Racing has interesting subsets of customers. Of course there's the gambler, looking for a score. There's the participant, who earns money from the sport. And there's a fan, who may bet a little, but he or she mainly watches racing, because he or she loves racing.
In many sports, these three subsets of customers happily mix, and almost all the time their interests overlap. In the NFL, for example, a gambler might want better injury information. But so does the fan, and so does the opposing coach. A player might want lower ticket prices because they want to play in front of a packed house and this is what the fan wants, too. It's all simpatico.
In racing it's not like this at all. The gambler - who might want higher field size and lower takeout - is completely at odds with many participants and fans, who seem to want to work against them. It's almost like it's a challenge of some sort, like a grand boxing match of yore.
"If only those gamblers were just like me," you'll often hear in pleading fashion.
Why this happens, I don't really know. But one thing I do know -- thank goodness gamblers are gambling.
Here's a breakdown of revenue by sport (mainly from a European perspective):
What you quickly notice is that other sports make money from the gate, from being shown on television, and from selling commercial items, like shirts, hats and game gear.
Racing doesn't sell Todd Pletcher jersey's, it pays to be shown on TV, is not paid, and raceday revenues are miniscule, especially in the US (these are Europe gate numbers)
Racing makes the vast majority of its revenue from bettors.
Why the blue bar is so important - other than the obvious - is that this segment is the most malleable.
High juice, worse races - these players slowly leave. When the blue bar goes down, everyone loses.
Also, the blue bar represents a $500B to $1T worldwide skill game gambling market. Horse racing has only a small slice. It can grow, if the sport caters to them.
The grey segment and green segment are both more static, and it takes a Mack truck to move them.
Marketer Seth Godin wrote recently:
“One vestige of the TV-industrial complex is a need to think mass. If it
doesn’t appeal to everyone, the thinking goes, it’s not worth it. No
longer. Find the group that’s most profitable. Figure out how to develop
for, advertise to, or reward them. Cater to the customers you would
choose if you could choose your customers.”
Racing must choose the customer who i) brings in the most revenue ii) can be easily catered to with change and iii) will respond with an elasticity that can bring in the most return on investment.
That's the blue bar. Why so many in the sport fight against them is a great mystery.
Takeout, field size, and other betting customer issues are the most important issues for this industry to address. When or if that happens is anyone's guess, but I can unequivocally say - until it does this sport will grow smaller and smaller each year.
Have a nice Tuesday everyone.
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