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Put Punters First

Player-centric product mindset is needed

After a few articles on the challenges that the racing industry is facing and a firm belief that promotional efforts are mostly misdirected, I would like to highlight a fundamental problem that could hold the key to finding solutions for our sport, writes Leon Smuts.

We like to think of racing as the brain game in gambling and not some mindless selection of numbers or reel spins that requires massive doses of lady luck to make even a dent in the extreme odds of landing a big win.

Yet these games are far more successful than racing at attracting new interest and a big following and this is incredible if the difficulty of winning the top prize in lotto or a mega machine jackpot at the casino is fully understood.

Racing has the ability to produce its own dream bets that will rival the lotto and casino jackpots and on some occasions we have already seen this with very attractive Pick 6 pools, especially on our big race days. The small customer base prevents this from being a regular occurrence at other times of the year and normally requires a carry over or a number of carry overs to produce a really meaningful and attractive pool.

This brings me to the problem that has long held racing back and that makes even our biggest pools less attractive than they should be.

Skilled players have a definite advantage, as they should have, and will in all likelihood win more regularly than novices or less skilled players, but even skill does not guarantee a favorable outcome in most instances where a really big pay out occurs.

1965 Metropolitan winner, SpecialityIt ultimately comes down to a great deal of good fortune and often a big bank roll if you are to land a single ticket pay out from our top exotic.

It is possible to miss many a life changing pay out by a single result, a short head finish or a photo finish or an objection going against the player and with little to show even when having almost everything right.

For experienced players this does not present too much of a problem as it is extremely disappointing but with a structured approach could still result in a positive pay day when having a few successful single race bets around their exotic selections.

For the new player and smaller players these potential big dividends are almost impossible to win even when playing a percentage bet and this is where our sport loses a valuable opportunity to attract a bigger interest.

I have been in marketing and racing long enough to see how this issue is standing in the way of promoting racing to a bigger group of players and have no doubt that most of racing’s problems can be addressed through a more creative product approach.

Although racing has numerous and very worthy products, they have all been developed for a single purpose which is to extract maximum participation from the current customer base. To this end they are delivering highly favorable results but will never succeed in an acquisition capacity as they critically ignore the value of a more entertaining and potentially rewarding experience, especially to new and smaller players.

As an experienced marketer I have over my career turned down a number of attractive positions as I did not believe in the products or services that I was expected to promote.

It is critical to believe in what you are selling which is why more marketable products are needed to ensure racing’s return to popularity and profitability.

J&B Met

By introducing a range of products with highly favourable player elements and capable of producing guaranteed winners and big winners on a regular basis it would be far easier to promote the sport and to get buy in from both the target market and the sales force.

Gamble, cards, dice, game of chanceI have made it my life’s work to design games that recognizes and rewards skill properly, will produce guaranteed winners every game, create guaranteed millionaires periodically and will give all players an equal chance of winning.

With these formats trust will be created in the product, the operator and the sport and an afternoon’s entertainment and affordability will be provided for good measure, plus a realistic chance of winning a really decent dividend.

Racing can make itself so much more attractive during the crucial attraction and skills development phase with the knowledge that the real turnover gain will present itself longer term in the form of well documented annuity benefits, as skilled players seldom leave the game.

Operators need to offer products designed for maximum player and industry benefits to make racing a long term economic proposition for both parties.

Show the target market what racing is about in a format that supports the promotion and the showcasing of the competitive nature of the sport.

The funding of local racing is crucial and can get a huge injection with the right approach. There is everything to gain and very little to lose with a player centric product mindset, especially as the local racing performance has been so disappointing.


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23 comments on “Put Punters First”

  1. Sadly, this is a variation on a futile theme. When Riaan due Plessis proposed at an international conference in January, 2017 that ‘ more races should start in front of the grandstand for better crowd participation’ I knew instinctively that racing is in trouble. I do not believe that pool size is the motivating factor to punters. They/I just want to enjoy the moment and show a profit. A gambler’s prayer: ‘Please God, let me break square.’ Tellytrack, supposedly the key vehicle to provide the majority with information, has sunk into a morass of mediocrity. It is banal, repetitive and littered with misinformation. A classic example: According to Alston, last Thursday during a preview of a race at the Vaal, he stated 8 minutes prior to the ‘off’ that a 16/10 shot was offering R4.30 on the tote. Bollocks, I say. All that matters was the dividend applicable when betting closed. Was this done deliberately to encourage punters to bet on the tote? Mr. Smuts my priority would be to clean up the abysmal off- course outlets, and, as stated in a letter to Rob Scott, provide emerging, ‘mythical’ punters, with the vital ingredient: information. As a gambler of 50 years, I would be reluctant to encourage the younger generation to direct their leisure rand towards a dinosaur. Ralph Fell.

      1. Mr Fell.. your are so right … Tellytrack ? a great innovation ! hijacked by the presenters, commentators and too much thanksgiving coming from jockeys, trainers and owners . The horses ? the main actors ? they take back stage… they cannot speak !!

  2. I am sorry.
    This topic “put punters first ” is si apt.
    I’ve just taken a bet on Ayr racing
    And we have to watch James Goodman and Kevin Shea.

  3. Last night’s racing coverage on Tellytrack had to be seen to be believed. They interrupt the live racing feed from Ayr and Windsor to watch the James Goodman / Kevin Shea show which was so unbelievably amateurish it just wasn’t funny. Goodman interviewed the chap from Rising Sun and didn’t even know the date of the big race coming up and had to be corrected and as for KB Shea, as damn good a jockey as he was he just isn’t cut out for television.

  4. This is because Management have allowed racing to slump to an all time low. It is filled with hangers on, and people that are incompetent in doing there jobs. It is time that we clean the slate, and bring in competent business people to run racing like a successful business. Amateur hour is over!!

