Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Player & Jerry Silva’s Wallet

A few stories caught my eye today.

You might have read that the world poker tour is developing a game for racing, which might translate to television. Here is a snip from the bloodhorse story.

“In racing, we already stand on the shoulders of giants,” Lipscomb said. “People love horses. It’s exciting to watch. But we needed a way to try to allow that young bravado thing, allow people to compete against each other instead of the anonymity of the pari-mutuel system, then translate that group experience to TV.”

Here’s the concept: A bettor buys into the tournament at a set fee, such as $25. In return, the bettor receives a fantasy bankroll loaded into a plastic swipe card similar to many tracks’ rewards cards or an online betting account. Tournament wagers are restricted to win, place or show, or a combination of those, on only one horse per pre-determined race.

Unlike a multi-race wager such as a Pick 6, the bettor decides his or her wagers between races and can go “all in” at any point. The bettor can also pass a race. Television monitors keep track of the leader board. At the end of the tournament, the pool is paid out to the top 5% of the players with the winner getting 45%.

It does sound interesting. I often wonder what could be done in this vein with some smarts, and some passion. As I have said before on the blog, I think we waste our television time on human interest stories, or stories about a new track, or whatever. That’s fine, at times, but enough is enough. We have to start selling this game, and television is a good time to.

This sport has customers in it who bet $15 billion a year. They are interesting characters, and the game gets in your blood. Why aren’t we selling the players? Why aren’t we selling the game?

The next time you see a video story on North America Cup night about a feed man who is driving around in a truck, killing 5 minutes of paid air time, think about that. Now think about this: Each race covered we show four guys with twenty K bankrolls betting a viewers two week paycheck on a horse to win. What sells the game more?

Further on this subject, we mentioned before a story on Hong Kong racing losing players to the Macau casino. I see another story on this phenomenon, from the Washington Times. I don’t know much about Hong Kong racing, other than what I have read, and posted on the blog. But it is amazing to me, and it strikes me each time I read a story about it. The story is always customer responsive, and always focuses on keeping them customers. Always!

"Horse racing is a sport. It's a sport where people can use their brains," said Tony Chen, 46, leaning on the trackside railing where moments earlier 10 horses thundered past toward the finish line.

And when the player is finding better value: They respond with price cuts! They fight fire with fire. They fight for their customers.

The Jockey Club estimates that the underground market for horse betting is between $6 billion and $8 billion a year. That is more than half the Jockey Club's total revenues of $12 billion last year.

Last year, the club managed to reverse a slide in revenues after the government allowed it to offer 10 percent rebates to gamblers losing on bets of $1,280 or more, just as the illegal bookmakers were doing.

It never ceases to amaze me the differences in one business who sees a problem and fixes it, versus one who sees a problem and throws up their hands.

Last but not least, mega-owner Jerry Silva decided to reach under his bed and buy a few horses. When I buy a few horses I look for a nw1 horse with earning cap room to race until he makes $20,000 and has to go into conditioned claimers. It is a whole different world out there for Jerry. From

Owner Jerry Silva told Friday afternoon that he has put together a three-horse purchase agreement “worth a million dollars” that includes 2007 Three-Year-Old Filly Pacer of the Year Southwind Tempo from owners Toby Lynch and Wayne Chrebet. The agreement also calls for the purchase of the 3-year-old filly pacer Thong and the 2-year-old Conway Hall trotting filly TK Lindy.

Silva said he usually buys interests in horses that have already established themselves, as he did last year with 2-Year-Old Colt Trotter of the Year Deweycheatumnhowe and 2-Year-Old Filly Trotter of the Year Snow White, but he believed the opportunity to purchase Southwind Tempo was something he could not pass on.

“On Dewey and Snow White I did it that way (buying smaller interests) but this time I felt the opportunity was coming very close because she is going to race next Friday in the Overbid (at the Meadowlands),” said Silva. “All three horses, if you put them together, they are worth a million dollars.”

All I can say is wowsa.

Note: I mentioned that has started a blog site at I was scanning around it and they have some great stuff up there from some solid posters like Bob Marks. It’s well worth the read.

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