Betting on the World, The View
Late last year, Yonkers Raceway began an experiment. The New York based track decided to produce racecards that would appeal to a European audience. Through a partnership with the track, the horsemen and the French PMU (Pari-Mutuel Urbain), Yonkers embarked on a bold initiative of simulcasting into Europe on a weekly basis.
Instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, Yonkers agreed that their product needed shaking up for the audience.
They would aim the first five races per program at a global simulcast market. They would move post time to 11:00 am on Sunday mornings and would card only trotting races to cater to a viewing public unfamiliar with pacers. The distance of each race would be extended to 1 1/4 miles, and Yonkers would allow up to 12 horses per race to compete over their half-mile track.
In addition, the outreach efforts were extensive. Yonkers set up social media pages in French, designed a website exclusively in French, designed videos with the judges explaining the North American rules, and used Quebec natives Daniel Dube and Mike Lachance, to help discuss racing to the French audience in their native tongue.
To satisfy local players, Yonkers handed out free breakfasts and complimentary bets to on-track players. They even gave out free Sunday morning programs with the purchase of the more popular Saturday evening editions.
So, what was the result?
In one word, the outcome was amazing! Twenty-five races brought in 6 million Euros, or the equivalent of 8.3 million Canadian dollars. The amount, which works out to a remarkable $332,000 per race, was in addition to their domestic handle.
According to Alex Dadoyan, Executive Director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, the experiment paid huge dividends. "It definitely exceeded our expectations," he said. Dadoyan went on to indicate that Yonkers has since committed to 31 days of simulcasting into Europe in 2015.
Later this month, the World Trotting Conference will kick off in Sydney, Australia. Executives from every major standardbred racing nation in the world will meet to talk business. Let's hope that the Yonkers experiment is front of mind. When done right, the market for standardbred racing goes far beyond local borders.
Both from an export and import perspective, standardbred racing in Canada has a long way to go. Today, thoroughbred fans in this country can watch and wager on races from Australia, England, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
Standardbred racing fans can only watch and wager on import races from Sweden and the United States.
The results demonstrated by Yonkers should help us realize that great opportunity does exist. We also must recognize where square pegs belong and where they do not. If required, we should be willing to do a 180 degree shift on how we package, deliver and offer our products for foreign distribution. And, no less importantly, we must be willing to reciprocate and convince our domestic customers to buy into great international standardbred racing products.
I hope the talk in Australia is bold and forward thinking - not just from the Canadians, but from everyone. Globally, we're all in this together!
Editor's note: When it comes to the future of standardbred racing, we're all fighting the same battle. However, when it comes to the World Driving Championship, it's every country for themselves.
Good luck Jody! Bring another title back to Canada!
733 Yonkers Ave., Suite 102, Yonkers NY, 10704 Phone: 914-968-3599 Fax: 914-968-3943
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