience necessary!

Although handicapping contests do not demand anyone prove he or she is a handicapper/bettor, the inference in the title of the contest implies it is a challenge for handicappers/bettors, people that “know more” than the casual pari-mutuel fan.

By literally informing everyone of betting age qualifies for the contest and that anyone can enter for free, more people should be available to take a gamble. This ploy is a smart way to use the tired lottery slogan, “You can’t win if you don’t play,” which infers all participants are equal because luck may be on your side.

Racetracks survive by keeping any and all customers satisfied, loyal and appreciated, targeting people that support its existence and doing so even if it has to put a live bugler on the payroll.

…to be continued