Delivering concierge-level support and giving higher-volume horse bettors access to rebates, on-track visitation amenities, and handicapping product discounts is the backbone of a relatively new partnership between performance figure provider Thoro-Graph and the New York Racing Association (NYRA), writes By T. D. Thornton for the Thoroughbred Daily News (TDN).
Thoro-Graph Player Services (TGPS), which launched in May, is a free membership-based online portal that links to the national advance deposit wagering (ADW) site NYRA Bets (access it here).
The alignment of the two entities now gives Thoro-Graph an exclusive ADW partner, and it gives NYRA Bets a valuable pipeline of new bettors who might not have signed up for an account without being incentivized by the perks TGPS is promoting to sweeten the deal.
According to Jeff Franklin, the director of player services & business development for Thoro-Graph, those incentives include “the big five”:
1) Competitive rebates;
2) Free and discounted Thoro-Graph sheets;
3) Free NYRA parking, admission, and premium seating for qualifying players;
4) Contact with the NYRA Bets “key account desk”;
5) A personal account manager.
Franklin has worked diverse gigs in the racing industry before taking over the management of TGPS. As a former jockeys’ agent, he used Thoro-Graph products to guide bookings for Gary Stevens, Patrick Valenzuela and Jose Santos. In the early online ADW days, he was the president of Youbet.com, and he later served as an executive at Xpressbet and helped NYRA come up with ADW models that were the forerunners of last year’s rollout of NYRA Bets.
Franklin said the launch of TGPS has its roots in a dinner meeting between Thoro-Graph and NYRA executives about four years ago where the question was asked, “What’s the flaw with ADWs in general?”
A Franklin recalled it, “The answer that we all seemed to agree with is that ADWs had lost the personal touch. As the players had moved away from the track to the remote betting environment, the umbilical cord between the player and the track had snapped. That’s the sort of thing that we’re trying to reinvigorate with that kind of personalized service, where the [players] really feel comfortable with the people behind the scenes making their betting experience what it is.”
The topic struck a chord with Thoro-Graph president Jerry Brown, Franklin said, and it sparked a discussion about “the lack of casino-style amenities and respect for the medium- and upper-level horseplayer.” Within the two companies, that conversation carried on long after that dinner was over.
“Jerry, for his part in all of this, really feels an obligation to have a stronger-than-usual relationship with his customers, and is almost like their champion in some senses,” Franklin said.
The idea crystallized over the course of several years, and last summer discussions began in earnest about a partnership. TGPS launched two months ago, and while NYRA Bets will be its exclusive wagering service, TGPS is actively pursuing partnership deals with other racing associations that focus on delivering on-track perks and amenities to customers.
Franklin said he has good reason to think tracks will want to partner with Thoro-Graph: Its core performance-figure buying customers are dedicated, data-driven horseplayers whose volume of betting is far above the norm.
“The typical Thoro-Graph player, we’re reckoning, is going to [wager] seven to 10 times the national average of betting than the regular, average ADW player,” Franklin said, adding the caveat that he doesn’t have enough of a customer base yet for TGPS to make a more precise prognostication about betting volumes.
“But we’ve already got hundreds of players who are going to annualize into many millions of dollars wagering,” Franklin said.
“We’ll be announcing more track partnerships in the next few weeks,” Franklin said. “No track that we’ve asked has said no yet.”
On the customer-facing side, Franklin said the interface for accessing NYRA Bets through TGPS is “100% identical” to the stand-alone version of NYRA Bets. The technology, customer service, and funding are all handled via NYRA Bets, and Franklin added that NYRA has dedicated 15 employees to make the partnership work.
“The idea is to give a personal level of service to [bettors] so that you can call somebody to help you out who is part of a really established relationship with you and knows your needs to help you with things like funding and rebates and going on-track,” Franklin said.
If TGPS works as planned, Franklin is aiming for a win-win-win situation that involves the two partners and their customers.
Thoro-Graph wins by cultivating a stream of customers whose primary handicapping product-buying and betting actions will all take place via the TGPS interface. Even factoring in the discounted speed figure sheets and other items it will give away, the exponential volume of activity could mean a big business boost.
NYRA wins by starting betting relationships with upper-echelon players, and will benefit from gaining customer data that can be used to drive other marketing initiatives. If enough TGPS players take advantage of the incentives to come to the track, the partnership becomes a cost-effective way to lure big-volume bettors out of their homes and back to the on-track action.
Horseplayers win by collecting the growing list of perks and discounts. But Franklin also envisions that they will find great value on being treated with new levels of respect and courtesy.
Franklin said there is a fourth way horseplayers in general can come out ahead, even if they are not TGPS members: The feedback and constructive criticisms that TGPS players provide will be taken seriously, and he hopes to work with NYRA (and eventually, other partner tracks) to make sure the suggestions from bettors get acted upon.
“We’ve been given all of this valuable feedback by these hundreds of top Thoro-Graph players already,” Franklin said. “God love ’em, they’re so passionate. They let you know what they like and what they don’t like. And we’re already working with the NYRA Bets technology teams to implement a number of product enhancements that will benefit all NYRA Bets players, really.”
Franklin said he was not at liberty to discuss specifics, but that several of those ideas already gleaned from customer feedback could be implemented by NYRA during the Saratoga Race Course meet.
“NYRA is very well aware that top players need top tools,” Franklin said. “It’s a direct line [for NYRA] to so many of the high-volume bettors. This is going to be an evolving program. As we get new input, we’ll modify.”