Out of the hundreds of buzzwords the 2000's have brought us, one of them is surely "big data". Looking at trends, the actions of many, smoothed out with fancy software programs and analyzed in new ways has certainly helped in the understanding of people and markets.
But, when we constantly look big, we lose the opinions of the components that are small.
In the book Small Data, the author says, "Big Data is all about finding correlations, but Small Data is all about finding the causation, the reason why."
One of the ways he used small data was as simple as one could imagine. He put executives in the same position a company's (in this case a South American bank) customers are in on a daily basis.
That's using a Dr. Watson, in an IBM Watson world.
Horse racing's most valuable customers -- those who play daily, want to play daily, and want to keep racing a part of their life -- go through a lot to stay customers. But I am not sure anyone in power in the sport knows just how difficult it is to stay engaged.
A worthwhile challenge would be for those in power in racing to open up an ADW account from their state, and play the races for six months, five days a week.
For a Churchill executive, sign up for a DRF account. You'll find out that you may like a horse at your track, but you can't lay a wager on the horse because you don't sell the DRF your track's signal. Then you'll go through the time-consuming exercise of opening up another account, and funding it, all so you can bet your popular track.
If you're a Woodbine executive you might find out that the $132 you cashed on an exacta at Keeneland is short-changed by your company, and it's lower than what everyone else received. Why? You might know, but you'll wonder if your customers do, because it's posted nowhere but in the fine print.
If you're a member of the TOC, you might find that Jane from Florida received 4% cash back, but you didn't because of where you live. You scour social media to find out what others do in this situation and you find out that they call their grandmother in South Dakota to open an account for them, so they can play on a level playing field with everyone else.
If you bet a horse and your jockey stopped riding for some reason, coming 5th, you'll wonder why, and the judges won't say anything, and the racing media covering the race won't even ask.
You'll - after watching horses circle at Gulfstream with a post drag, for seemingly an hour - get frustrated. That frustration will be heightened when you think you finally timed the post-drag right, but got shut out; and your horse crossed the wire first.
Maybe you'll be alive in a last leg of the pick 6, and the final leg will be cancelled with barely a moment's notice, because the track won't wait 20 minutes to see if the storm passes.
You'll probably find a hundred things that will annoy you.
I doubt you, as a lone racetrack executive, will do a whole lot about these problems. The "big data" says you shouldn't worry about them much anyway, and if the rest of the industry doesn't help, what good will it do?
But at least you'll understand, and that's never a bad thing.
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