Southern California has a culture of convenience. That’s not news. From the area that originated McDonalds and was once replete with drive in movie theaters it is not surprising that it would also be the local and proving grounds for innovations in convenience. After all, if you could do it from your car window why would you want to do it any other way?
Now take this type of logic and apply it to an industry that is replete with history and tradition. American Thoroughbred Horseracing. This is an industry that is older than baseball and it has functioned with little innovation or change over the last 200 years. Typically horse racing tracks do not rely on flashy “newness” to attract and to keep their client base. They rely on tried and true. This is even the case in Southern California at the Santa Anita Racetrack where I spend a good amount of time watching and wagering on races.
Racetracks around the country have been battling with dropping attendance for the last number of years now and track wagering was in a decline. Ask any young person who has tried to go to a race track and make a bet and they will likely tell you that it is not a very user friendly or intuitive process. In fact it is downright frustrating to do if you are new at it. This is because wagering is done through a process of filling out a slip, standing in line, communicating your slip to a teller and then recieving a receipt for your wager. All this is done while hordes of other race goers push in behind you waiting their turn. If you don’t like crowds (and who does?) then it is a stressful experience. I will be the first to admit it is not now, nor has it ever been a very pleasant experience for most, but it is just how it was always done.
Well it looks as though Santa Anita racetrack has caught up with the times and is making strides to alleviate the insecurities of their patrons and cater to the convenience of the new smart phone toting crowd. What they, and many other race tracks around the country have done this year is opened up the betting process to be completed via a smart phone from the comfortability of your grandstand seat (or your couch at home for that matter). Xpressbet is a free service that allows wagers to be made with few clicks on your phone and money withdrawn from and deposited into your banking account. This system, rolled out in December of last year has skyrocketed wagering at many racetracks. At the same time it has allowed for a general reduction in wagering staff and thereby decreased overhead for the tracks. It is becoming successful so rapidly, I believe, because it has eliminated the insecurity that many race fans feel about approaching a wagering window to make a bet. There is no line waiting and no fear of losing your stub, just instantaneous response.
The primary ways that the system is being advertised is through a mix of radio, web, and print advertisements at the tracks themselves. At Santa Anita for instance there are posters and signs posted around saying “Why leave your seat?” or “Spend more time at the paddocks and less at the window” playing upon the convenient features of the service. I predict that the system will continue to grow in popularity and that only the dyed in the wool racing purists will be approaching an actual wagering window 2 years from now.