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Racing – Where’s The Initiative And Will?

Must the game be left to die?

Ever wondered why racing is having such a tough time to develop new wagering markets and create new and increased interest from the younger generation and the fairer sex.

Leon Smuts writes that there are a few reasons other than the normal list of excuses as to why racing has not grown and appears to be incapable of making any meaningful progress in this department.

The most ignored and misunderstood reason is that not enough is done in product offerings to best show the entertainment value of racing and to demonstrate its definition as a game of skill to better effect.

It all starts with having a bet and you either get a lot of joy out of it or you don’t, but this single act of involvement holds the key to further increased participation or an immediate cold shoulder.

Racing is undeniably a game of skill, but this has never been properly scaled to racings advantage in either product development or marketing campaigns.

Existing products are in fact very unfriendly tools if you are new to the game and are mostly a hinderance rather than a help to get people interested (think of the calculation of the cost of a bet, bet types, rules that apply and how and in what type of bets fancied selections can be utilized).

Not only is this preventing new interest, but not a single product demonstrates the benefits of skill or rewards it adequately and it is even less able to give new participants any idea as to how they stack up in the skills department and if they are making progress in this area or not.

Games are also not perceived as attractive by new players either from an entertainment, risk versus return or cost perspective and neither are they seen as fair towards the average player.

Heavy Metal

Many a novice has told me that it appears that a large wallet will mostly trump skill in racing, especially in the exotics where many more selections can be had with a large permutation, and this reality keeps them from seeking an involvement.

They also express views that the easiest bets to understand, like win and place does not provide an economic incentive as you either win very little or must venture too much at a big risk to get a worthwhile return.

These are legitimate concerns that should be taken to heart if the game is to be expanded and re-popularised.

It is possible to address these issues and gain a lot of ground for racing but not while ego’s and arrogance continue to dominate thinking.

Nothing would be better from a marketing perspective than to make new games entertaining, fair, rewarding and affordable to get maximum involvement from the widest potential market.

Further to the above, skills guidance should feature prominently in the design of new products to make them more useful in the development and retention of players, a vital requirement, as skilled players seldom leave the game. Strong initial interest, regular involvement and long-term participation are the corner stones of developing skill and games should support these pillars in their design.

Not a lot of thought has gone into these areas and the lack of results is not surprising given the limited appeal of the present range of products to unskilled players. The sport needs products that will make involvement easier, fairer, more affordable and a great deal more enjoyable and rewarding what we have at present.

There can be no doubt that the funding model of racing will be best served by products geared towards establishing and supporting new and growing markets. Most of the funding mechanisms will show tremendous gain once the relevance of racing is addressed and this can only be done by rapidly growing the number of participants and the sourcing of a brand new fanbase and markets for the sport.

Exponential gains in advertising revenue, sponsorships and take out will flow from turning racing into a mass market proposition, especially as it is coming from such a low base. Catering for an ever-diminishing niche will continue to cripple the entire industry and lead to more job losses and protest actions along the way.

Race horse owners and ownership is crying out for an improved and sustainable funding model that will improve prize money and promote renewed interest.

Until the value of the present punter and more importantly new markets are understood and pursued our game will continue to hemorrhage owners, trainers and punters and will get ever closer to a point of no return.

Measurable action is required to grow the customer base through all means possible, and putting this off is tantamount to suicide, and a clear neglect of the duty that local operators have to maintain and nurture the sport.

Products with which to build new markets have already been created and could do wonderful things for the marketing of racing if given the chance.

Given racings challenges it makes no sense to stay married to a failing view and the lack of support for growth initiatives must be seriously questioned by everyone who loves racing and earns a living from the sport.

Pics – Chase Liebenberg and JC Photos

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14 comments on “Racing – Where’s The Initiative And Will?

  1. Brendon says:

    Racing requires fresh thinking, new blood and less fossils in the boardroom. It also requires a meritocracy and less nepotism. What are the operators doing to root out the dead wood and under performers in their respective businesses, especially in the boardroom and management structures?

    Bookmaking was a dying business 15 years ago when independent bookmakers relied primarily on horse racing and to a lesser degree on sports betting for their survival. A few bookmakers took the lead to diversify their revenues with the introduction of products covering the lotto, powerball, and later on with “soccer” shops. Some of the bookmakers also took the lead to develop their online betting sites to the point that they have built and captured a large portion of the online betting market that has been neglected by the operators. (compare the betting world site to WSB – and you will realise that one of them is still trying to address Y2k, and the other is world class)

    The key question is can Racing sustain a top-heavy management team that has operated in a vacuum and lost touch with is employees and more importantly the owners, trainers, grooms, punters and other key stakeholders? The share price performance is a fair reflection of whether value is being created or eroded.

