08/18/2011 3:48PM

Breeders' Cup holding voucher promotion


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The Breeders’ Cup will award a $500,000 cash prize to one winner in an off-site mystery-mutuel voucher promotion it plans to implement for the second day of its 2011 event this year at Churchill Downs, according to Breeders’ Cup and racing officials.

The promotion, which requires racetracks to share their marketing databases with an organization hired by Breeders’ Cup, is designed to drive attendance and boost handle at offtrack betting sites in the United States, according to Jim Gluckson, a spokesman for Breeders’ Cup. With a deadline of Aug. 22 to sign up, approximately 10 major racetracks have decided to participate in the promotion so far, the officials said, although at least one track has declined because of concerns over sharing the information in its database.

One of the mystery-mutuel vouchers will be worth a $500,000 cash prize, payable in an annuity, according to the officials. The other tickets will range in value from at least $2 to as high as $100, the officials said, with the tracks that have elected to participate determining the denominations that will be available.

The promotion will require online registration to redeem the mutuel voucher. As a result, racetracks and the Breeders’ Cup are expected to glean additional marketing data from the promotion by adding names and e-mail addresses to their databases, while also driving fans to pages on social-networking sites that tracks are increasingly using as marketing tools.

The promotion is also a way for Breeders’ Cup to reach out to its simulcast sites to ease hard feelings about the rate that Breeders’ Cup charges for its signal, which is roughly three times the rate paid by most sites for racing products. The high rate has been a source of irritation to many simulcast sites on one of the most popular racing days of the year.

Mystery-mutuel vouchers have been used as promotional tools throughout the last decade. The most far-reaching was coordinated by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the marketing organization that has pared back its role in the sport over the past five years. Under the NTRA promotion, fans received paper vouchers in the mail that were eligible for redemption only on a certain day at specific racetracks.

There are approximately 55 major racetracks in the United states, so participation in the promotion is clearly not being embraced across the industry. Officials for one of the tracks that has chosen not to participate, Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla., said that they believed the promotion had value, but that they did not want to hand over the contents of their marketing databases.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, like they’re going to run out and do something bad with it, but it’s our information, and I was never comfortable sharing it with the NTRA either,” said Margo Flynn, the vice president of marketing and public relations for Tampa Bay. “I’m just not comfortable sharing our e-mail list with other vendors.”

The promotion has run into other complications as well. Officials at Texas tracks said that they may not be able to participate because of state laws restricting sweepstakes. And in New York, officials at the New York Racing Association, which operates Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, said they anticipated participating in the promotion – just as long as the New York State Racing and Wagering Board approved it.