More thoughts on the struggling business
I decided to broach the subject again, prompted by a discussion on Facebook about new sulkies causing more favorites to win, causing less people to gamble on the sport. Yes, this has merit, BUT these are tweaks made to a successful or somewhat successful product. Our product is far from successful.
Those who attend racing are broken into basically three types; Loyalist, $2/fun bettors and gamblers.
Harness loyalists, those that go just to bet harness, are not enough to keep harness racing going. I don’t think anyone can argue that. There just aren’t enough guys who go regularly anymore.
$2 bettors are $2 dollar bettors. They come for fun, watch the pretty bay, have a beer and a hotdog. They do not generate enough money and they will never become $100 bettors.
GAMBLERS, $100 to $1,000 a night bettor, that’s your target! That’s who was lost since the ‘80s.
In my opinion the focus should be on WHY gamblers quit betting on harness and WHERE did they go.
We keep using 70s-80s as the benchmark. Times have changed since then. There is MORE competition. That’s one of the “WHYs” they left.
WHERE? Casinos, sports betting, poker, etc. Gamblers are now treated to fast paced games. More action, less dead time. It’s easy to go into a casino and pull a handle every 10 seconds, or get dealt cards every five minutes or roll dice every two-to-three minutes. Yes, even sports betting has more action. You bet at the beginning of the game and then you watch the action. Take football, there are plays every 30 seconds. That’s ACTION every 30 seconds on your bet. You can even make bets DURING the game… more action! It keeps you engaged. Gamblers want action!
What do we have? 10 or 15 minutes between races? Who the hell knows how much time it really is since we now post drag and just make the bettor wait even longer! BORING!
And I get that racing has changed. More front-end winners, more short prices, more short fields, etc. I’ve been betting harness for 48 years. I’ve seen it. But those are NOT the main reasons people left or why we can’t attract new people. It’s that the competition is more attractive.
I played poker occasionally and I run into harness guys from the 80-90s and when I say, “don’t see you there anymore”, their response is, “This is more fun. More action.”
The other WHY is the integrity of the sport. The competition offers an “honest” bet. Way too easy to cheat in racing than what the competition offers. We desperately need to fix that image! In my opinion, that’s the biggest reason they won’t come back.
I wish I had the “end all” answer, but I don’t. I can tell you, we must clean up the sport, prove that it’s on the up and up. Provide new types of betting that cause excitement. I don’t know… maybe a Pick 3 that consists of two races and a sports bet. Maybe a race exacta. Winner at the half and the race winner. Maybe the time of the race parlayed with the winner. There are sports apps that calculate odds for anything… Let’s tap into that. I don’t know… something different.
It’s time to progress. Move forward. Going back to the 1980’s bike. The 2:00 minute mile. Just so we can go down to 25 per cent favorites? Which may raise the win prices from $3.60 to $7.20 or even $12.00? I don’t think that’s going to bring enough gamblers through your doors to make you a thriving business again.
Manny Guagliardo / Hoffman Estates, IL
Why do we allow drivers to wear stables colors? As a bettor all this does is confused me. I am looking for my driver’s colors and don’t see them because they changed. STOP this NOW! Do stables have such big egos that they force drivers to wear their colors? Instead of wasting money on stable colors donate to charity or sponsor a race.
Mike Kozuchowski / Elmhurst, IL