view counter
view counter

Anthony MacDonald's Blog


Customer focus

Published: June 25, 2013 9:10 am ET

Last Comment: August 5, 2013 12:54 pm ET | 34 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

I have made it clear by now that I believe we need to hold ourselves as horse people at a higher level of accountability.

By changing the way we enter our horses and the way we perceive our industry, focusing on our fans, their needs and wants from us we become something never seen before. An industry not just available for government investment, but worthy of it.

If we have implemented step one and now have the beginning of an effective HRO that is totally committed to putting the best product on at each and every racetrack, each and every day we should be able to start to bring transparency for not just our participants but the public at large, and the government. We can start to ask, and hopefully see reciprocation from both our racetrack operators, and our elected government.

Competitive, full fields and vigorous promotion leading to a heightened fan experience have already yielded gains in New Jersey with handles increasing by over 100% in a year. These numbers are solid and should help show us all that this product isn't dead.

We should look to letting our gaming crowds co-mingle rather than be herded the second they walk through the doors.

We should look to expand our gaming base at our facilities, co-promote, and truly coexist.

Remember the government has said it wants to integrate horse racing into the OLG fold. Think about that, and what it can mean.

As we now move forward we need to make sure that our hopefully growing fan base is catered to. A gambler's number one complaint for the most part is the takeout that the tracks receive on every gaming dollar.

These are hard numbers to move. I would like to see a true rebate program set up.
If you gamble in Vegas you get "Comped". If you gamble in Ontario you should also. No? There are some programs in place, but nothing transparent for people to look at. The reason true gamblers don't bet ProLine can't be the reason they don't gamble on horses.

These are all tough ideas to blindly get behind, grasp onto and implement. But if we are all agreeing we need to change, should we not put our best foot forward?

There are so many areas we can do better in this industry, there has to be a positive in all this mess. We need to try to make this work or we will all be left wondering...did we do all we can?

August 5, 2013 - 12:54 pmVery interesting thoughts on

john smith SAID...

Very interesting thoughts on the subject of increasing what
I like to refer as, the track atmosphere.There is one area
that I would like to touch on first and that is the SARP
issue.In many of our major sports the players association
when negotiating new contracts have made revenue sharing an
important part of their bargaining.
They realized that alot of money was being generated from
them playing,broadcasting games etc.Now this is what we have
with our gov't a revenue sharing agreement,not this fabrication
called subsidy.It is most unfortunate that in some cases tracks
have perhaps not made better use of their share to improve
things for everyone,but perhaps in view of vthe current
situation things can change.
Being a Londoner and familiar with the Western Fair and worked
with the horses there,I would like to use this track as simply
an example to propose some ideas that might be of interest to
help the current fan base and maybe increase it as well.
There is a life size casting of a horse hooked up to an old
cart sitting off in a corner in the progress bldg.,I'll venture
that almost everyone there, asked who it was supposed to be have
absolutely no idea.
For many years it stood in the main lobby by the stairs to the
upper floor.The horse's name was Super Wave,driven by Jack Kopas.
I have a few ideas that I would like to share.Again I.m only using
the cwestern fair as a model example only.
First why not have a few different drivers available to be in
the bldg. or if weather permitting out by the fence area by the
home stretch to do autographs,answer questions of the people.
Secondly wipe the dust off of Super Wave and set him up in an area
in the open area where the people gather and perhaps between the
track and horsepeople provide an up to date cart and harness and
accessories such as various boots bridle accessories and have a
trainer available to explain the various types of equipment used
and why.
Thirdly perhaps have a groom available to show the various aspects
of his job,maybe demonstrate how bandages both stable and also racing
bandages are applies and what their uses are for.
Fourthly maybe a blacksmith could be available to show the various
types of shoes that these horses wear like swedge,half round,flat,
aluminum,steel,what corking does,pada,toe weights etc.Maybe if at
all possible some sort of demonstration of the tools used,nippers,
rasps,hoof gauges etc. and again answer questios.
Fifthly a veteranarian be axailable to maybe explain some things
like Lasix and why it is used on horses certified as bleeders on
E.I.P.H. programs,what penecilin G procain is and why it's used.
As well as many other areas such as conformation,and other
physiological points of intewrest.
Lastly I keep thinking about this often mentioned younger fan
base.Why not gather some selected horsepeople along with a
veteranarian rep.,and perhaps some other people related to this
business and put together a question or questions to be selected
by young people to write an essay on in whatever number of words
is agreed upon.The winner or winners would receive a scholarship
with monies coming from hopefully many groups.The scholarship
might be able to used at but not necessarily limited to places
like Guelph Veteranarian College.
I know there are many other great ideas out there and I certainly
haven't got all of them.Different tracks may have some other
variations but it is my hope that we can further educate people
about standardbred horses and make it more interesting on racedays.
Just as a final thought,there are many fall fairs coming soon and
alot of them in rural communities, wouldn't be nice to have some
information booths in place sharing info about our industry to
the people.

