Thursday, September 04, 2008

Getting them in the tent

Ask any good carnival barker and he will tell you it is all about getting them into the tent. NYRA on the last day of the 2008 Saratoga Meet, announced free admission to everyone and as a result a strong crowd of 28,000 plus showed up, more fans than showed up 2 days earlier on a Beautiful Saturday to see Curlin Run in the Woodward.

This Friday on Opening day at Belmont, General Admission on Opening Day is free and there will be $2 off the clubhouse admission of $5.

This may seem like common sense, which would call for automatic dismissal when brought to those in charge of track management, but why not always have free admission to get into the track-especially no charge for General Admission? I can see a small fee for clubhouse admission, for space considerations alone at some tracks, but charging for general admission never made sense to me. Why charge people to come into your gates only to ask them to pay some more money again at the windows??

The handle is a product of the churn and the more people to churn the higher the handle. The don't charge you to walk into a casino. Why would they? The casino's know their product, they know it works and they know, like any good carnival barker, that all they have to do is get you to come to the tent, then they got you once you are in. If the tracks can put out competitive fields, i.e a good product, forget the general admission charge. Of course without the good product, nothing happens, and I lobby for the free admission on the assumption (dangerous..I know) that the product on the track is also being focused on and improved everyday. The tracks are competing for bodies here, and the entertainment options available are greater than ever-the major team sports, the growth of NASCAR, MMA, High School Sports, and of course 900 channels on Cable TV and anything you could possibly think of on the Internet.

Rather than occasional free admission days, NYRA and other tracks that charge a fee for general admission should ban it entirely. Over the long run, attendance and handle will increase with the greater exposure to the product.


Nick said...

When trying to get non racing fans to go to the local track (Prairie Meadows) one of the first things that is always asked is how much it costs to get in. I know for a fact that many would not have made the trip with me if the answer wasn't "Nothing."

In fact, just this last weekend I convinced my parents to go, where they happily wagered around $100. I don't think they would have even went if it wasn't free to get in the door.

Emily said...

I agree. It's never made sense to me that I have to pay to walk in, and then pay for a program, meaning I'm out a handful of dollars before I've made my first two dollar bet. I mostly hit the track for a chance to enjoy the pleasurable rhythm, and really don't bet a lot. That said, "not a lot" is around sixty, eighty bucks--and there would be more like me if I could just walk in the door.

I'm all for paying for the clubhouse exchange, however--it always makes me feel fancy.

SaratogaSpa said...

Nick and Emily-It's penny wise and pound foolish to charge to get in-your examples show that. thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

As an old timer once told me, "You should never pay to get into a house of gambling."

Steve Zorn said...

The 28,000 on Saratoga's closing day was probably a little overstated. I know, because I was two of those 28,000 myself. I was counted once when I came by early in the morning, and everyone had to go through the turnstiles, rather than walking through the open gates as usual in the morning, and again when I came to the races in the afternoon. And, as an owner with a NYRA badge, I'm usually not counted at all. There was a nice solid crowd there on Labor Day, but perhaps a thousand or two short of the official number.