California Offers Rebates to Players

The California Marketing Committee, a group of the state's leading racing executives, established a rebate system March 1 that rewards patrons based on their play at California racetracks and offtrack facilities.

The Golden State Rewards Network will issue a card to members that can be swiped at self-serve terminals in any of the state's pari-mutuel facilities. Each dollar wagered translates to one point earned toward prizes such as free admission, parking, or betting vouchers in various denominations, depending on the amount gambled.

"San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles represent three of the eight most expensive media markets in the country," said project manager T. Patrick Stubbs, who also serves as director of corporate development for Del Mar. "This program is a more effective and efficient way to market the product, horse racing, throughout the state. This is a framework from which individual facilities can offer their own prizes and add additional rewards."

That likely will be needed, because the rewards set out by the CMC are quite modest when stacked up against Las Vegas casinos or rebates offered by offshore bookmakers. For example, under the CMC points program, it would take $1,000 for a patron to earn free admission to a track or satellite for one day. A $50 wagering voucher would not be awarded until a patron gambled $10,000.

The CMC has run a pilot program of its rewards system since late June, testing various reward scenarios such as trips to Las Vegas. Patrons responded they want more wagering vouchers as part of the prize list, according to Stubbs. "We've been asked about trips to the Kentucky Derby or other facilities such as Gulfstream Park," Stubbs said. "If the patron asks for it, and we see a groundswell of support, we will try to work in into the program."

The CMC has printed 117,000 cards, and anticipates printing more before the year is up. The sign-up rate for the initial weekend, helped by the running of the Big 'Cap at Santa Anita, was "tremendous," said Stubbs.

If account wagering is passed in California, the system will be able to accommodate play from patrons' homes. The CMC's budget was restructured to initiate the rewards program by devoting $1.7 million to the project in 2001.


--Lenny Shulman