July 3, 2013 - 8:59 amWill, You are talking about

You are talking about putting fans in the seats.
I and all other horsemen have no control over that aspect and honestly I wouldn't know the first thing about that sir?

Jeff Gural absolutely caters to the gamblers, he reduces his take outs and rebates the large betters.
The simulcasting makes for very little. "In market Handle" is where the most money is.
I agree that someone needs to be hired for marketing? I've said as much.
But Will, our product isn't fine. The "NA Cup" was fine, and "Molson Pace" night was fine.
You can't have 12 na cups or it wouldn't be the na cup? (not to mention we don't have the money)

I'm saying as horsemen all we can do right now is make a more competitive product.
That is the first thing Mr Gural did.
We need people to come, but they will not come back with a weak product. That's what we have, and we don't have to.

It appears that you believe that I thought horsemen should do everything?
Sir track operators are in charge of their facilities and I don't know what they will do.
You are right to have reservations about the government, but that's what we have right now.
Everyone is crying broke since the sarp is gone and the only ones for sure I know are the horsemen.

I believe the "Olr" with help with olg integration, marketing, product and dialog between the horsemen, gamblers and the government.

You obviously know what your talking about when it comes to marketing will;
But from a horsemens side, we have a lot to change also. Our "Product" needs to be streamlined, I guess that we will have to disagree on sir.

Thanks again for your insight Will,


July 1, 2013 - 8:30 pmPredictably..... 3 horseman

Will Yamakva SAID...

Predictably..... 3 horseman have either told me im wrong or put thr blame elsewhere.

Mr Leber and Mr Bush.

What do Poker, the NHL, the NBA and Canadian Curling all have in common?

1...They were all fledgling organizations that hired people outside the sport to make them relevant
2... They all have stars paid by money generated by fans
3... They all have superstars that have faces that even non fans recoginized?
4... The unions and players all realize that simply playing the game is not enough for your fans
5... When the players were not making as much as they wanted, they worked with the owners

You do not have any of those. Harness is a professional sport that the general public knows nothing about.

Can either of you gentleman tell me which track is responsible for marketing Doug McNair or Trevor Henry so either can befan favorites?

Gentleman, its time to realize, simply showing up and racing isnt enough.

Can you tell me what track is responsible for me cheering on my favorite horse that likely not be racing here anytime soon?

Gentleman, its time to realize, simply showing up and saying im here to race, isn't close to enough. AS A UNIFIED TEAM, owners, drivers, trainers, racetrack owner, this website..... you all need to do 2 things to survive....

There is no debating me on this...

1) you all need to shoulder blame for how bad things have got. The entire industry watched curling and poker take your place on tv. All hands could have done this different.

2) must unify as a team to fix this. Lose the "its the track who shoulda" mentality as I just showed you a part horseman play. THE SOLUTION REQUIRES ALL HANDS ON THE SAME TEAM. Getting your stars on TV and to the general public is as important to you as the track owner. You have so misplaced sponsorship and so much money lost in sponsorship dollars.... its sad. Ontario harness racing needs a massive change in business practice and thoughts.... and start thinking of itself as a sport that doesnt rely on fans, but people in other rooms pushing buttons, and more like a professional sport.

July 1, 2013 - 11:31 amremember this Mr

Will Yamakva SAID...

remember this Mr MacDonald..

gamblers and fan base, are NOT the same thing.

July 1, 2013 - 11:30 amSeriously? You cant use the

Will Yamakva SAID...


You cant use the solution one track used, and assume that it would translate to the same elsewhere. That is beyond ridiculous to think that.

1) Meadowlands has INTERNATIONAL crowds betting on the product. Most of Ontario does not.

This means the handle goes up, mainly via simulcasting. Real gamblers pay attention. If you think this matters to people that are betting on Dresden, you are mistaken. BADLY.

2) Meadowlands is a sole operated track and does not worry about the rest of the state.

Ontario, you really only have 1 successful circuit (WEG and MOH). if you compare it to Meadowlands, it wouldn't have the worry of funding and helping the other track like would need to be the case here. It worries about itself. You have to worry about a dozen tracks or so.

3) The Meadowlands is located near more people than the entire province of Ontario, thus is able to generate a buzz as more people can be entertained.

Mr MacDonald....

if "gambler" are who you are worried about...... you are closing Dresden, Clinton, Sudbury and Kawartha right? Gamblers have always ignored them places.

Look at your tracks that have simulcasting some nights, and not others. Rideau had to scrap that Friday card, because when the rest of the province does not watch, they gave over $50k in purses than money bet.

Take a look now, after the winning bettors get the money back, only London, Flamboro, WEG and turn a profit each and every night. The first two, barely pull that in.

You say you wanna create a fan base, you have one already, but you have them too spread out and betting too many things while giving away too much money. Building on what you have, is the way to go. You do not have to do what they did.... because they are not in the same situation as you. That answer, isnt your answer. YOU HAVE MUCH BIGGER ISSUES than they do

June 29, 2013 - 5:14 pmWill---you make far too much

Lynne Magee SAID...

