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Racing's (Lack of) End User Understanding

Out of the hundreds of buzzwords the 2000's have brought us, one of them is surely "big data". Looking at trends, the actions of many, smoothed out with fancy software programs and analyzed in new ways has certainly helped in the understanding of people and markets.

But, when we constantly look big, we lose the opinions of the components that are small.

In the book Small Data, the author says, "Big Data is all about finding correlations, but Small Data is all about finding the causation, the reason why."

One of the ways he used small data was as simple as one could imagine. He put executives in the same position a company's (in this case a South American bank) customers are in on a daily basis.


That's using a Dr. Watson, in an IBM Watson world.

Horse racing's most valuable customers -- those who play daily, want to play daily, and want to keep racing a part of their life -- go through a lot to stay customers. But I am not sure anyone in power in the sport knows just how difficult it is to stay engaged.

A worthwhile challenge would be for those in power in racing to open up an ADW account from their state, and play the races for six months, five days a week.

For a Churchill executive, sign up for a DRF account. You'll find out that you may like a horse at your track, but you can't lay a wager on the horse because you don't sell the DRF your track's signal. Then you'll go through the time-consuming exercise of opening up another account, and funding it, all so you can bet your popular track.

If you're a Woodbine executive you might find out that the $132 you cashed on an exacta at Keeneland is short-changed by your company, and it's lower than what everyone else received. Why? You might know, but you'll wonder if your customers do, because it's posted nowhere but in the fine print.

If you're a member of the TOC, you might find that Jane from Florida received 4% cash back, but you didn't because of where you live. You scour social media to find out what others do in this situation and you find out that they call their grandmother in South Dakota to open an account for them, so they can play on a level playing field with everyone else.

If you bet a horse and your jockey stopped riding for some reason, coming 5th, you'll wonder why, and the judges won't say anything, and the racing media covering the race won't even ask. 

You'll - after watching horses circle at Gulfstream with a post drag, for seemingly an hour - get frustrated. That frustration will be heightened when you think you finally timed the post-drag right, but got shut out; and your horse crossed the wire first.

Maybe you'll be alive in a last leg of the pick 6, and the final leg will be cancelled with barely a moment's notice, because the track won't wait 20 minutes to see if the storm passes. 

You'll probably find a hundred things that will annoy you.

I doubt you, as a lone racetrack executive, will do a whole lot about these problems. The "big data" says you shouldn't worry about them much anyway, and if the rest of the industry doesn't help, what good will it do?

But at least you'll understand, and that's never a bad thing.



Comments

Anonymous said…
From what I’ve experienced, racing’s execs just don’t care to rock the boat. Some willingly take complaints and suggestions from customers, but the info goes down a black hole. Others make sure they’re never in their offices. They still compensate themselves generously. And so what if the ship sinks on their watch? There’s undoubtedly a bonus or at least REIT options that kick in if that happens.

I also get the idea that bettors are considered to be sickos by the execs; if not that, then peasants. Racetrackers tolerate a lot of abuse, we can agree on that. But no respect for the customers becomes very quickly evident to any potential new regular customers, Brazilian or otherwise.

The larger situation is that the whole business is rotten from top to bottom. Too many racing people at all levels are related to one another; for one, you’re not going to turn in a relative for not doing their jobs. The states, unions, managers generally work in defense of their patch without any visible concessions or upgrades. They’re really proud of keeping their share of an ever-shrinking business without caring why the business is shrinking. Pay ‘em all in racetrack stock and let’s see if anything changes.

We’ve seen this long, drawn-out decay before with the US steel and automobile businesses. We’re seeing it now with Sears and other big box retailers. It’s ironic that the business that was a bulwark of mail order is now being eclipsed by mail order. Not so ironic that its CEO is the major lender and lien holder. It’s also not ironic that the racing biz that once had a lock, if not monopoly, on a big share of legal and illegal wagering is now in the bush leagues in the gambling world. Not trying to compete in an era of competition has its price.

The big box retailers and racing (particularly in California) have continued on and may continue for years and years in reduced circumstances. A turnaround attempt won’t be called for by the racing biz if everyone in it still gets paid otherwise. Everyone that’s left, that is. And per the previous blog post, the market/the world will eventually force the issue.