    Leon, thanks for this piece and hopefully you next one is not a post-mortem.

  2. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Leon, I have waited in anticipation for your latest offering.

    I think you confuse lower revenue by operators with a dying game analogy.

    Look at the gambling board’s numbers and it might reveal something different. look at the operators cut of the punters winning tax and it might reveal something different.

    What those hieroglyphics confirm to me is that the revenue growth is in the direction of Bookmakers. Now operators need to work out what is it that punters like more at bookmakers than operators – i cant think that independent bookmakers offer different products to the operator run bookmakers or operators. (lets be pragmatic here all tax is from the punters)

    Since 2017 the gauteng Gambling Board revenue from TAB has reduced from R59m per annum to R54m per annum in the same time the revenue collected from Bookmakers has risen from R203m to R287m

    Since the racing season ended July 2011 the ratio of tax contribution from TAB/Bookmaker has deteriorated from 29/71 to 16/84

    Interesting to note that revenue from bookmakers now outstrips revenue from casino tables – the machines is still the big money spinner at R500m per annum.

    A piece of the data that is missing is how much “tax” to the gambling board is from sports and numbers – i know punters are not taxed on those – but perhaps there is some kind of revenue tax of sorts.(R75m x2 =R150m indicates that either Phum was short changed or there is another R137m the Gauteng guys are paying.)

    initial conclusion:

    Not necessarily such a declining market (although the operators are failing)
    No evidence new products will stem the tide
    Bookmakers doing something right

    Find a way for bookmakers to hedge their bets and the cost of the hedge flows back into the whole model

  3. Basil says:

    Racing in the RSA is held in major cities where children only know animals like cats and dogs who get the love they deserve in most cases.
    We need to develop a love of animals such as horses as they do in the USA where busloads of interested people visit stud farms for this purpose.The excitement that the thoroughbred gives humans is called “equine therapy” and is so vital for the existence of horse racing.
    The other aspects of racing are the conditions of racing and having a wager as well as having a fun day at the races. Apart from the 1st item a brief analysis of the latter 3 are as follows:
    (1) Handicapping procedures turn racing into a lottery (2) Rather play p/a’s, bi pots and jackpots than Pick6’s (they are designed for big punters) betting should be fun for the biggest reward for the smallest outlay as long as u make a decent profit. Dreams of getting rich like in the lottery or Pick6 are unwarranted. One should for example spread one’s outlay to 80% other bets and 20% Pick 6. In that way one can also participate in the P6 pool and enhance one’s chances of winning in all bets.
    I will leave the creation of the “fun day” to the administrators concerned but moderate and sensible betting will assist in this regard. I know of one party who will not be happy with this statement.
    Lastly I believe that racing is over-taxed in SA considering the job opportunities that it offers and the further investment by owners being affected by lower racing stakes as a result thereof.

  4. wesnaude1999 says:

    I have got a few ideas for race day experience:
    -Race day should be Family and friends orientated. I got interested in racing through my best
    friend whose dad owned a share in a horse. I see parents bring their kids to races. More of that
    needs to happen. Pony rides for kids and play pen for kids( some of this is achieved). Space for a
    mainstream restaurant like Spur or something of that nature.

    – People coming to the races for the first time must be able to learn about the sport with ease.
    There are a couple of ways to do this.
    A) Slight improvement to racecards. Add a page explaining the different types of races that are
    run in this country, Level weights, Handicap, Conditions etc. I know sporting post has an
    article with some of this information on this but it would be nice if it is on the racecard itself.
    Some of the races I still have no idea what the conditions are.

    Add a page with the
    national feature racing programme with abbreviations used in past performances next to the
    corresponding feature races. The public need to know what the feature races are. Not just the
    July or the Met.

    I know most of this can be found online somewhere, but it is much easier to have it on the
    racecard, especially for a newbie at the races.

    B) Budget for a Curio shop at every racecourse. I know Greyville has one and correct me if I’m
    wrong but it is the only one available. Some old race footage of past legends could be sold to
    the public, vinatge racecards, Magazine of photos of races of decades gone by( if possible).
    Every type of tourism has a curio shop. I know for Rugby you can by t-shirts and stuffed
    animals in some places right outside the stadium. A curio shop is a necessity for furthering
    ones interest and education in the sport. It is my belief that once a fan is educated on a
    particular sport, they become more dedicated and a have a deeper appreciation for the sport.