Will---you make far too much sense!! Our industry should hire you. I think you are bang on about our false sense of security with a change of government. Government stays pretty much the same no matter who is in power. Anthony has taken on a mountain to save an industry that he knows and loves. Kudos to him for his tenacity but I think he has bitten off more than he can chew. He needs help from someone who has your experience and insight into what lies ahead.

June 29, 2013 - 1:13 pmHow are you coming yourself

Will Yamakva SAID...

How are you coming yourself to the Meadowlands? The only similarity between you and them, is that you all are going to be without slot money.

They however have quite a few differences than you. They get huge handles, because of simulcasting. The on-track stuff, is used to make new fans. They concentrate the efforts on one track.

How do you expect to do that..... with the amount of tracks in Ontario which race for huge purses, but have no simulcasting? You did see that Sudbury, Dresden, Clinton and Kawartha have all given away FAR more in purses than taken in with wagers? How do you expect to deal with them? Each situation is unique to itself and a blanket solution like fixing the classes, will only work for them that have a huge handle on simulcasting, like London, Flam and Weg. The others will get marginal increases, because you spread the money around too thin.

Meadowlands has a huge increase, because in NJ, at one time, you only get to watch one track, in Ontario.... that money is spread so thin, that no one track is really going to benefit from the change in the racing.

Again, this is why a horseman, should not lead the charge. Looking at it from the perspective of someone in the game..... naturally, its expected for you to think like a horseman. You might want to think about turning the reins over to people that know how to fill stands and create hype. Your product is fine. Proof is that people go to your industry day, NA Cup, and other gimmick days. They do not complain, they have a great time. Thing is.... you just do not have enough days like this, or give people a reason to come.

Thinking that horse racing is enough, is clearly backwards thinking looking at the entertainment dollar and how far it goes.

June 28, 2013 - 6:01 pmI think most of Will's and

chris bush SAID...

I think most of Will's and Rob's comments have validity but are misplaced. When slots came in horsemen did their duty and bought better horses, better equipment etc. They kept up their end of the bargain. Racing has never been tougher. It was the racetrack operators and the sarp structure that failed us. A collosal opportunity lost. Racing needs passionate knowledgeable people like Gural with vision and motivation to make it work. The racetracks acted like true welfare recipients and did little or nothing to improve a situation thats been substandard since I began going to the races 40 years ago. Bettors(even though not very demanding) as any form of gambling goes, are poorly treated- almost to the point of contempt. Everyone out there has their nightmare(s) racetrack abuse story. While the new report points out aspects of meaningful change, I for one am not optimistic, no matter how many new and improved revenue streams there are, given that most operators/personel can't even deliver the basics let alone anything superior.

June 28, 2013 - 5:11 pmMr. Yamakva: Anthony IS a

Georg Leber SAID...

Mr. Yamakva:

Anthony IS a horseman, in fact he lays his life on the line when he works. I am an owner and provide the "talent".

Your argument is misdirected. Go complain to the race track owners. We get paid by the tracks if we finish in the top 5 in a race. We never control the money. We don't set the conditions of the race, we only enter based on what the race secretary and the ORC deem are suitable conditions. In fact we have almost no say in the process and can only provide horses to race for a chance at winning a prize. We don't automatically get money for showing up.

The SARP money was a large part of the purses that the tracks had to work with. We benefited by having purses available but we didnt control the money. We built businesses based on the availability of the purses before it was stopped. Most businesses can lay off employees and close the doors but we couldnt. We have a breeding cycle that lasts 3-4 years and farms and equipment. Our product became less valuable overnight.

The other part of the puzzle is the businesses that work in conjunction with ours. All told it's a huge piece of tax revenue which the government only now realizes they shouldnt have messed with.

They can't fix it and that tax shortfall will be passed on to the public.

With regard to your comment about it pouring right now, a friend in of mine in Europe has a saying:


Georg Leber-ICR Racing

June 28, 2013 - 3:07 pmMr MacDonald.... focusing on

Will Yamakva SAID...

Mr MacDonald....

focusing on the gambler... is a mistake. Jeff Gural did't do that either. He made the people at the track have a reason to come, OTHER than the races. It was the cool place to be for young folks. (this might not come off right but.............)

He is making the gamblers of tomorrow with his style. The racing is the co-feature at his facility. The ambiance and atmosphere is the other. That takes people.

June 28, 2013 - 3:02 pmAre you sure that is all they

Will Yamakva SAID...

Are you sure that is all they changed?

I can name off 5 things they have done that had nothing to do with the sheets.

