With the realization that thoroughbred racing needs to be
progressive in both the marketing and packaging of its product in order to
compete for a percentage of the ever shrinking disposable income of the
consumer, creative new thinking has become essential not only for the here and
now, but also for the health and future of the sport that so many of us love. Sam
Houston Race Park, in Houston, Texas, has become a leader among racetracks in this type of fan friendly planning that goes a long way into kicking racing into the 21st century. Here are a few of my favorite progressive solutions implemented by the 20-year-old track:
Empathy for the gambler
Not satisfied with their already high placing on the annual track rankings by the Horseplayers Association of North America, Sam Houston has
taken things a step farther. Rolling daily doubles and Pick 5 carryovers have
been added to the wagering menu, while more takeout percentages have been slashed.
The track, which opens for live racing on Friday, January 18, now can boast
that all multi-race wagers offered, are at an industry low of 12%. Dig their
colorful display of their multi-race offerings and the excellent takeout rates
They also like to take care of their loyal bettors with a rewards
program that offers three tiers of advantages for the member. The more you
wager at Sam Houston the more they take care of you. Las Vegas has been doing
this successfully for years, but in our industry, it has been largely underused.
Visit the Sam Houston Race Park website and you will not only find
easy to navigate pages, but you also cannot help but notice the big buttons
inviting fans to join them on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. This is something
that all savvy companies have caught on with of late, but unlike many
racetracks, SHRP works these social media outlets. Visit their pages and you
will find an active member that not only includes regular posts, but also does
so in such a way that speaks to a large and young online audience. Check out
this Friday drink special graphic recently posted on their Facebook page.
Clearly their social media pages are not an afterthought, but a
real vehicle to reach out to their fans. Their feed has become one of my
favorites from any track on Twitter. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to
follow them as soon as possible at @SHRP.
Targeting the younger
This one could have easily fell in to one of the previous two
headers, but I think the implementation of On-Track Mobile Wagering, in which
Sam Houston allows on-track customers to place wagers on both simulcast and
live races using their Smartphone, I-Pad or tablet, best fits into connecting
with the demographic that racing needs to, if it plans to move forward as a
viable sport and gaming option.
A quick perusal of their racing calendar for 2013 reveals that
this place is not your grandfather’s stodgy old place to gamble and swear. Food
Trucks, Wiener Races, Ladies Night, Camel & Ostrich racing, and Fan Appreciation
Night are a number of the ways that demonstrate how SHRP is willing to go that
extra mile to attract the new racing fan.
Events that stand out
Sam Houston has a brand new bag, and their not afraid to spread
the news. The newly created $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, for fillies and
mares on Saturday, January 26, will be the richest Thoroughbred stakes race in
the state of Texas. Not only is the track pushing the excitement of the new
race, but they are making it an event. Part of a premier day of stakes races that
also features the $200,000 Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup, SHRP is selling
tickets and creating a buzz about the event that most racetracks seem to miss
out on. Don’t be surprised if this “event” draws a large and enthusiastic crowd.
And it’s not just about the events that the track puts on; they
also make it real easy to bring your event to the racetrack. From Business
Meetings & Luncheons, to Concerts & Festivals, to Barbeque Cook-Offs,
Sam Houston invites groups as small as ten, and as large of 30,000 to come to
the track and have a good time. Imagine if just a small percentage of members
of these visiting groups love what they see at Sam Houston Race Park? I’m sure
SHRP has already thought of that, though, because when it comes to moving the
sport of thoroughbred horse racing forward, they are way ahead of the curve.