In the opinion of a few of horse racing’s customers, the sport has the best “video game” available but fails to capitalize on it.
Fans and handicappers had the chance Oct. 13 to share their opinions during the International Simulcast Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. They see a game not meeting its potential.
“We’re in the gambling business, and we have to stop apologizing for it,” said John Pricci, executive editor of HorseRaceInsider.com and an adviser to the Handicappers Association of North America. “We’re not aggressive. The lotteries are aggressive, and they’re rip-off outfits.”
Pricci said there are “one hundred life-changing scores” possible each day at the racetrack. He said he recently wagered $32 and missed winning $109,000 in the final race of a pick sequence.
“Is a day at the races out of step with the video game generation?” Pricci said. “Perhaps, but you have the ultimate video game here.”
Mike Dorr, senior manager of Program Management Analytics Asurion and a racing fan for only about four years, called himself a “stats geek.” He said other sports continually innovate to keep their products fresh.
“The ultimate video game is not being marketed to people who are used to manipulating data,” Dorr said.
Michael Amo, co-founder of the Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, said horse racing is “DRIP”—data-rich but information-poor.
“There is a tremendous amount of data, but where is the real information (for individuals learning the game)?” Amo said. “New fans need education; it’s critical. You have a lot of talking heads, but are they really educating?”
Pricci said racing damages itself by allowing the wrong message to be sent. For instance, the media will have an excuse not to cover racing when it’s announced only 7,000 people were on hand for the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) program at Belmont Park, he said, but in reality there probably were tens of thousands of people wagering on and watching those races in the New York City metro area either off track or in their homes.
“I think the mainstream media would say we can’t afford to overlook (that many) people,” Pricci said.
Of all the recent innovations in simulcasting, the panelists said the Trakus system in use at Keeneland and Woodbine is extremely valuable to patrons.