Slots have been called the golden goose. The bandits have supplied racing with billions of dollars over the years. For purses, for profits, for just about anything. They are the Holy Grail. They turn "b" tracks worth practically nothing into real estate that's hotter than in Hong Kong. They're what every track strives for.
Over the years this cash has not been used as wisely as it should've been. That's been obvious. The end user (bettor) was usually the one with the short end of the stick.
With that, here are a few items that would make that short end of the stick a little longer.
1. "The Mansion" - Each track should have a VIP area, with a dedicated gladhander for bettors who qualify and horse owners. Unlike the Churchill Downs mansion where apparently you need to be Mitt Romney to enter, this area is affordable and welcoming. Some tracks like Woodbine do this fairly well, but it should be a no-brainer and part of the budget for all slots tracks. In the end it can be ROI positive, because keeping customers on track and making sure they're taken care of can pay it back in a hurry.
2. Player Rewards Cards - I remember going to a casino in Vegas to play the races. I hate casino games, so it's all I did. Within one day my card had enough volume on it whereby the casino sent a racing form to my room in the morning without me asking. In the end my points ended up paying for my stay. I saw an ad for the Motor City Casino in Detroit last evening where they were giving out a free night's stay if you join and play for only one hour at the tables. Some slots tracks do this fairly well, but all have to.
3. Professional TV Pictures - If you turn on your simo screen sometimes you see grainy, ugly pictures. You think to yourself - this place must be a dump. When you visit the track the casino side looks like the Taj Mahal. 90% of handle comes from simulcast customers. Show them HD pictures, show them a professional cutting edge look. If you opened up a slot parlor you'd spend big money on your sign, do the same with the horse racing product.
4. Takeout - Some Kentucky tracks have 16% rakes in the win pool and 19% rakes for all other as a ceiling. There is no way in hell you, with slots, should have some rakes that can be close to a double of those non-slot tracks. In Australia it was mandated that no track could have a blended takeout of more than 16%. That did not mean they could not charge 25% on some hard to hit bets, which might be optimal, but in the end they could not go over 16%. To give players money back they had 0% takeout bets as a promo which generated millions in handle. Slot tracks need the same. It can grow the bet.
5. Trakus and Other Horseplayer Friendly Technology - Yep, Trakus is expensive, but with billions rolling in it's not that expensive. I'm sure your state could get some sort of package deal for it, and save some money. Things like this help you stand out, and gives the at home player an edge when enjoying your product. If you can afford an Abba cover band at the casino, you can afford Trakus.
6. A Portion of Slot Revenue From Purses and Profits are Held Back For Big Event Marketing - Right now slots deals are written like there are two customers, horsemen and tracks. There's an important third leg of that stool (which Ontario is learning about now): The customer. Bingo's spend upwards of 25% of their revenue on marketing, casino's about 20%. Horse racing spends less than 3%. (source HLN Advisors). Instead of 10% of total slot revenue going to horsemen and 10% to tracks like slot deals are written like everywhere, 9.5% go to each and 1% goes to the marketing of horse racing. Enough with the 'take all the money for yourselves and hope people come out to the track' strategy. It doesn't work.
Ontario is going through a period now without slots. In the transitional panel government report, the "horseplayer" was mentioned 29 times, or about 29 more times than they've been mentioned since slots were introduced in 1998. If you currently have slots, read the report and do what they say now. I'm sure your state will be much better off for it.
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