  5. PPF ( Put Punters First !) Well said Mr Smuts. I , for one, will be right behind you when you decide to throw out a challenge to the punters out there to join forces and do, what Peter Hain did to our rugby in the early 1980’s ( Remember the flour bombs in 1981 ?? and then not being invited to the first two rugby world cups ?) this is what is needed , punters with guts, determination and great PASSION . GO FOR IT MR SMUTS. This platform will not bet he right one to work from but it could be a good one to start working on your vision .Horse Racing was known to be the SPORT OF KINGS . Now it would appear ,it has become the sport for kings and fools . LONG LIVE HORSE RACING. LONG LIVE THE PUNTER .

  6. The above article and the range of comments epitomises the derelict state our racing has sunk to. I for one have commented on various platforms about alot of things but also simple stuff like dissemination of the correct data (results), How many times do they get it so wrong…Jackpots tickets thrown into the garbage because Tellytrack and especially Tabgold announces incorrect favourites for UK races while Racingpost.com and totepoollive.com announces accurate results/favourites. I have thrown many jackpots tickets away based on such frivolous dissemination, purely based on which favourite tabgold deems a favourite

    Secondly, historical data for all local races are non-existent…In the UK and Australia you can get hisotrical data free of charge and this can enhance your betting strategies. You can make informed decisions on where trainers and jockeys like to run or ride horses, the distances or race types they prefer. When you try to speak to someone at NHRA all you get is “I don’t know”

    Thirdly the presenters in the UK and Australia that occupy premium space on the live radio, their racing channels on TV or the internet feeds have solid researched advice and they certainly dont make nilly willy assumptions just for the sake of it. Our TV crew are a bunch of mampara’s.

    Also to note that researchers who are on such channels, when they give you a tip or analysed researched information, 9 out of 10 times such advice are winners. High Street Bookmaking firms like William Hill have their own live radio stations where they employ industry aficionados that give you solid tips. Very little in our racing world are public domain unless you are a leading owner or you are privy to inside information. Even our racing reports/reporters at national or provincial newspapers are really wasting good newspaper space that could be utilized to report on the Gupta’s and Zuma. Thank God we have the Sporting Post.

  7. One of the major problems for punters is the regularity with which horses suddenly perform brilliantly after being substantially left behind the winners in their previous three races.
    No stipes reports are called for and the bettor is none the wiser.

    Another reason for concern is the term often used by trainers, either before or after the race , “he needed the run”. In an ideal world all runners participate to win – this privileged information is not shared with the unsuspecting punter. On a roulettte wheel all spins stand an equal chance.

    Treat your customers with disdain and see what happens.

  8. Actually i said to Mr Maharaj “next Saturday” and he misunderstood me!
    I put a great deal of time and energy into Winning Ways and know most people would like to see the show uninterrupted.We are told by our producer how long each segment should be, so our show can be cut for races. I have never seen a race NOT being shown on the full screen during Winning Ways.
    We appreciate all the positives from our viewers over the many years that we have been part of Tellytrack.As for Kevin Shea,he is articulate amusing and highly informed. Master i challenge you to co present the show with me just once, then you may slag us off

    1. Well therein lies the rub. Tellytrack presenters only appreciate all the positives from viewers and anyone who points out negatives will be challenged to make themselves available to be abused.
      .The presenters are too important to be wrong
      And the loser is horse racing.

    2. Kevin Shea articulate? You are very, very wrong. He is very, very inarticulate. I apologise very profusely for being very nasty but I feel very obliged to say it is very apparent that your definition of ‘articulate’ is very debatable. He called the Gold Cup the Gold Bowl. You corrected him
      Tellytrack is simply not prepared to entertain constructive criticism, but are comfortable in a presentation which I find patronising, bordering on offensive. Their latest innovation is playing ‘lift music’ throughout the day, sometimes whilst a UK race is being run. But hey, we punters are only the lifeblood of the industry,

  9. It is time to have to different pa 3 places
    And 4 places bottom one for the smaller punter thanks richard

  10. Not mentioning names,but there is a tipster on Tellytrack who surely does not put too much effort into his studying of a race
    His selection to win will be the horse on top of the betting boards,His selection to finish second will be the 2nd favourite His selection to finish third 3rd favourite .And that happens race after race without fail
    Now Mr. Molly with two tees, tips what he thinks has a good chance and not what the bookmakers have put up..

  11. Personally I think Kevin and James are legends and thanks to you both for your opinions and dont worry about the minority, keep up the good work.

  12. Put the punter first. I’ve asked Sporting Post for years to include the date of gelding of a horse in the formline, as it is a significant pointer to improvement, yet they have ignored my feedback. Why?

    1. Hi Michael

      The Gelding goes in the comment line at the time of the first run back.

      We listen to feedback and implement where practical and possible.


  13. Thanks, however a horse does not necessarily improve after the first run gelded. So we need to know at least the first few runs after gelding. So the date of gelding is more important than a one liner somewhere in the comments. Thanks

  14. Case in point.

    Today at the Curragh I backed two first timers and right after the race, they posted first past the post and everyone went home.

    The blind could see the race wasn’t without incident and would end up with an objection.

    While Tellytrack were commuting, the lengthy objection was upheld in favour of a Cape Cross x Galileo first timer at 12/1

    Luckily I’d Dutched but I would feel pretty aggrieved thinking the result was final

  15. Will Sporting Post consider including the date of gelding somewhere in the formline as a permanent statistic like other publications eg. Computaform and Winning Form or not? If one missed the first run comment, you won’t see it again. If not, is there a reason why you won’t include it as a permanent statistic?

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