Here's a good old fashioned sales funnel. You start with a swath of potential customers, and end up with a customer who buys something. Success.
Horse racing's sales funnel to turn a new visitor into an every day horseplayer is unlike many others I've encountered, especially in the Internet age. It's pretty leaky.
Your potential customer comes to the track has a nice time and you want him back. Maybe he saw an ad in the paper. Maybe he came with co-workers for a employee outing. He's the type of guy that comes to the track for the first time. He represents no real demographic.
He finds racing too complex. Leak.
He finds it too expensive: Parking, program, racing form, food, $6 beer. Leak.
He compares it to his time in a casino, or at that neat NFL game he went to last year. Leak.
That's enough for him to not come back, or come back once a year. Failure.
How about if we pre-qualify him? Like racing should be doing.
He's 40, he has money, he has no kids, he bets football and baseball, he has an online poker account, he plays the stock market, he likes sports, he enjoys a mental challenge.
He enjoys his time at the track, and the gambling, but he isn't fighting traffic each day to go, so he asks to sign up for an ADW account, but finds out in his state he can't bet, or can't bet the tracks he's taking a shine to. Leak.
If he gets past that hurdle, he finds out no matter what he does, he can't win enough to stop re-loading his account. He's tried everything. He's hitting a lot of winners, but he can't stop losing. It's nothing like online poker where he can play for a month on one deposit. He finds out the takeout is huge, the track he likes just raised it on him for good measure...... and a light bulb goes off - back to poker. Leak.
He still wants to keep things going, though, because he wants to follow racing. One day after not playing for a month he goes back to his ADW to watch the races on a Saturday, because it's Travers Day. He learns his free program is gone and he can't get video anymore, because he is below the month's betting threshold for free video and PPs. Betting the baseball game tonight has no such issues. Leak, this time maybe for good.
To become a long term customer of racing - one where you get to the point where you can gripe about pick 4 rules in New York, lasix, drugs, and everything else we do each day - there's a whole lot of leaks.
Like any business, racing must plug the leaks the best they can. In an environment that is so fractured and so detrimental to speedy change, it's one tough task. I feel for my friends employed in marketing in the sport. They're really up against it.