Engaging On-Track Fans With Social Games

Racetracks can improve the on-track experience with social gaming.

Racetracks may not have the wherewithal to build their own version of Angry Birds to create brand awareness, but they may be able to offer social games to keep fans on-site engagedand hopefully return.

A panel discussion on social gaming Dec. 11 at the 40th annual Arizona Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming offered several ideas for tracks to engage digitally with younger fans. Among the ideas included offering online contests that reward people at the track for accomplishing simple tasks, such as placing a bet or visiting a specific area of the racetrack.

"Life is a game but to turn experience into a game, you need to keep score," said Hai Ng, co-founder of Neomancer, a gaming technology consultancy and advisory firm. "Score points for getting a hot dog. Score points for putting a bet down, for trying a more complicated bet, or even tweeting. You give them badges."

Customers who earn a certain amount of points or special awards online may then be eligible for more tangible prizes to be given out later that day.

"Don't be afraid to leverage your advantage; something no one else provides for an on-track experience," Ng said. "A simple prize that could be priceless could be a chance to be in the winner's circle."

Ng also encouraged track executives to investigate what other industries outside racing are doing.

"You may have to be a little creative and a little flexible in how you perceive a problem, but some other industry may have already solved ita developer with a fresh idea," he said. "Make it less intimidating, but don't dumb it down or you'll insult them. They want to feel like they've become an expert. So don't change the language, teach the language."

Sophia McKee, director of marketing for Emerald Downs, said the Washington state track implemented 123Racing as a way to get fans involved by playing games for free, then provide the means for them to later place their fantasy bets online with real money.

"(123Racing) was an easy way to bridge that gap but is not dumbed down because it still offers them handicapping tools they can use," said McKee. "One of the advantages is that it is already built."

"Don't underestimate the value of free play," said panel moderator Vin Narayanan, editor-in-chief of Casino City. "It gets people playing the product, it gets them comfortable with the product, and it keeps them coming back."