Monday, March 19, 2012

Comparison of Horse Racing Advertizing

It's well known that the horse racing industry in the U.S. is in decline and has been so for a number of years. To the industry's credit, they are trying to market to attract new customers. This post will show video ads made by a couple of organizations to show the different approaches. In my opinion, all the ads show innovative thinking; however, innovative thinking does not always translate to a good result. Take a look for yourself!

Here's the first one:

What the heck was the thinking behind this? I go to a shoe store, get some horseshoe-shaped athletic shoes and I slam dunk a basketball over a horse. And THAT is supposed to make me want to go to a racetrack and bet on horses? Really? This ad for the "Sport of Kings" obviously was conceptualized and crafted by the "Kings of Stupid." You think that ad was bad? You can't see the first one they put out that had a nerdy-looking guy go to the same store and get an energy drink that could easily be confused with some alcoholic beverage stereotypically-aligned with a particular ethnic group in the US (one could guess by looking at the store clerk - same guy in both ads). After drinking, the nerd started acting like a lunatic. That ad was SO BAD, you can't even see it anymore - it got pulled off of YouTube.

Where in these "Hoof Locker" ads does the viewer get the hook with regard to attention, interest, desire and action to go to the races? I can't see it, sorry.

Now here's another ad that at least gets the message across about horse racing and racetracks:

Now, this is funny and not stupid or ethnically repulsive. There's a one-minute version of this ad also available for view on YouTube. This ad may not get you to the track, but the viewer has no doubt that this ad is about horse racing and the experience of going to the racetrack - hey, you might get to catch a horseshoe! This ad is much better than the "Hoof Locker" ad.

The same group also put out this ad, which I think is the best of the bunch and communicates the benefits of going to the track the best. It highlights the social aspect, fun with friends, younger people, good food, a chance to win, a clean facility, upscale dining environment, getting up close to the horses, the jockeys, etc. - the complete experience. Overall, the last two are much better than the first. What do you think?

There are other posts on this blog that discuss horse racing, which I recommend you peruse. The most recent can be found here, here and here.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Australian Betting Operator Argues For More Regulation To Level Playing Field

The Melbourne, Australia paper Herald Sun reported on remarks made by David Attenborough, the chief executive of Tabcorp, a leading Australian gambling company. His remarks were made at a luncheon of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia. As an aside, I find that an interesting name of an organization. I understand an Australian Chamber of Commerce, but an American Chamber of Commerce in Australia? They however are legit and focus on international commerce, particularly between the two countries.

His point was that Tabcorp was following the law and allowing sports betting via telephone but not online. However, there were operators taking online sports bets that were not being taken to task for violating the restrictions contained in the Interactive Gambling Act. That is reasonable. If a government is going to place restrictions, the legitimate operators are competitively hurt if they are the only ones to follow the law.

But what I feel are the most poignant comments by Mr. Attenborough were the generic comments regarding sports and sports betting. He is spot on and governments need to grasp and accept this reality. His two key points are:
  1. Sports betting is becoming "part of everyday entertainment"
  2. "Sport is much more exciting when you bet on it"

Absolutely true and blatantly obvious if you look at the amount of sports betting going on globally, both legal and illegal.

The skill game of fantasy sports also benefits from these truisms. Those who play fantasy sports do have their enjoyment of the event enhanced by tracking their team, interacting with the other participants in their league, etc.

Governments need to get on the winner of regulation rather than the loser of prohibition. Prohibition does not prohibit anything if the activity is in high demand - it just creates a lucrative and unregulated black market, which is not at all helpful.

Even with this issue, Australia does seem to get it much better than the U.S. There is an earlier post that discusses partnerships between Australian professional sports teams and online gambling firms. For additional information on Australian gambling, check out this post from January of 2011.

For those interested in a not so well published topic, this post discusses the linkage of the founders of professional football (NFL) in the U.S. and gambling. Also the post discusses how the NFL works with the legal bookmakers to help protect the integrity of the games by detection and reporting of unusual betting patterns. This idea is another good reason for Australia to further embrace legal and regulated sports betting, even online.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Exchange Wagering Going Nowhere Fast in California

A working committee of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) met in February to obtain industry feedback on the implementation of exchange wagering in California. Exchange wagering was approved by the legislature, with the crafting of rules delegated to the CHRB. The Thoroughbred Times reported on the four-hour meeting with the result that the committee would make no recommendation to the full board for implementing exchange wagering at this time. According to the story, "committee members said there appeared to be too much opposition from key industry players to current plans and suggested more discussion is needed."

