When harness racing returns, the public deserves a monetary welcome

When harness racing returns, the public deserves a monetary welcome

May 22, 2020

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by Frank Cotolo

After the long, strenuous global lockdown, harness meets will emerge from the silence with thundering hoofbeats. Horses and horsemen will be ready to compete again with no problems; they were working out during the absence of pari-mutuel racing in preparation for North America’s 2020 re-opening.

The public will also be ready for the re-opening of racing action. Even with whatever social-distancing restrictions are in play, the two audiences that support raceway business will be shooting from the traps, so to speak, with near reckless abandon.

The virtual betting audience will be the only “attendance” during the first phase of the “Canada Blueprint” for racing to continue. They will be excited to rejoin their pari-mutuel competitors even though most will participate within the confines of the recent lockdown. By then they will be worn out binging on prestige-television series and movies, bored, in fact, with passive entertainment. Firing up their computers or mobile apps, the “outside attendance,” so to speak, will be locked and loaded for action.

The blueprint’s other phases will involve a live audience. But, for the immediate returning fans, bettors or both, raceway administrations need to pay special attention. Do not for a moment rely on bettors’ anticipation to bring business back. A flagrant display of welcoming needs to be concocted. In other words–beware, because the action on the track and betting connected to it is not enough to rely upon. To truly celebrate and thank the public for returning, they must be greeted with gifts.

Let’s focus on the best kind of gifts to show your audience appreciation — cash. In the case of the first phase, of course, it should be virtual cash, with as much potency as if each member of the audience was handed legal tender. Ordinarily, free money is always received with open hands, but it is an extra special gift these days, considering the situation that stopped bettors from action in the first place.

Plus, due to the pandemic, many people have been (and may still be) out of work and short of the usual cash at hand they used to wager. For that, along with accumulated emotional disturbances, they may be a little shy betting what they did when they felt solvent. Free money is addressing the problem with generosity. It is a perfect time for any raceway to produce a unique stimulus program.

Alternative Actions does not have all of the details for such programs. As usual, though, we offer suggestions upon which your marketing department can build upon.

One super device to give away cash is the voucher; good for betting at your track only. There is not a person alive who would turn down vouchers worth any amount at a pari-mutuels track. Free money is free money. Your marketing department probably already has the digital means to get such credit into the hands of virtual bettors (some form of email coupon or special code, as used in Internet promotions for discount subscriptions and special reduced prices for this or that product) They probably also know how the voucher can be cashed.

Yes, cashed. That is a key component to voucher promotions–never call them vouchers. Call them “CASH” or any word identifiable with actual money. Then, personalize the track tender in promos and ads. At Delaney Downs, our go-to fictional raceway for example presentations, we could call them “Delaney Dollars.”

Important, also, is that Delaney Dollars [sic] themselves are free. This is not a common lottery, where everyone gets a voucher but only a few are worth cash. It’s the ultimate give-away deal. It’s free money. All anyone has to do is claim it in accordance to any rules you provide (so much a week or capped at a certain amount for the meet, etcetera).

Promote to the public that all vouchers guarantee cash. Put whatever limits you want on the value(s) of the track cash but do not be cheap, because the most important part of all this is that the voucher value only has one destination–the betting pools.The cash amounts may only be used when betting at your track, so they incite more bets, larger ones even, for everyone using them–and be sure of one thing–everyone will use them.Sure, it’s a rebate, but it benefits the common betting public and the track.

And for sure, when the pandemic smoke has cleared, after you end the promo, those who took advantage of the track’s generous cooperation will not forget about it. They will bring you business lined with loyalty, which will be reflected in your future handle and a lasting relationship with the public.

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