The title of the Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 10) panel at the Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming said it all: “Handicapping Contests -- Are they an area of real growth in the racing industry?”
According to the panelists, there is real room for handle growth by promoting contests, both online and ontrack.
First up was Keith Chamblin, senior VP of marketing and industry communications for the New York Racing Association. He showed a survey completed by participants in the National Handicapping Contest and the results were eye-opening.
Chamblin said the participants were 95 percent male, with an average age of 52. Sounded like the group that I said we should aggressively pursue in a blog a few years ago.
He added that when those who filled out this survey visited the racetrack, they were wagering $377 per capita, which is a fantastic number that any mutuel manager would welcome.
Then came Jim Goodman, who is director of simulcasting and mutuels at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. It doesn’t matter which department head is presenting, because when they come from Keeneland, they are going to blow you away with their numbers.
Goodman said that he experienced problems when his on-track contests had to compete with online contests, but he showed great success with contests with entry fees as high as $3,000. I used to play in the little $30 contests they would hold during the live meet at Turfway Park. It was always full (and the spaghetti dinner was always good), even if we were watching racing on TV.
The most compelling comments came from Christian Hellmers, a professional handicapper that has twice finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, a tournament with a $10,000 entry fee.
Hellmers said that the biggest area for wagering growth is to play off of people’s egos. And the people with the biggest egos tend to be the ones with the most money. He wants to go after hedge fund managers, people who regularly take calculated risks with huge amounts of money.
He wants those people into those pools, but warned that they will not play unless they can lock in their odds. That sounds like a job for exchange wagering, but since we don’t quite have that yet, let’s stick to handicapping contests for now.
He wants to tap into the “man versus man” experience of handicapping, something that you don’t see when you are betting into the tote. Sure, that guy standing on the apron next to you in the stained windbreaker is your competition, but do you really know what he is betting?
“There is a whole other level to this game,” said Hellmers. “People don’t know how the best bettors are betting. We need leaders. We need people who call their shots.”
Sounds like a good group to go after.
Stayed tuned for more Symposium coverage on Wednesday. Follow me on Twitter @TJ_USTA or check out hashtag #AZSym13
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