'HANA', HD & Other Acronyms

Horseplayers are organizing.

HANA - Horseplayers Association of North America is a fledgling group of horseplayers trying to make a difference in the game they love. Currently the mission statement, and goals are being discussed over at Paceadvantage.com.

One of the groups founders is a professional handicapper. He is trying to drum up some support. Here are a few of his thoughts in getting this off the ground. If you agree with any of this, and are a fan of harness or thoroughbreds, you can be a part of this if you wish. It is free for now, although I am assuming they might want to drum up some funds over time.

Horseplayers have become increasingly more and more fed up with the way the industry is being run. Horsemen withholding signals from ADWs, track management's disdain towards the customer, trainers who are constantly rewarded for cheating, and a tote system based on obsolete technology - these facets of the game and more have resulted in an industry that is, to put it kindly, no longer mainstream.

An entire generation now exists who could care less about racing.

Yet, over the past two decades while racing has been alienating itself from an entire generation of potential new fans, almost all other forms of gambling have seen explosive growth. Go to almost any casino and you will find a young vibrant crowd (the generation that racing failed to win over) having fun feeding tokens into slot machines.

There is a formula for success in business that I remember from a strategic management class I took in college. Ok. I turned 50 in the past year so I've been out of college and part of the real world for a while now. But what they taught us back in 1977 is every bit as valid today as it was back then:

Define your market space and target customer. Understand your target customer's needs and wants. Figure out how to satisfy those needs and wants and (amazingly) your business will grow.

Every successful Fortune 500 company practices this. By itself it doesn't guarantee success. But failure to practice it practically guarantees failure.

The reason I get so pissed off at the people who run the horseracing industry is that they so completely fail to put this into practice.

And failure to put this into practice just widens the chasm that exists between the industry and its customers. I am both amazed and disgusted by the way that horsemen and track management continually appear so completely clueless that a problem even exists at all.

A grass roots effort has been started over at the PA site to organize horseplayers. I have attended two meetings (conducted in the PA War Room) where we adopted a name and agreed to get a website started.

I was charged with creating the group's mission statement. The mission statement that I wrote up has not yet been officially sanctioned by the group. And somebody else will probably end up doing the official site.

For the benefit of those interested I've created a mock up web page - a rough draft - that shows what we are working towards. Here's the link:

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

From the web page, here are some of the issues that are being brought to the fore:

Where The Game Is Broken:
  • Public Awareness and Perception
  • Pool Integrity
  • Odds Updates in Real Time
  • Drugs and Cheating
  • Takeout Reduction and Rebates
  • Breakage
  • Distribution Of Signals and Account Deposit Wagering
  • Open Access to Past Performance and Results Data
  • Open Access to Live Track Video and Race Replays
  • Parking, Admission, and Concession Prices
  • Racing Surfaces
  • Avg Field Size on the Decline
  • Arizona's Racing Law
  • Taxation
  • Transparency and Full Disclosure
  • Scratches and Changes
We will be watching this closely over the next while. It is clear something has to be done to help improve handles in our sport. With rising takeouts and us losing more and more gambling market share, perhaps the players can make a difference. In the world of the Internet, your customers can speak and be heard, but just like how an industry that is fractured can not fix itself, a fractured horseplayer group can not fix problems. This is a first salvo to get people together and do something good for our sport.

HDTV - High Def programming is being actively pursued by Keeneland. Very nice work guys.

AC - Andrew Cohen, is ruffling some feathers. In his current blog post he speaks of the work done (or in his opinion lack of work done) at Yonkers to grow our sport. He was not happy with them, and said so. The VP of Yonkers responded to Andrew in his post. Y'know, we have been passed by on simple things. I think being a monopoly for so long makes us so complacent. Even the first line of the response from the Yonkers VP shows this, in my opinion:

"I very rarely do this, but I feel compelled to respond to Andrew Cohen's "Wire To Wire" article of May 28th.

"Very rarely do this? Respond to the media and customers? In 2008, businesses - countless businesses - have learned to leverage the internet and the media, and use it in their favor. Company websites have chat areas and comment areas where customers can talk about their products and service. Why? Because they need the information to make themselves better. Responding to their complaints in an open and honest way is a staple in business in the 2000's. For example, there is a restaurant chain in the US who discontinued a menu item that was too costly to make. On their chat site the customers went nuts - they loved this product because it was so damn good. This synergy created buzz about the menu item, the company responded and let the market and this good buzz take hold. They reinstated the menu item and it sold like hotcakes and is the #1 or #2 menu item in all franchises. They leveraged customer anger into a positive to grow their businesses.

I often ask anyone in this business who reads this blog to respond if they wish. Clear up a misconception if there is one, speak directly to the bettors if they want to. I want to see this sport grow and so do the readers and commenters here - and on places like Andrew's blog. We want to hear from everyone, so I encourage them to respond and get in a direct dialogue. Other companies do that, we should in racing as well. It should be part of our strategy in the Internet age.

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