Opposition? That's an understatement. Were there some proponents? Sure. Betfair (the company that is prepared now to offer exchange wagering), Del Mar racetrack and the Horseplayers Association of North America (gamblers). It only makes sense that Betfair would be in favor as they would operate the wagering platform. The horseplayers are naturally in favor of any wagering modification that reduces takeout (vigorish).

Del Mar racetrack could be considered a non-profit, as opposed to other tracks in California, such as Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita. Both of those for-profit venues were strenuously opposed to exchange wagering. Representatives for those entities stated that those tracks would not approve exchange wagering on their races, even if the CHRB approved rules. There may have also been a threat of legal action if the CHRB approved exchange wagering at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields without those tracks' approval.

The current issues with exchange wagering apparently are:
  • Cannibalization of current pari-mutuel pools
  • The ability to bet on horses to LOSE (danger danger danger)
  • Lack of protection of jockeys from arbitrary charges of race fixing
  • Insufficient takeout and increased handle to compensate for lower pari-mutuel handle
  • Possible "cost-plus" takeout scheme for exchange wagering operators
  • De facto monopoly for the lead vendor proponent (Betfair)
  • Not all entities economically benefit from exchange takeout compared to current scheme
That's a LOT of issues. I read the entire 199 page transcript of the proceeding. If you like, you can do the same by clicking here. There was much more than what was reported by the Thorougbred Times. It appeared to me reading the transcript that Betfair may not have as elegantly made their case to the point that some may come to the conclusion that Betfair may have been more spin-heavy as opposed to just stating solid facts and evidence in support of the exchange wagering concept. (Yes, I'm being deliberately diplomatic in my language).

In my opinion, exchange wagering is not going to happen in California anytime soon, if ever.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Singapore's Airport Sets Passenger Record in 2011

The Casino Journal reported in its February issue that Singapore's airport passenger traffic rose 11.4% in December, continuing the positive trend since the opening of their two casino resort complexes. For the entire year, Singapore's Changi Airport handled 46.5 million passengers. As a comparison point, Las Vegas McCarran Airport handled 41.4 million passengers, well off its high of 47 million in 2007, before the financial meltdown.

A large difference, of course, is that Singapore is a key air traffic hub in south Asia, with a large amount of business being conducted in Singapore proper. Las Vegas' key attractant is the tourist/gaming industry.

Regardless, it is another point of proof to show that expansion of gaming to Singapore was a smart move, paying immediate dividends. You can reference other posts regarding Singapore gaming here, here and here.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Game Flow Concept Applicable to Fantasy Sports Contests?

Jeff Jordan in a May 2011 article in Casino Enterprise Management discussed a concept he called "game flow" to highlight a new way of evaluating slot machine performance. In a nutshell, game flow is a zone of optimal balance between challenge and skill. Now skill in a slot machine context is more akin to figuring out all the bells, whistles, spinny things, bonus games and payouts as opposed to really figuring out how to improve your performance playing a game. Slot machines by their nature really don't have a link that correlates to a player's skill, unless you think putting a $20 bill in a money acceptor is a skill.

What is a good zone or flow for one person will deviate between people. Jordan states, "Flow is designed for purposes of this framework as the mental state in which a player is absorbed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and sensation in the play characteristics of the game." [1] So it is a bit like Goldilocks - it's just right. But each person has their own Goldilocks standard.

Taking Jordan's flow concept, can it apply to fantasy sports contests? To an extent. Typically fantasy sports contests take much longer than a particular pull of a slot machine handle (nowadays a press of a button), or even a slot machine gaming session. But the breakdown of the consumer's behavior is applicable. Jordan teaches four basic elements:
  1. Game appeal
  2. Trial wagers
  3. Game flow
  4. Game loyalty
These elements can be mapped into a fantasy sports skill game context. Game appeal could be the published rules, entry fee and prize schedule. Trial wagers of course would be the entry fee (or lack thereof). Game flow would be the management of the player's fantasy team during the tenure of the contest. Finally, game loyalty would be the player's post contest assessment of his/her experience and desire to play the same contest next time.

As fantasy sports games branch out into more frequent games, even daily in some cases, the concept of game flow will become more important to consider.

The online version of Jeff Jordan's article can be found here.


[1] Jordan, J. (2011, May), Leveraging a Game Flow Framework to Evaluate Game Performance, Part 1, Casino Enterprise Management, 61.


Jordan, J. (2011, May), Leveraging a Game Flow Framework to Evaluate Game Performance, Part 1, Casino Enterprise Management, 60-61.

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