1) They got Ark involved in the foods area of the business.
2) They partnered up with Hard Rock
3) They stopped having races go till nearly midnight and are done at a much more reasonable hour
4) They cater to younger crowds with promotions like the upcoming, "Ms Hot To Trot"
5) Upgrades to the facility itself

You see if you think the larger handle is as a result of what happens AT the track, you are missing what is going on. That has gone up a fair amount, the simulcasting stuff is where the money is coming from for the most part. Mine included. They do not have to worry about on track handle as they are the big cheese. You cant toss what they are doing there, with the same sentence of anything other than Woodbine or Mohawk. The B track action (where 80% of the racing) takes place, naturally cant be compared to what the big boys are doing. Ontario is in a TOTALLY different situation as a whole, then them. They only have to make one track make money. How does this apply to the B tracks? It doesnt. The racing there, is not as important.

Mr MacDonald, I can assure you, the fix for your industry, would go a ton smoother, when the product is not where your focus is. Meadowlands works because the nation pays attention and bets that...... this is not the case in Ontario. You are not going to see massive increases in wagering as a result of better racing at..... say Kawartha. At places like Sudbury, Dresden, you should not be worried about "gamblers", they are not going to come. You still race for a fortune there.

That being said, please answer how you think say, Sudbury, Dresden, Clinton and small tracks like that, are going to get an increase in handle, despite no simulcasting? See my point? The ENTIRE situation needs to be looked at, and comparing yourself to them for this purpose, would only be a more costly experiment that the government isnt going to fund you on. You need people, and you need them now. Your races are fine. The large crowds on your big days show that. Its how to get them crowds or a portion of them crowds on other nights is where you need to focus.

Hell, if you didn't learn by the slots coming to town, most people want entertainment. Simple fun, entertainment, bells, whistles, excitement. You do not have enough tracks to worry about, "gamblers". If you had 5-7 less tracks, then you would have to worry about that, but you have too many tracks where the gamblers just do not care. So why not focus on them?

Mr MacDonald, if you had to only save WEG, I would agree with you, but your problem is MUCH bigger and deeper than competitive racing. Again, its why I do not think a horseman should be the one leading the change. (no offense). You need a marketing team, a marketing guru. You can tinker with all the race office stuff on your own, but the money wasted making them changes, is more fans going elsewhere, and less money to invest in marketing later. Again, look to what worked.

June 28, 2013 - 12:42 pmWill, I don't know what

I don't know what horsemen you think im trying to cater to sir??
Numbers are numbers. The Meadowlands has increased their handle over 100% in a year simply from changing their product,their condition sheets, and utilizing full competitive fields.
People do appreciate competitive racing and the wagering numbers support that.
Gamblers want full fields to gamble on.
They would like a lower "Rake" or "Takeout". They want the idea of accountability and transparency to for their dollars to be present.
These have always been the average gamblers complaints sir.
I think everyone needs to be involved in this "Rebuild" Will; but for me, until we address our product, you could sell music to the deaf and your skills would be a short time fix for this industry.
You see for me it isn't just getting people here, it's creating a fan base and having people excited about coming back.
Impossible?????? Maybe, but we have to try.


June 27, 2013 - 10:13 pmOne thing I would like to add

Will Yamakva SAID...

One thing I would like to add Mr MacDonald,

All this comes from the heart as a fan. I have nothing to gain or lose with the disappearance of harness racing. I'm just advising you as a fan and someone that for 20 years, puts bodies in venues to music I can't stand. I've had to learn my target market which has changed but my numbers are better than ever, despite increased competition and escalating costs. Because I'm not a fan of the music, I'm better able to assess the industry. You can disagree with me if you like, but it's people like me you are trying to lure.

You are trying to please horseman. Notice by the other comments, listening to fans and what they want and not going off the emails of other horsemen, you will see what your target market wants.

June 27, 2013 - 10:01 pmQuestion Mr MacDonald..... On

Will Yamakva SAID...

Question Mr MacDonald.....

On days you do lure large crowds.... Molson Pace, NA cup, Industry Day.... Do you poll people on the experience?
Most people leave totally thrilled. If the finishes were close or not, is great, but not imperative.

Do you listen to the crowd during the stretch drive of the races OTHER than the feature? It's all the same. It could be maidens or the preferred, a race is a race to the casual fan.

Putting emphasis on the racing right now shows exactly why horseman should not rebuild this.

The experience itself is what needs fixing.
You can have a much higher fan base ..... Without changing the racing at all.

See I mentioned those commissioners for a reason. They took leagues on the decline and losing fans. Sorta like you are now. Those men did not change the game, then lure the fans and tv. They all did small things, increased tv presence and partnerships, increased marketing of its stars, altering the experience at the game and for the viewer..... Small things like shorter intermissions, shorter commercial breaks, entertainment between whistles, much better scoreboards and visuals...... All without changing the game.

June 27, 2013 - 9:43 pmMr Leber. I have no interest

Will Yamakva SAID...

Mr Leber.

I have no interest in being an owner. That was a choice you made, and ran the risk of being part of something that was collapsing and did little to prepare for the rainy day. Now it's pouring and you are hanging your investment on hoping the government brings back your umbrella.

I have better control of my money betting on horses. I'm in control of my finances and do not nor have ever received a nickel of slot revenue. I'm okay with that.