    This education can help reconcile with the public with regards to the ever changing social
    attitudes towards racing. Hope you guys agree with some of the ideas put forth.

  5. fahiem steffenson says:

    A horse cost 10 k a month to train…….only first and second place makes it pay it’s own way……and then it needs to be very consistantly….third and fourth u still have to add to pay the Bill’s……if 3rd and 4 th place can atleast cover your training fees if would be more affordable for anybody to get into racing…..y they pay 2k for 5th place still baffles me ..5th place in a normal race doesn’t for part of anything

  6. Donald says:

    The industries biggest problem in respect of revenue is the ” TAKE OUT ” by the bookies !

    Bookies are the one curse that the British allowed into the sport – they are ” MONEY GRUBBERS ” and put very little back with the exception of trainer , jockey and now race course sponsorship which is designed to keep them ” IN THE KNOW ”

    Get rid of them for starters and the sport will take on a very different glow in terms of revenue !

    Unconstitutional I hear you cry ! Well probably so we are stuck with them and huge revenue losses as a result will continue for all involved except our good friends in the ring ?

  7. Andre Hauptfleisch says:

    The whole “racing model” needs to revert to the “right way up” !!

    1. The horse
    2. The owner/punter
    3. The rest who get paid to do their job

    Until this happens, racing remains a mugs game and can only go one way.

  8. Asterix says:

    Another thing that attracts the gambling inclined is the chance to win a life changing sum of money. The operators should introduce a bet similar to the pick 6, but where permutations and fractionals are not allowed. Let the pool build and carryover until it is one day won. The more the pool carries over the bigger the interest will be. If the pools get big enough even the casual punters will start to take notice. Something like a Horseracing Lotto.

  9. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    Mr Marcus, again your lightest, dignified touch and reason, commands respect.

  10. Rian says:

    Hell William, You never will get the response !!!!!!!

  11. Christo says:

    Racing is a joke. After 20 years I left the game. Marketing of the game is poor with the same people at the helm of this game for so long. I went to every big race meeting several times, normal race days a lot:

    Problems:

    No access to good food
    Small fields not Attractive to punters
    Toilet facilities a joke
    No hype is build about racing = only July, met and summer cup days and that is not even on par
    Punters and race horse owners last
    Panel discussions a joke with people could not even tip good bets
    New comers to the game listen to this peoplr
    Your outlets bad

    Racing needs a program like soccer and rugby at least two times a week on TV where horses are discussed by experts not the telly track presenters
    These type of programs needs to have involvement of trainers like Justin snaith, Brett Crawford, Mike de kock, ex top jockeys like garth, Andrew f, Kevin Shea and a delpech.
    Discussion of betting types and suggestions by these people will help punters and new comers
    Look at facilities and bring Spur and other on board, keep this restaurants open at courses the whole time let people go there and get a feeling
    Get racing to the public excitement on weekends not only the big 3 days
    Stop with this music on big days you cannot even hear yourself
    Get the public talking about racing
    Bring big fields back
    Passion for this game will save it

  12. Sandhiran says:

    The horse racing industry today is dying a slow death as the racing operators like Phumelela and Gold Circle have not adapted to the ever changing environment , technology etc. The bookmakers have surpassed the industry as they have taken sports and number betting as a priority hence the high turnover and a declining horse racing business due to the ever growing business on sport and numbers . If you go into a tab and all you could bet on is horse racing then it becomes boring for a punter . They need to have options and more local racing events than the one racing per day during the week and two on the weekends . The tab should look at the gaming act , be innovative, increase the products on sport betting and include numbers betting . This is how you going to keep the punters in tab instead of them always wanting to head to one of the bookmakers outlet

  13. bert says:

    Donald another bookie haters.does he not know that Hollywood (a bookmaking group) are now sponsoring a race course.their are bookmakers that are sponsoring trainers to help with high costs and the list goes on and on.
    oh so are trainers and jockeys putting something back into racing it is their occupation and jobs that they are looking into what are they putting in besides this?
    Does he not know that bookies pay taxes every week part off which goes to goverment and and equal amount that goes to racing,which im sure is a bigger amount that TAB gives .
    so maybe u and other bookie haters should first check on what they are saying before making coments

  14. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Hello Bert

    2 Race Courses 👍

    Hollywoodbets Greyville
    Hollywoodbets Scottsville *

    * Home of the famous 4 x Gr1 sprint races
    on the same day

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