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In Search of the Ultimate Customer Experience

The View

In August, Full House Resorts unveiled a proposal for a new racetrack and casino in New Mexico.

Within the plan, the gaming and hospitality company promised to reinvent the racetrack experience. In addition to the non racing amenities of a hotel, casino, water-park and conference centre, the company released a number of plans specifically with horse racing in mind.

A virtual reality bar would be built, where patrons can wager on a race and then, through virtual reality, view the dash from the jockey's point-of-view. The track would also offer the option of watching and wagering on races from every casino slot machine, so rather than keeping racing and gaming away from one another, they would be truly integrated. And, in addition to sky boxes, and a restaurant/patio overlooking the racetrack, the track would feature the world's first moving grandstand.

Yes, similar to a monorail, the grandstand seating would move along the outside rail with the horses throughout the race, allowing customers to experience a one-of-a-kind viewing experience.

Whether or not this proposal will ever come to fruition, it is heartening to read a vision that puts the race-going experience first.

Why in 2018, would we be accepting of a customer experience, unless it is engaging and appealing? If our best horses can compete for millions of dollars, why can we not invest similarly in reaching a new generation of patrons through truly unique and imaginative ideas?

While the proposal in New Mexico is a high tech example of how to reshape how people view our sport, a low tech example in Alberta is just as encouraging, and equally thrilling. And this one is not a vision on paper, but an event now in its fifth year.

Packwood Grand, featured on page 72 of this issue, is doing something on an annual basis that many in this sport said could never be done. With an $80 ticket price, the event is thrilling young people and filling the racetrack with newcomers.

This year, approximately 2,000 people packed the Century Downs apron and infield, for a celebration of champagne, exquisite cuisine, and luxury. The crowd arrived ready to enjoy the sights and sounds of harness racing, and they did, with $3,200 VIP suites sold out, private viewing areas filled to capacity, limousines pulling up to the track, and major companies lining up to sponsor the event.

In addition to the gate, food and beverage, and sponsorship revenues, the betting handle was up 73% over the Saturday average this season.

Packwood Grand, like the concept being proposed in New Mexico, requires a vision of horse racing as a unique destination experience. When marketed, promoted and executed, a quiet weekend program of racing can be transformed into an event of the season, generating hundreds of thousands of customer dollars.

Success is there for the taking. Failure is a learning experience. But doing nothing, and expecting different results - that is unacceptable.

Darryl Kaplan
[email protected]


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