Higher payouts on winning bets, facility upgrades and more fan retention programs are some of the ideas recommended for New York’s thoroughbred and harness tracks by a fan advisory council.
The New York State Racing Fan Advisory Council’s 2012 report and recommendations were released to the public Wednesday. The four-person council, created under a 2011 directive from the state Racing and Wagering Board, traveled across the state, talking to racing fans and experts to compile this initial snapshot of ideas for the state’s racing industry.
“We believe it is a series of realistic measures that can bring about positive change to our industry,” council Chairman Patrick Connors said in the report. “We will continue to identify and map out more comprehensive recommendations.”
Read the report
The New York State Racing Fan Advisory Council’s report and recommendations can be found on the Capital Region Scene blog at dailygazette.com/weblogs/capital-region-scene.
The first recommendation was to lower the percentage withheld by track operators on winning bets. John Hendrickson, a special adviser to the board of the New York Racing Association, which oversees racing at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct, said this provision should definitely be considered.
“Lower takeout leads to more business,” he said.
Especially with gamblers using off-track simulcast options, he said, there is a desire to make as much money as possible on each bet. He predicted if more money is paid out, more bets will be placed, which is better for the state and for racing.
At the Saratoga Race Course, the council came up with a plan for reselling or reusing reserved seating, which was an issue raised when it met with fans there this past summer. Season ticketholders in the clubhouse or grandstand currently can’t return their tickets to NYRA on days they won’t be using them, so many seats are left open on weekdays and fans who want to use the seats are denied access.
The council recommended two options that would make unused clubhouse tickets available to fans on the day of races, which would improve their experience and potentially create new fans. Tickets could be made available for sale by the ticketholder through a donation process or an account-crediting system.
At Saratoga and the other racetracks, the council recommended facility upgrades, including improved automated teller machines and better televisions for viewing. Hendrickson said offering high-definition televisions was a must, as new and old fans demand the best available technology.
He noted that some of the council’s recommendations, like free wireless Internet access, have already been implemented by NYRA. Fans were able to use their smartphones and tablets last year to stream races and bet on them, he said.
Hendrickson added that the council’s recommendation for a NYRA fan outreach committee is being addressed in committee, as they will be hosting a public hearing at the Saratoga Race Course this summer. He’s supportive of additional measures, as well. “The more outreach the better, as these are the people’s tracks,” he said.
The report also recommends attracting and keeping new fans by rewarding people for regular attendance and moderate wagering, offering non-racing events and activities and offering educational opportunities.
Officials from NYRA and the Saratoga Casino & Raceway, which hosts harness racing, declined to comment on recommendations in the report, but said they were grateful for the input and planned to review the ideas.