Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Flipping a Switch and Betting the Horses, Other Notes

Last weekend we saw a lot of tweets and posts from those promoting racing, hopeful that with no sports and little other gambling competition, new signups would occur and handle would see a bump. As Crunk points out, the data is noisy year over year, so conclusions are difficult.

But, regardless, should we ever expect such a thing?

We've spoken about racing's funnel, or lead capture to final customer process, before. And it's not exactly conducive to such things. Each step of the funnel, from signing up, to funding, to getting a past performance and learning a new UI (not to mention learning how to wager) is cumbersome and daunting.There's one way to consume this sport. It is what it is.

Meanwhile, over at Draftkings, where there is virtually nothing to bet, interest in MMA - almost the only game in town - was up bigly. On Sunday, they got creative with a Democratic Debate game which drew 60,000 for a free $10,000 top prize. They're trying Turkish soccer of all things, and their funnel is sound.

These folks can be nimble. If there's a game, they can try and exploit it, make a few headlines and try and grow the customer base. 

“We’re really forcing ourselves to think outside the box,’’ Robins said. “Our customers like to interact with their content. They don’t want to passively consume it.They want to have some kind of prediction or skin in the game and that can be sports, that can be politics, anything that they’re consuming that involves any kind of prediction.’’

Pivoting quickly in a super fast world is kind of important.

With racing's funnel not fine, it's incumbent to be even more aggressive with planning, in my view.

If racing wanted to be nimble we might see cross promotion of Derby Wars games, or a seeded pool tournaments with free signups, or a marketing plan of some sort, perhaps involving seeding betting pools. Even using existing jackpot money sounds like a possible marketing edge - each day one pool at one track is a mandatory. But it's just not the way the sport seems to operate.  

If you live in the US or Canada and your name is Trudeau or Trump you're getting taken out behind the woodshed as a response to your response. Warranted or not, criticism comes with the territory. But this whole COVID thing is a Black Swan event.

Like with politicians, it's easy to be critical of racing's structure and intransigence. But, capturing customers is not a Black Swan event, it is a part of daily business. Racing's response to try and capture new markets has always focused on hope, and hope is not a strategy.


It appears racing will be going on for the immediate future, and from a common sense and cost benefit analysis, I think that's probably just fine. The horses need to be fed, and exercised and vetted and shod, and jogged or galloped, and backstretch workers can use a paycheck, even if the world turns into a scene from the Walking Dead. Adding a few racing officials, gate crew and judges to the venue doesn't seem to be sub-optimal. With that, we'll get to see some statistics regarding handle and interest. Maybe the worm will turn in the short-term.

In Canada, Race Night on the Score was a televised show on a Canadian sports network, run each Monday. Woodbine ponied up the dough from the slots cash, and although the ratings weren't great, it was on (until the slots cash went away, and the show went poof with it). With a dearth of sports content on all these major networks, is there an opportunity to restart it for awhile?

The dominoes have fallen in the sport, and the trainers indicted will have their day in court. On his twitter feed Sid Fernando shares a possible outcome - no jail time for some or all who have been charged with the 5 year maximums. If that does happen I am sure twitter will lose their minds, but if their cooperation helps clean up the game, and they're never allowed to touch a horse again (if this is a plea deal admitting guilt) is that such a bad result?

During this uncertain time, let me again wish your and your family my best. And I appreciate you taking the time, all these years, to read the blog and interact with me on the twitter. Have a great Tuesday.

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