Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In 2010 Can Badwill Become Goodwill?

The recently released wagering initiative by Darryl Kaplan (we'll have more on this later) got me thinking about working together. Darryl certainly has his work cut out for him in racing. I was reminded about that today reading a post at Paceadvantage.com.

In a thread about working together and growing attendance at the races, Jeff Platt, President of the Horseplayers Association of North America replied the following:

At this point I don't think the concept of takeout and elasticity is lost on track operators. Many of the people I've talked to in the industry would be in favor of giving lower taleout a try. Many still aren't. And some won't even take my calls to talk about it.

"One of the problems, as I see it, is that no one entity in racing has the power to make decisions.

As an example, I own a racing related business, JCapper... and even in a down economy - I've quitely had a pretty good year. I call the shots, but I answer to the customer. The shots that I call tend to be driven by customer needs and wants. The point I'm trying to make is that the business of racing customers is out there to be won... provided you satisfy their needs and wants.

In most if not all cases, the race track operators in favor of takeout reduction can't call their own shots. They can't decide on their own to just reduce takeout. They have to sell the idea to horsemen - and in many jurisdictions politicians. Historically, it has been really tough to get tracks, horsemen, and politicians to agree on just about everything.

Then there's the infighting that goes on between different groups withing the industry. Last year I talked with people on both sides of the TOC/THG vs. Tracknet signal impasse. And recently I've talked with people on both sides of the NYRA vs. Mid Atlantic Coop and the Tracknet vs. Mid Atlantic Coop signal impasses. A couple of days ago I found myself in the middle of a spat between NYRA and Equibase over NYRA's refusal to use Equibase's new Scratches and Changes system... (NYRA being the only organization out there that has so far refused to use the free system that Equibase created for the benefit of players.)

I can tell you that a lot of badwill exists among the parties in these disputes... Enough badwill that it gets in the way of bringing about positive change that would benefit everybody. Many of the conversations I've had literally reminded me of playing the role of an adult who has just separated two 8 year olds from a fight and having to listen to both of them explain through tears what the other other one did first... I'm not kidding about this - and I'm talking about grown men.

Several years ago, Keeneland tried to do a real reduced takeout experiment. The badwill between competing tracks boiled up and the entire Mid Atlantic Coop decided not to allow Keeneland's signal at their outlets. Like I said... 8 year olds.

To really make positive change happen, a majority of the decision makers have to be on the same page."

I sincerely hope Darryl and crew can herd cats, and turn badwill into good. Let's hope we see that with this new venture.

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