In Europe we are all too familiar with the methods used by racecourses to pull in new customer segments – Ladies’ Days, Music Nights, Peppa Pig-themed family days – the list goes on. If anyone has been to Beverley’s Carnival night, you will know that the racecourse executives have exhausted almost all options.
In France they have even tried racing elite cyclists against trotters.
What if part of the solution actually lay in the US, where racecourse attendances and fan engagement have been suffering, particularly at the hands of the rollout of regulated sportsbetting since 2018?
Many states limit market access for both online and retail sportsbetting to the existing bricks and mortar gaming facilities that in many cases, have been doing business for over 30 years. This is particularly pronounced in states where tribal influence is strong, such as Washington.
Alongside the giant, destination casinos that you’d expect to fall into this category, US racecourses have also become the unlikely beneficiaries of the legal wagering vertical they fear most – sports.
The following retail sportsbooks are pulling in significant crowds and are located on or next to US racecourses:
Monmouth Park (William Hill), NJ
Huge crowd at Monmouth Park sportsbook pic.twitter.com/iSDT4WIM8M
— Steve (@jerzsteve) September 9, 2018
The ribbon cutting at Parx sportsbook is complete. Opens to the public at 5. Then they start filling these many seats. pic.twitter.com/g3tnhI0OFa
— Eric Raskin + (@EricRaskin) August 8, 2019
Meadowlands (FanDuel), NJ
Eagles cover on last play. FanDuel at Meadowlands… pic.twitter.com/bnhKxR02vI
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 15, 2019
Oaklawn Park (Twinspires), AR
At @OaklawnRacing, launching first sportsbook in Arkansas w @SBTech_ – first official bet placed at 10:00a CST, by Oaklawn GM. Took @dallascowboys -7.5 vs @Giants in NFL week one. pic.twitter.com/0a41ppPRxu
— Zee Khan (@ZeeKhanLV) July 1, 2019
These sportsbooks are becoming destinations in their own right and are pulling in a younger demographic. The shift in consumer behavior towards betting on self service betting terminals (SSBTs), known as kiosks in the US, also means these racecourses sportsbooks are cost effective too.
UK racecourses such as Sandown Park and Ascot have betting shops on course and often show the football and rugby, particularly if the national side is playing. However, no bookmaker or racecourse has dared to bring in a fully immersive, cinema-style sportsbook. With racegoers more likely to want to reserve seats in advance than prior to the pandemic, now could be a good time for racecourses to try a new VIP-led experience, providing they can match the betting experience with both entertainment and comfort. Anyone that has been to the Lingfield Park Sports Bar in the last couple of years knows that there is so much more than could be done here.