The same slots which stole from my handle and made racing almost unbettable and made lots of horseman lots of money.

Now you run into hard times, and need customers but rather than aid me in the idea of luring them back, you would rather me join the plight of complaining? No thank you.

I'd rather have full stands of people cheering on your horses.

June 27, 2013 - 9:22 pmMr.Leber,of course there is

Mr.Leber,of course there is going to be a big difference between gambler and horse owner.

We used to pay admission to the tracks cause it was the only game in town.We used to pay for programs cause horse racing was the only game in town.Now we can go to any major league sports web site and they will give me FREE stats on THEIR games.I can go to any online sports book and they will give me more stats then i need to bet NBA/NHL/NFL/TENNIS/ETC.Did i mention it was FREE.

Mr.Leber the gambler isn't a slave to horse racing anymore.We have a choice.

The new breed of gambler doesn't turn the page at the track if he/she is unhappy.They just LEAVE and find a new game to bet :)))

June 27, 2013 - 3:10 pmWill, Great job on the

Great job on the reply.
We do have a difference of opinion.
I understand that you want to market immediately. I absolutely disagree.
We don't have a proper product to market sir.
We could but it will take some work.
I feel you want to run before we walk.

2) the slots kept us from certain death.
But they sure helped with the slow burn we are experiencing the end of now.
So I believe your half right there.

3)Bettmen, stern and taglibue all came into leagues and sports that had fan bases already established with money for marketing.
There is no denying that for over a decade we unbelievably screwed up.
But we must do this right now.
We may not even get a chance to, maybe we are doomed??
We let our participants down,and our fans and gamblers down.
We have a long painful road ahead.
My mother always said " you lay in the bed you made."

Will, I truly appreciate your insight and responses.
I'm saying I'm right, it's just how I see it.
Thank you for your time.


June 27, 2013 - 12:54 amOH Mr Irving et all you speak

OH Mr Irving et all you speak the truth we call it hell!!

June 26, 2013 - 3:30 pmIt is interesting to see how

Georg Leber SAID...

It is interesting to see how a gambler/fan sees it and how owners see it.

I am all for customer service. The fans get free admission, free programs (on-line) and don't have to spend a nickel to watch.

So Mr. Yamakva, let me make you this deal. Pick any one of my horses and we will have it appraised. Then you buy in as a 50/50 owner and share the expenses with me. The investment will only be about $20,000 to $60,000 initially depending on the one you pick, and then about $20,000 more per year in expenses for your half. For that you get half of the net proceeds of what the horse earns and of course half of the net profit when we sell. Then you can report to the people on this board from the point of view of an owner.
I am very serious about this. Are you? Maybe SC will give us our own BLOG and we can tell the people our experiences. Now that's entertainment!

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

June 26, 2013 - 12:15 pmMr Irving your message is

Mr Irving your message is warranted.
None of us worried about it.
It wasn't hundreds of millions, it was billons sir.
We can't complain that the house burnt down, but we can try to rebuild it properly.
I compare us to my daughter. My wife and I have been potty training her. (mostly my wife lol)
Now she tries not to pee in her pants but if she does we will clean her up and put fresh ones on and explain what went wrong.
Well like Ava our industry lost its diaper when the slots left, and we are getting a crash course on what Life is like without it.
There's Crap everywhere and we have to clean it up and learn to go in the toilet.
Ava has almost gotten it, but unlike her our lives and lively odds depend on us getting it.

June 26, 2013 - 11:37 amI could not agree more Mr

Will Yamakva SAID...

I could not agree more Mr Irving.

One team wagering will be the official end of harness racing. The time has come for it, but harness is no where near ready. I love the passion Anthony has, but I am not sure a man that ran for office, is the guy to lead the charge. It has just as much of a political agenda to garner support, as it does looks as an attempt to improve the game. The timing of this has a strange tone to me. Now that slots are gone, it is the time to address this? Why not 14 months ago when they first announced this? My guess, is because the government ignored harness for 14 months.

June 26, 2013 - 11:31 amThank you for your reply Mr

Will Yamakva SAID...

Thank you for your reply Mr MacDonald.

I could not disagree with you more.

1) The slots partnership was a giant failure.

It was great for you horseman, but it destroyed your fan base. It also put you horseman in the spot where you thought it would last for ever. Your handle at many of your tracks, decreased to the point it is unbelievable you even race there. 5 out of 8 horses in a race did not have a win wager on them at some point and Sudbury had less than $5k bet on at least 10 races. This was NOT uncommon over the past 14 years. How you consider that a success it beyond me. Wait, you were receiving slots money on them races, but the betting public had mainly unbettable races.

2) Show me how from a non-horseman's side of things, did this partnership work?

Wait, it didnt. 50,000-60,000 Ontarians had access to that money, but the rest of us, didn't get a nickle more than we would have if the slots were put in bars, or in other facilities.

3) Look who has emailed you Mr MacDonald..... and tell me how that has anything to do with the customer?

