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Will Local Racing Ever Boom Again?

Why milk it at expense of owners, trainers & players?

The question will have most people jumping at a ‘not likely’ response with little hesitation based on the historical decline of the once great ‘Sport of Kings’, writes Leon Smuts.

Operators of the corporate racing model have long proven that the sport and its customer base will be milked for everything it has at the expense of owners, trainers and punters.

This is such an unnecessary and shortsighted approach with failure the only likely longer-term outcome and decline already very evident in most racing jurisdictions worldwide and locally.

Would it not be wonderful if they could be the hero’s rather than the villains for once and provide racing every chance of success by investing in meaningful programs to rebuild the customer base?

For far too long the emphasis has been placed on getting existing supporters to invest more either by upping their contribution, playing more regularly, event churn or supporting more product types and this is completely unsustainable without any actual customer growth. This strategy has clearly yielded very little to enthuse about and it won’t in future either. Admitting to this would be a very necessary first step to improving the situation.

Strong customer growth could be a reality if the following elements were to be included in product development.

–              Provide affordable, high payout possibility fixed cost products

–              The format must provide a full afternoon’s fun and entertainment

–              Lack of skill should not be punished or prevent players from having a winning chance

–              Skill and improvements in skill should however offer an attractive and clear reward

–              Repeat play and regular and long-term participation should be promoted in the design

–              Every element should be player friendly and promote a growing interest in racing

–              Make it easier to win by less punitive rules and provide multiple winning opportunities

Operators need to recognise the vital link between customer numbers and sustainable profitability and accept that this is a long-term strategy that needs early and constant investment, but which will only produce its best results at a later stage. It is understandably hard to invest in racing given the existing circumstances but not doing so will almost certainly result in further failure.

Strategies should never only be about the immediate bottom line as so many positives will ultimately be derived from building new markets and expanding the customer base continually over time.

The operator and all other stakeholders in racing will greatly benefit from a large and growing customer base in the following manner.

–              The obvious one is increased turnover and improved take out

–              Growing numbers will lead to larger race day attendance and better visibility for the sport

–              Many casual players will become bigger players as their level of skill improves

–              Advertising revenue will grow substantially when the customer base is bigger as large numbers produce relevance that is very hard to ignore

–              Sponsorships will similarly grow with improvements in relevance

–              Word of mouth benefits will be expanded and offers very effective marketing support

–              Increased media exposure as significant numbers will be attractive to promote which will accelerate further interest

–              Increased pools over time will generate further support and improve the funding of racing for increased stakes and new owner interest.

Immediate benefits for the operator of having truly punter friendly new products will include:

–              Access to attractive new markets

–              Aggressive marketing potential

–              Better motivated sales force

–              A convincing alternative to the open bet to regain lost support

–              Future subscription income potential

–              Hybrid sports betting opportunities

–              A measurable online growth strategy

–              Immediate and sustainable growth

–              Much needed positive public relations outcomes

Will operators consider alternatives to the current product line up and will they be willing to spend on anything but immediate benefits?

Although I am not entirely convinced of this, should they decide to do so will almost certainly be richly rewarded for their efforts and all of racing will benefit from the unexpected boom to follow.

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20 comments on “Will Local Racing Ever Boom Again?

  1. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Nice list Leon, but its only a consolidation of all your previous “motherhood” lists

    Still no insight as how to achieve this – dont pull a Pirate move if you are ever offered the opportunity to implement whatever it is you have up your sleeve.

  2. Leon Smuts says:

    All true Rod, the message has not changed as it is still as relevant as ever and perhaps even more so if i look at the many switching to the open bet, perhaps forever lost to the operator. The product has however been greatly refined and has gone from a concept and demo to a full production version and is built on a platform that is currently being battle tested internationally. Elements of the game has proven very popular among seasoned players, novices and first timers alike when offered at local race days. The game has all the elements to make marketing much easier and more successful. The one important change is new people at the helm but the question is if the vision for racing is different, Only time will tell.

  3. Leon Lotz says:

    Horseracing is like a virus,once you experienced it you never let go.I stopped being involved in racing for about 4 years. Last year we decided to come back.The same things are still here which just irritate me and force me to just not participate .We moan about using crops but I have to look at steeple chase where horses fall over fences and that is OK ???Then I have to look at horses trotting pulling carts when I could have followed profesional SA trainers and jockeys and really enjoy SA racing.I personally will not put any money on overseas racing unless Mike De Kock is racing there. How can I put money on a horse if I can not even see horses cantering down because of oversea racing.I just look at something else which is not horse racing.How can the public be interrested in racing if they never listen or see there favourite jockeys or trainers,because they have to look at a non exciting trotting horse somewhere in Aus.
    The Met,we get there only to find our very expensive table booking is not there,keep inmind we drove 800km and we have the tickets in hand.The bottom public toilets are like pigstys and worse.The horses looked magnifesent in every race,but friends of ours left because of horrible unhigenic toilets.Then we paid R1800 pp to find that you cannot drink the brand of beer you like,only one brand available.I own horses and this irritation make me think twice once again.Do not blame Jooste or the ANC,get of your high horses and open youre eyes,you can fix this.
    My own personel opinion

  4. Rian says:

    Cant wait for the JULY betting to come out as ive seen the winner and will be having a good bet very soon
    Thats the Virus you talking about

  5. Tracey Whyte says:

    I must say the most fantastic atmosphere and day i enjoyed at turfontein was when Abba was going for the third leg of the triple crown i will never forget the fantastic vibe and the elation of that day

  6. Alcaponee says:

    I have suggested a really simple bet on ABC before that will deal with the Lotto, create a massive pool and take on the Lotto all in one go and yes it must be available to play online and in outlets away from what is perceived to be dodgy totes. What is is you ask? A Pick 6 randomised bet or “quick pick” for lack of a better word.

