For years the allure of the sport of horse racing has drawn in thousands of affluent consumers from around the globe. But, recently the numbers of those attending horse racing tracks and pari-mutuel gaming facilities and casinos to wager on the sport have declined. It’s been said that the industry as a whole fears that young people aren’t being introduced to the sport at all, so this opportunity growth market for the sport of horse racing and gaming is never harvested and fostered. These young people, ages 18-25 are the future of the sport, and among them are also the next group of affluent consumers who will soon have the disposable income to wager on horse betting. This group will become the sport’s next VIPs and will have the opportunity to help grow the sport, and change its appeal to others within their circle. But the question still exists, have the young and rich forgotten about horse racing, and why?
One of the reasons these groups may have strayed away from the sport is the complexity of betting, and the sport’s ‘barriers to entry’. This is especially true among the young group. Other factors include growing competition: other entertainment, rapid casino growth, and the current economy/job market.
Peter Carlino, Chairman of Penn National Gaming, which operates various racetracks and gaming facilities around the nation was quoted last February as saying, “There aren’t sufficient numbers of racing customers anymore because they died.”
But I beg to differ. As a young person who was recently introduced to the sport, I can see the appeal. It’s the excitement of the fast-paced action, being at the track or the Racebook and feeling the electricity in the air before the bell rings and the gates drop, the sheer pageantry of it all. And above all the feeling of winning (hopefully) is incomparable. But perhaps the young and rich both need to be introduced for the first time, or re-introduced in some cases, to the sport and its time-tested allure. And all this can be done through a multi-faceted, major marketing campaign, by engaging in mainstream media and social media and targeting potential high rollers. Be where these groups are, and do the things they do, and horse racing can grow even more.
And as the Breeder’s Cup approaches, consider this: Maybe horse racing’s customers haven’t died at all, maybe they’re just waiting to get a taste of the excitement.
The question is… who’s willing to offer them a bite?