IT DOESN'T. You can have all the competitive racing in the world, people will not care if they do not know about it. So all the while you are still racing for nice money, tinkering with what does not work, you are not gaining any fans.
Notice, you state "in my mind a necessity". This furthers my proof, that horseman should NOT be the ones leading the parade. Again, look at other pro sports. Bettman, Stern and Taglibue (all guys that came in when leagues were hurting).... NONE of them guys overly messed with the product when they got there, instead, they focused on getting fans in the seats, while tinkering with the game. How many people that do not own a race horse messaged you and said, "Man, I had a great time at Flamboro and you really need a better race office

I could not disagree with you more about your order of things. See I work in a marketing situation. My life has been putting bodies in buildings for entertainment. Basically, your suggestions would be like me fixing the music and making my own, and thinking that is the problem, despite the actual problem being no one knows we are there.

Your racing might not be the best, but surely you can't think that is the start of your problems. Go walk into a slot parlor and ask people why they went there instead of the races on race night...... I bet you without a doubt, 100% for sure.... no questions asked, you will not hear a single person reply, "the racing was not competitive"

June 26, 2013 - 10:15 am"The slots was a partnership

"The slots was a partnership that worked."

When the hundreds of millions of dollars from slots was coming into harness racing i never heard Macdonald address any of these concerns.
1)fix product problems
2)address issues with optics in our industry.
3)cater to customers
4)market industry

June 26, 2013 - 9:04 amA few random ideas:

A few random ideas:

Professional Image:
We are presenting a product, our image in the Winner's Circle should be professional. I'd like to see our associations offer discounted rates for groom's colours.
Even brightly coloured golf shirts could be a good start. Imagine a sweeping camera shot of the paddock today and then picture it with everyone in professional colours.

Social Medis:
"Feel Good" stories need to get out to general public. Stories such as our 80 yr old slots fan turned horse owner. That picture of Ernie on the job cart waving is priceless! The Grey Gladiator tour and the Balanced Image horse turned champion road horse are all very positive experiences.
We horsemen can help by sharing these on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media tools our there. Start following some of your local sport's writers and shoot them a link.

Animal Welfare:
As an industry, we need to support the Ontario Standardbred Society (OSAS) and make sure general public hear about it. Our magazine's could profile one horse per month (make sure its online too!) Get the news out there about horse's getting second careers "where are they now" type stories.

OHHA sponsors a class at the Royal Winter Fair. Why not have the industry as a whole chip in and makes it big money event to stir up publicity.
Why not have a road class parade at a big events that will be televised?

People need to know that these horses are not just "disposed" of once they no longer race. Again, get this stuff on the internet, in programs, in between races, in our trade magazines. Recycle magazines by leaving them at Doctor's and Small animal Veterinarian's offices so people have a chance to read them.

First Time Bettors: As stated over and over, programs are not very "user friendly". When someone picks up a program, have the customer service person ask them if they need help with it. Take the time to go over the stats, point out the user's guide. Have a guide on the first page of the program. Have someone walking around the betting windows clearly dressed as an employee available to answer questions.

Consider some kind of "quick pick" bets. Keep it simple and cheap. People spend thousands on quick picks Lotto with far less chance of winning. If these tickets could be purchased at Lotto Terminals, make sure the buyer has the chance to watch it live on TV and is aware of it.

Always remember our bettor is our customer. We are putting out a product, image is everything, be professional, keep horses in good flesh, don't get silly with a whip. If we are lucky enough to get a second chance, lets make sure we get it right this time.

June 26, 2013 - 8:57 amIt's nice to see so many

It's nice to see so many people interested, that is why I put what I had to say on SC.

A number things,
The slots was a partnership that worked. If we had the foresight to actually integrate it a decade ago and have a proper dialog with the government this whole time this (at least to this extent) wouldn't have happened.
Instead of Duncan and Mcguinty wouldn't have been able to lie and twist the facts about this industry.
The upside was lost the second they uttered "Horse Racing or health care. "
I think responding limply as we did made it easy to crush a fractured group of people who didn't know how to fight for the les let alone each other.

I have laid what I would do in step 1,2,3 vaguely enough so people can comment and understand what I'm saying.
People have emailed me, text editor me, commented here and on other social media sites.
The number one complaint was about the race offices being streamlined so we can use "One Pool" of horses.
It's doable, attainable, and in my mind a necessity.

Until we fix our product, we can't boost marketing.
Customer service is paramount.

As far as gambling,"Will" your half correct about proline.
The take out compared to other sites is crazy to the point you really can't play it?
The "Single wager has to come also".

The fact is we have a premier that has stated that horse racing will be integrated in the old modernization plans.
What does tha mean???
Who knows.
But the olg was in a room with the track owners and the panel on Friday so that's a step?

The ultimate fact is we have to change our game, our product, the perceptions in it and the general publics willingness to look and wager on this new product.

1)fix product problems
2)address issues with optics in our industry.
3)cater to customers
4)market industry
5)work with government to truly integrate and grow fan base.

