Wednesday, December 5, 2007

To Betfair, Or Not to Betfair

Interesting discussion going on at regarding the game of racing capturing the youth market. It was recently announced that Churchill Downs decided to step out on a limb (yes, that is sarcastic) and allow their races to be shown on youtube.

Now I know you won't find that earth shattering. Showing the races on youtube, against a guy doing the mentos in coke trick with bikini-clad co-eds, or the latest Jessica Alba paparazzi video might not quite achieve the desired result. However, in racing I would guess this is big news, worthy of a story on The Bloodhorse.

Flip over to the "new new economy" to see what is happening, and what the track execs in racing are up against. is currently the largest betting exchange in the World. It's growth is staggering, and in 2007, registered users topped the million person mark. More importantly, the growth segment in the under 30 demographic is stout. How do they do it? Let's look at what they do, and what racing does to see just how dichotomous the two businesses are - eventhough they are essentially the same business.

1. Free: The youth market gets information at their fingertips. And they get it free. Paying for programs? Not happening folks. Betfair allows users tons of free information. Programs, data, betting histories, profit/loss statements and more. We don't do that. We make them pay for it. And pay they don't. Poker is free. And so is betting the 9th at Cheltenham at betfair.

2. Accessibility: To bet Churchill, you need a Twinspires account (I think). Then to play Belmont you need another account (again, I think. I can't keep track of what ADW carries what anymore). Want to bet Kawartha Downs from Arizona? Good luck. If you don't distribute your signal, do you really deserve to have a market? The youth market demands you to go get them as customers. They will not jump through hoops to give you their money. Betfair is accessible. Close to 24 hours a day, there is someone there to play racing with you.

3. Excitement: Betfair is exciting. You can bet races "in running". Want to bet Street Sense at the top of the lane when he is sneaking up the rail in the Derby? You can (try this link for exciting headlines). In our country, getting something like this passed would take years, and we might drown in red tape before finishing. Further, take a look at their "Betfair Labs" page. This is an area where software makers can share their software. Customers and software users and sellers can meet to discuss how to make betting better. It is fun and generates interest and helps people win. Cutting edge marketing, by cutting edge marketers. The folks at betfair have been doing this since 2000, when they started. We in racing had a 100 year head start. Or maybe that's the problem?

Take a look at the left side of the betfair labs page. Notice the "poll"? Yes, it is a poll asking "what you want for Christmas". Well I am happy to report that PS3 is beating out Nintendo WII. Ever see a poll like that on I didn't think so. The "new new" betting economy has passed us by in capturing the young market. And it is our own damn fault.

But, hey. At least we have Churchill Downs races on youtube now. Watch out kids, here we come!

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