Jan 07, 2005
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
Last week I wrote my opinions concerning the situation
at the NYRA and how the fan is affected and treated. I wrote how
with no fan there is no racing and how the #1 priority is to keep
the fan happy. Yes, everyone wants to make a profit and nobody
blames NYRA for wanting to get into the black again, but when the
main priority of the operation is not the fan then everyone loses. It would
seem at some point that if there are no fans, no handle, then business is bad.
I wrote last week about how the change to the new tote
system was one of their biggest mistakes. It was not like they didn’t
have enough problems with their fans, now they created new ones. I
recently read in the New York Daily News that there would be some
programming changes in the machines starting on Wednesday
Jan. 5, 2005. The reason I noted that I read it in the Daily News
is that the NYRA didn’t have anything on their website about this.
This is one of the things that NYRA should promote on their
website, let the fans know the progress, let them know that they
are trying, but as usual they didn’t. The reprogramming of the
machines were marginally better at best. I stopped by Aqueduct to see
the changes, they are slightly better but still very difficult to use.
Belmont is coming soon and Saratoga is only 7 months away, they
are going to have big problems with this tote system and company
if everything remains status quo.
As an aside, Gulfstream opened their doors on Monday
Jan 3, 2005, not without problems of their own. They built a
brand new main track and turf course, they knocked down
the entire grandstand and are conducting the meeting out of
temporary tents. With an opening day crowd of just under
7,000 people they had some problems with the amount of
space, betting windows, etc, things you would expect from a track that is operating out of tents. Other problems like the jockeys quarters, the toteboard in the
infield and the public address system also arose. The very
next day, the president of Gulfstream, Scott Savin, was talking
to the Daily Racing Form and addressing the problems. He knew
that there needed to be more televisions, more betting
windows, and just overall he knew that the fan was inconvenienced
and he was going to make a change. That is the big difference
between a track run right and the NYRA.
There are many people out there that still believe that New
York racing is the best around. When I was growing up there was no
doubt, no one could even come close. Now I would have to question
if that statement is still true. Yes the trainers, jockeys, and horses are
still close to the best around. But to run these races in front of empty
grandstands is a travesty. Yes we all understand that OTB has hurt
racing’s attendance greatly but there is no excuse for OTB’s a few miles
from the track to be filled with people, those people should be at
the track. But the NYRA doesn’t make it easy. The admission, parking,
the concessions, everything costs money. It doesn’t cost anything to
go to OTB. You don’t have to deal with unruly clerks, you don’t have
to deal with nasty employees, you don’t have to deal with not being
able to make a bet because the clerks are closed for the time being. The
NYRA needs to go to racetracks that are run with the fan in mind.
Nearby Meadowlands, Monmouth and Philadelphia Park are all prime
examples of how to treat a fan. They understand that the fan, the
bettor, is the key to their business.
Even though there are all these problems, the NYRA still has a
chance to make things better. The first thing they should do is change
back to Autotote. Make the fan know that not only are they trying but
they are taking action. The next thing to do is make parking and
admission free. They are running free parking and admission during the
inner track meeting but that is not enough. The people betting at OTB
would want to go to the track if it didn’t cost them anything. The NYRA
needs to start being more customer friendly. Start with their NYRA One
account holders. Give them things that a horseplayer needs, give them
admission, give them parking, give them programs, give them racing
forms, give them free lunches. Obviously if you’re a NYRA One account
holder you would have to use the account to get these perks. But this
is a start, it is a start to getting people back to the track.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the employees, the
mutuel clerks in particular. They don’t treat the customer with respect
or a pleasant demeanor. It is almost like you are putting them at an
inconvenience by going to their window. I haven’t myself used the
mutuel clerks to bet, but when you are cashing or buying a voucher
you still have to deal with the unpleasantness. Especially when cashing
they are always looking for a tip or something and if you are not
careful you might just miss few dollars. There needs to be extensive
training for the mutuel clerks in how to deal with customers.
These suggestions are just starts, there is more that can be
done, I wouldn’t mind speaking to the new NYRA president and
trying to get some of these problems resolved and get New York
racing back to where it should be, on top of the racing world.
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