These could be worded better, but hopefully you get the jist?


June 26, 2013 - 2:51 amThis is a gambling game.No

This is a gambling game.No gambler has "loyalty"to a driver.No gambler cares about a superstar driver.Hockey is entertainment,horse racing is all about GAMBLING.MAKING MONEY.

What this game lacks is a superstar "handicapper"!A handicapper that is proven to make MONEY.The youth of today want to emulate a gambler that makes MONEY on a consistent basis.Surf the net,there are hundreds of stories of young people making BIG MONEY playing poker.Not ONE story about someone making HUGE MONEY playing harness racing.NOT ONE.Watch the broadcasts from all the tracks and all their commentators couldn't pick a horse if their life depended on it.

Pro-line doesn't attract the true gambler,not when one has to a pick minimum three teams.The governments realize this and are trying to introduce "one team sports betting".

One team sport betting is going to decimate harness racing it's present format.Time is your enemy harness racing.

Evolve or die.(u better to it fast)

June 25, 2013 - 8:50 pmMr. McDonald, I really

Mr. McDonald,
I really beleive you are the one or one of the people that the standardbreds of Canada need. First of all none or very few of the drivers and or trainers are willing to stick their necks out and I don't mean that in a bad way either, because it is like they are all waiting for the end when with a little help from all the horsemen and for that matter the whole industry, there is promotions and gimmicks that will bring people into the stands, for instance:
I am not a horseman just a lover of the sport and only standardbreds, but I am from Detroit and everyone knows we fight a worse battle than you, living here is like living in the bible belt, the churchs want no more casinos, esp. in the racetracks.
When Wolverine was open they would broadcast on a certain date they are giving 6 trips to vegas and which I never won, but my sister did. People would come in for that and maybe give gift certificates to certain restaurants, and not only in canada, make the aggreement with the stateside tracks, give someone ownership for a night on one special race maybe 1 or some percent of the purse let them feel like they belong, let someone in the broadcast booth give them something back anyone of you drivers are very giving if they pick a certain winner let them go or comp them to a race in a different track or esp ones in the states some people will never get a chance to see them something on that order.
Maybe I am just blowing smoke but if you give they will come if every horseman and or trainer or owner gives up something like 1 percent of purses people will enjoy because they will belong to your community.
Just my opinion I have very much respect for all the hardworking people in this Industry.

June 25, 2013 - 8:00 pmWill makes sense. Racing

keith hastie SAID...

Will makes sense.

Racing needs to be promoted in the same manner as hockey.

June 25, 2013 - 6:36 pmGeorge, why are you still

Will Yamakva SAID...

George, why are you still blaming the government and saying they favor one more than the other when they saved your sport? If they didn't come to you with the slots idea, your sport would have been gone. In fact, you should be thanking the government for even bothering to join up with horse racing as you were tossed a HUGE lifeline.

Why are you worrying about the money for the runners, when on a daily basis, harness runs for money? You are right, they deserve it, but is that not the model to look towards? If you average the purses in Ontario on a weekly basis and compare it to the harness purses given away on a weekly basis, you will see that harness gives away a LOT more money annually. Thoroghbred understands you cant run every day, give away huge purses, and expect the bettor to keep up. They have a season that is much shorter than yours, runs less days a week, but offers bigger purses, has bigger handle and gets more international attention, than harness racing.

Until the horseman realize, this isn't about government, you are never going to progress as a sport. It seems you are ungreatful for the bone you were tossed by the government and seem to think horseman are entitled to it.

Remember this Mr Leber.... not a single cent of SARP went to the bettors. HOWEVER..... a large take out of my gambling money, went to you.

You own race horses, but without the fans, you do not have racing. (now that the slots are gone)

Complaining about the government, shows you forgot who saved horse racing for the last 14 years.

June 25, 2013 - 5:21 pmCustomer Focus...

Bob Yates SAID...

Customer Focus...

Interesting comments. Lets make a comparison.

When I visit Las Vegas (approx 3 times a year), I average about 5,000 dollars playing the tables or slots during my time there. Sometime I win - sometimes I lose. However, Harrahs gives my wife and I free deluxe hotels, $100 supper vouchers, two free show tickets to any Harrahs shows, plus comps for all there restaurants based on how much I play. Its why we keep going back.

On a typical month, I play $5000 dollars of wagers though my horse racing account (I'm in southern Alberta). My comps are ZERO. Nothing. Nada. In fact, if I want to sit down on a Friday evening and play a couple of races from Los Alamitos - they still charges me a buck fifty to download a program.

I can't even get a dollar fifty.

The only good thing for the players was Bet Night Live - at least you had a chance to win something - mind you - it didn't help the larger players and catered to those with 24 dollars to spend - but at least it was something. Naturally it was the first thing cancelled.

So.. If you can't take care of your core customers, why would you expect new ones?

June 25, 2013 - 1:15 pmI will agree with Liz, that

I will agree with Liz, that the comments made by Will Yamakva are exactly correct. He has layed out some of the big issues we have in this sport that need to be addressed. well written Will.