    Benefits: It will create monster pools, it will draw more people in and further entice people to start to read through basic form guides to try and beat the system, it will get people used to top trainers, jockeys, horses and colours!

    What do I know, I am just from the KZN South Coast!

  7. Martin says:

    My Grandfather was a trainer/owner, my late Farther was also an owner as well as me. Unfortunately I’m not an owner anymore due to the costs involved and the purse stakes doesn’t make sense to run at a loss
    The operators that regulate the two different durastictions only thing of one thing there bottom line and not the owners, trainers nor the owners.
    But if it weren’t for the owners that pour millions in to the king of sports they wouldn’t be there. About time they think of increasing the stakes purse to make it viable for the owners to stay in the game

  8. Glendyr Garrett Pirija says:

    Please Racing get yourselves a really professional Advertising/Marketing Agency who in addition possibly can assist with definition of the product you should serve up and how it should be marketed. Nando’s could give you some suggestions. Or else your sponsors Vodacom or maybe Investec!

    Your present marketers are less than pathetic.

  9. Anton says:

    …as a relatively new punter (since about 2013/2014) when I happened past a tote and took a chance on the Met and ‘raided’ the powers that be with Yogas’ Martial Eagle at about 22/1 – this latest Met just leaves a bad taste in the mouth… and I just avoid going out of my way to bet again.

  10. Ian Jayes says:

    People today are much more sensitive to animal rights than they were and using animals for profit and fun is anathema to a lot of people. For this reason horseracing should be like Caesar’s wife: above suspicion. Unfortunately it is not and while thoroughbreds are generally very well cared for, they are also abused in many ways, not least of which is the use of drugs for racing. The sooner the powers that be realise that the image can never be better than the substance, the sooner our racing will become acceptable to more people.
    Years of “spinning” issues instead of dealing with them has resulted in horseracing having a very bad image with the general public. The fact that the NSPCA cannot associate itself with horseracing speaks volumes.
    As far as other aspects go, the more money that is given back to more punters the more money will go through the totes. In other words the more winners there are the more money the tote will handle, but the operators saw fit to ensure there are less individual winners by doing away with stable couplings and consolation doubles.
    About thirty years ago while still a steward at Newmarket and Vaal, i suggested making a Pick 7 where the pool would be divided to pay out winners of all seven races 50%, winners of any six races 25%, any five races 15% down to any four races 10%. To me this made such a lot of sense as you were giving money back to more punters for them to re-invest. Probably because I was so disliked for trying to get redress on certain serious matters and my outspokenness on so many issues, the then WARC would not entertain instituting my suggestion..

  11. Seedated says:

    Ian, that is a fantastic idea. If I had a buck for every time I went one out a pick 6.. I believe it would be a roaring success if implemented along with the “quick pick” idea suggested above. Using the same logic offer a consolation prize if the punter goes one out the quartet? Perhaps a percentage of the Trifecta payout.
    Also add all the bets that are available in Hong Kong.
    Use your contacts to lobby for this idea. Corporate greed is literally killing the sport of Kings. It’s now become the sport of corporates.

  12. Kenny says:

    They should consider selling the tote to hollywood.

  13. Leon Smuts says:

    The tote could be the biggest and lowest risk cash cow for the operator if humility and honesty were the driving force behind in every racing discussion. Most people would like to see racing succeed so why not engage with external parties in a transparent and genuine manner for much greater results. New ideas should not be limited to and rejected by the internal structure and system constraints. Why worry about possibly sharing a fraction of the pot with new product and service generators if it meant that the pot could be increased exponentially in favour of racing and the bottom line. Racing needs a united approach for the best results and this can only be achieved when concepts and innovations can be shared freely and discussions can take place in good faith. Many forum threads highlights the lack of integrity and passion that exists in our industry and this does not serve racing well. Lets make future decisions solely about the greater good of racing, it’s punters, owners and horsemen. Looking after the whole chain will ensure a healthy industry and a healthy bottom line.

  14. Pops says:

    Boom again? Not if Rob Scott has anything to do with it.He finds it more important to promote Futsal when horses in a local race are going down to the start. Phumelela have ditched horse racing for sports betting,Fact.

    1. Editor says:

      Pops – fact?

  15. Rod Mattheyse says:

    If any of you guys win the powerball tonight , please give it back to all the people who were 1 or more out

  16. Lucky says:

    All good ideas in all honesty I can’t see anything wrong with them.The game needs diversity in terms of Tipsters when you see the same faces always on Tellytrack makes the Game ELITE and distant to ordinary people Eric Sands is one of the few Trainers not ashamed to call the groom name during an interview acknowledges his effort I know RAINBOW BRIDGE Groom is VUYO there’s no way the Game can grow if there aren’t enough People of Colour as role models .

    It’s hard convincing ordinary people that this is not richmans game and with all the above sad still merit should be the criteria however I thing media publications like yourself can do more to Give opportunities to all deserving Tipsters irrespective of RACE ,Colour or Creed for that matter I tried to show case my TIPPING skills across all publications so far no chance and I run a small TIPPING SERVICE funny enough attracting Big Punters who find my work effective however I’m not good enough for Computaform,Winning Form,and Sporting Post.

  17. Loraine Karam says:

    Lucky, you are absolutely correct, but it seems like we are fighting a losing battle. Loraine Karam

  18. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Leon it seems punters are voting against that easy bet that keeps your interest going, i.e. place accumulator – have never seen pools so low

  19. Leon Smuts says:

    Between the open bet, people quitting racing and almost no new punters what do you realistically expect Rod? Nothing that is happening is surprising except perhaps why no new things are being tried to turn this trend around. Pool shrinkage has been a long time coming and will only get worse in the absence of creating new markets and skilled players.

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