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Sunday, June 28, 2009

True Confessions

Okay, I admit it. I hate playing the races using the Internet. Yes, there are times you can't get to the track and there is a horse you want to follow or there is a special race or card you want to catch and you don't have the ability to drive/fly to Lexington, Delaware or another distant location and for those times, you are glad you have your ADW. That being said, I must come clean.

On the whole, I find racing over the Internet boring. Quite honestly, after the big races were completed last night at Mohawk, I was so happy to turn off the computer; I would check the rest of the results this morning basically to see how Admirals Express did (it is time to re-retire him).

Now before you decide never to read this blog again and/or swear never to invite me to another meeting or reach the conclusion that I am an unrepentant heretic, let me explain myself.

I love harness racing; that has not changed. If I have the chance to get to the track, I'll be there. Give me a chance to plan a vacation and my wife knows there will be a harness track in the vicinity. No live racing? No problem, I'll head to the track for simulcasting or even go to an off track wagering facility if I can. Racing over the Internet? I find myself watching TV, doing other things, falling asleep while I am watching the races. Why? Is it because I play only one track at a time and there is too much free time? No, that's not it.

It's lonely. That's right, there is no social component to the experience. I guess in this respect humans are like horses, we are herd animals; we like being with others. Bet through my ADW and I am sitting there alone figuring out my picks and wagering; no social interaction with anyone other than Lucky (a Husky/Pharaoh Hound mix). When I go to the track or an OTW facility, I have the chance to socialize, even if not about racing while I play the races. I can debate with others why I made my selection as they tell me why they made their picks. We never seem to change each other's opinions but it makes the day/evening enjoyable. I can celebrate my big score with others.

Look, if you are a professional gambler, who needs the social interaction? However, if you are like the majority of people who play the races, racing is an entertainment option. Speed up the races, offer new wagering options, make the races more accessible over the Internet, lower the takeout. However, if you do this all in a vacuum and disregard the social component, we are doomed to failure.

The Internet is no doubt and important source of revenue for racing. If you want to make the experience more appealing, build a social component into your application; have a Facebook type application where you can chat with your friends while you discuss the card and selections. However, for some people that won't be enough. Have OTWs? Add a dance club which opens after your primary races are done (your own signals). Racetrack? Add a dance club, concert hall and multiple dining options in addition to your slot machines. You need to make your facilities 'destinations'; a place where people can come together and socialize. Make racing part of the social experience.

Then watch the herd come home.

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