June 25, 2013 - 12:36 pmHarness Racing has many

Georg Leber SAID...

Harness Racing has many challenges, not the least of which is attracting fans. The competition for the gambling dollar is almost smothering and when government favours one over the other it becomes even moreso.

So our challenge starts with providing a product to wager on. Most of the money that the OMAFRA panel is pledging is for the Thoroughbreds. They have the largest handle and deserve it for the most part. Harness Racing can't survive on what's left so hard choices have to be made. In order to survive (temporarily) we have to get smaller and if we get smaller then who will know we even exist except current loyal fans. Breeders and owners will reduce their investment in Canada which will further reduce the industry until Harness Racing in Ontario becomes only Woodbine and Mohawk much the same as Thoroughbreds are only Woodbine and Fort Erie.

Is this a bad thing? Yes it is for about 40,000 of the 55,000 people involved in the sport here in Ontario and about 80% of all horses. That means bankruptcies and unemployment for a generation of Harness people.

I beleive it is inevitable. The sport will survive but it will be like weeding out the small businesses in favour of Walmart.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

June 25, 2013 - 11:18 amWill Yamakva you have not


Will Yamakva you have not been treated with much respect on this site but in my humble opinion you have just said it all!!!!
Thanks from all the gamblers and fans

June 25, 2013 - 10:20 amShould be interesting to see

Will Yamakva SAID...

Should be interesting to see who agrees with this, as so many of the comments that I have made all during this mess, were treated with disdain or I was told to take my complaints elsewhere.

Thing is, Mr McDonald, is addressing people like me. The fans.

Lets clarify something, true gamblers do not play proline because you are mandated to play a 3 team parlay at minimum as opposed to a single event wager. Knowing your customer is a start, and judging by how I get told off, I the customer, am not assumed to know what I want.

We can discuss "take out" or "Guaranteed Pools", but that stuff is only for those that already are HEAVILY into the game, and know what that actually means to the bettor. Ask a friend that has no clue about horse racing, but bets others sports if they are excited that the Win wager is now 12% instead of 15%? Or ask someone reading a sports section if he even saw an ad telling him this.

Horse racing seems to be FAR out of touch in 3 areas.

1) Most people have no clue when live racing is on.

Forget what you horseman think, its about Joe Public, and I take the time to ask people, say in sports bars, or around town. No one has a clue, and many cant tell you where the track even is. Simply putting the entries into the paper, is not enough. The odd ad on TV, is not enough. Bet Night Live was great..... but only for the track it was showing. It was discovered by people awaiting WWE. The Sunday woodbine live show, was a toss in, as it competed with much bigger sports, and benefited from being on a channel with a ticker. Go to any sports bar that had the races on, had the sound on some other event. The public has so many other avenues of entertainment, and nothing has been done for so many years the game of catch up is wayyyyyyyyyyy behind

2) Harness racing has no stars.

Im not insulting the drivers or the athletes, but go to your nearest bar and ask who Jody Jamieson is, or Trevor Henry, or Luc Oulette is. I bet you do not get an answer. Ask them who just won North America's cup this year. 99/100 people will not give you a correct answer. Again, in no way am I knocking them, but look at other professional sports. You see the Maple Leafs, in all kinds of ads, you see them doing all kinds of media related things, they are every where. They are in cheesy furniture ads, to ads for bacon. People recognize them. More people remember who Big Ben was, and he was not even a race horse. This is not the track's responsibility. This is EVERYONE in the game's responsibility to make this happen.

3) Too much with little explanation.

Show me another quick fix betting scenario which is as confusing to the non-player, as horse racing. Someone can walk into a casino or slots room, experience 100 times the amount of confusion, but the wagering is so simplistic, that 80 year old women have bus trips to drop coins in a machine, and push the button. Horse racing? Not that simple. Go ask a family that has never been to the track before to walk in and try to turn $100 into $150. Hand them a program and set them on their way. The programs give a horrible explanation of the betting. There is VERY little to help the non-regular at these facilities. Large numbers of aids need to be on site to help people. Not one for two people, but dozens. Heck, you go to wal mart and there is a billion people around to help you or explain something to you, and if they do not know, they can call someone. Betting to win is a piece of cake, but the casual person wants a shot at the big money, be we all know, wheeling and boxing horses is a costly venture. Try doing it, not knowing how to read a program or how to make the wager correctly.

These three areas need to be addressed first. Long before comping, or take out or any of that stuff is discussed. The fans need to know you are there. Then the fans need to understand what is going on. Then the fans need a fact to tie to the event, be it a horse, or a driver, or the greeter that came with you and cheered with your group and made you feel like you had the greatest time ever.

I love harness, but the sport needs to wake up and realize, slots hurt your fan base.

view counter

© 2021 Standardbred Canada. All rights reserved. Use of this site signifies your agreement and compliance with the legal disclaimer and privacy policy.

Firefox 3 Best with IE 7 Built with Drupal