As announced yesterday, the Horseplayers Association of North America released the preliminary results of their first harness racing poll. Let's take a closer look at some of the results the survey revealed as some of these results are surprising.
Myth: The standardbred fan base is dying off.
Fact: It may be true the vast majority of harness racing fans are between the age of 50-64 (41.8%), but there are plenty of horseplayers between the age of 26-49 (40.6%). So how do we explain about all the comments about the racetracks being populated by old men and our fans are dying off? It is because the older segment are the ones who go to the track; the younger generation are playing the races using ADWs and are staying home. While they technically are not the majority of horseplayers, let's call them the "hidden near majority". Now make no mistake, our penetration rate with those who are 18-25 is very low (3.5%), the possibility exists we are dealing with people who have not established themselves and don't have the discretionary income to gamble.
So the answer is how, do we get this younger generation to show up to the racetrack instead of wagering through their ADWs? The racetrack experience must dramatically change; just going to the track to wager on the races is not going to cut it. Racetracks must be designed or renovated with the younger generation in mind.
Myth: Harness racing is embraced by men and females.
Fact: We have failed miserably in attracting females to embrace harness racing. Only 2.4% of our respondents were female. Harness racing needs to take steps to get females to embrace the sport as the NFL and NASCAR has done. Perhaps renovating the racetracks as we discussed above may entice more women to attend the races, but while we have plenty of female trainers, we need to get these women up in front, meaning we need to get more women driving in races.
Myth: Gamblers want more wagering interests in a race.
Fact: While gamblers don't want short fields, they are not looking for overflow fields either. The survey indicated one of the biggest problems gamblers have with racing is the short fields (52.1% were extremely concerned about this). However, when asked if they would like to see more horses in a race; meaning a second tier, there is a limit to that as well. The majority would still like to see only one tier of horses, but there is some support for one trailer on the 1/2 and 5/8 mile ovals and two trailers on the mile oval.
Myth: Late closing events are promotable events.
Fact: The wagering public hates late closing events; they polled as the fifth most popular type of race, beating out maiden and non-winners of two races lifetime. Why? Probably with the same horses racing week in and week out in these series, they don't provide good wagering values. Late closing events may be popular with horsemen but they do nothing for the gambler. For the record, stakes finals and claiming racess were the most popular events followed by conditioned races, and Open/Invitational races.
Myth: The 5/8 mile ovals are the tracks of the future.
Fact: Well they may be but that is not where most of the wagering is occurring. After the mile oval, more gamblers are indicating the bulk of their wagering is occurring on a half mile track instead of the 5/8 and 7/8 mile ovals. Initially, this shocked me, but there may be other factors involved. For one, after WEG tracks, the majority of Ontario racetracks are half mile tracks and in Pennsylvania, one of the states with racino fueled purses and better horses, the takeout rates are historically higher than other tracks so it may be just a case of people avoiding the higher take out rates.
Myth: People love those all race Superfecta nights.
Fact: Maybe the casual fans love them, but the serious gamblers think there is no place for Rolling Daily Doubles, Pick-3s, and Superfectas. The respondents agree that WPS, Exacta and Trifectas should be offered in each race, but Superfectas and all those other wagers should be offered occasionally in during the race card. The reason? Pool dilution. Not enough money is being wagered into pools right now so all you are doing by offering those rolling Pick-3s, is taking money out of other pools. In fact, when the Quiniella was offered as a trial balloon, the majority of respondents didn't want to see it because it takes money out of the Exacta pools. This is not to say new bet types can't be offered; in a later survey HANA will be inquiring if some of the wager types offered outside of North America are worth considering. My suspicion is some will be liked, but only if another non-core exotic wager is dropped from that race.
We'll continue looking at the HANA survey in another posting.
News Item: St Elmo Hero scratched out of Cam Fella - I guess it could be legitimate, but why does it seem we hear about horses scratching out when they draw the eight hole on half mile ovals and the ten hole on the larger ovals? Maybe the fine folks at New Bolton can do a study on it to see what causes illness to horses that draw outside? They don't seem to get sick as often when they draw inside.