12/11/2014 2:44PM

Racing Symposium: Racing should explore fantasy games


TUCSON, Ariz. – Racetracks and betting companies should explore mining the customer base of fantasy sports leagues for new fans and create their own fantasy games to capitalize on the market’s explosive growth, racing officials and fantasy-league experts said Thursday on the final day of the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing and Gaming.

The officials said they believe there is significant crossover between fantasy-league players and horseplayers, creating ample opportunities for racing to market its product to the 40 million fantasy players in the United States. However, those same arguments have been made in the past about the crossover potential between other market demographics and racing, and those projections have failed to pan out in any meaningful way.

Symposium planners scheduled the panel on fantasy sports due to the recent staggering growth experienced by companies that offer cash payouts to players who pay to participate in daily fantasy leagues. The market’s leaders have raised tens of millions of dollars recently in venture capital while drawing hundreds of thousands of regular paying customers to their sites.

Tom Dwyer, the chief executive of a daily fantasy company, Ballr.com, said on the panel that his company is seeking to draw players who will pay $5 to $10 a week to participate in its daily offerings. He called the business plan of emerging daily fantasy companies “ridiculously simple and flexible” and said the market is being flooded with upstarts looking for a piece of the action.

“It’s a real business opportunity,” Dwyer said. “It’s not all fun and games. It can be extremely profitable.”

Looking at that figure of 40 million fantasy players, John Ford, the chief executive of BAM, a company that owns and operates the BetAmerica account-wagering company, said he launched sites offering fantasy games on popular sports and was now looking for some way to lead those players to horse-race betting, which has a much higher margin than the fantasy games.

“Fantasy players are very similar to horse-racing customers,” Ford said. “It’s drawing a demographic that has a much higher potential to gravitating to become a horseplayer. I think of fantasy games as a soft introduction to racing.”

But for all their similarities, there are also stark differences, Dwyer said. Seventy-five percent of daily fantasy customers are playing in leagues involving the National Football League. The rest are spread out on a smattering of other major sports, and racing is nowhere on the radar, Dwyer said. What’s more: the information that daily fantasy players use to build their teams costs nothing, unlike detailed racing data, which typically come at a hefty price.

“We’re working with the greatest content in the U.S.,” Dwyer said. “It’s called the NFL, and it’s free. And there’s tons of information out there about it, and it’s all free.”

Still, Dwyer said the two market populations shared some similarities. Hai Ng, the moderator of the panel and a partner in a technology company, agreed with that assessment and encouraged racetracks and betting companies to explore novel ideas, such as creating NFL fantasy leagues among a racetrack’s most frequent customers, or creating leagues that are hybrids, using NFL players and jockeys, for example.

“These are extremely social games,” he said. “Racing and fantasy share that. You need to build on that.”

But there are still reasons to be highly cautious. The NFL brand, though under siege, is still one of the most powerful brands in the world, and fantasy play may be somewhat unique to its product. And similar predictions were made about the crossover potential of the young men who 10 years ago rushed into live poker, when handle on horse racing was $15 billion a year. Today, it’s less than $11 billion.

georget More than 1 year ago
And by all means, never, ever listen to fans' comments, complaints or ideas about improving the existing customer experience.
georget More than 1 year ago
And by all means, never , ever listen to fans, their ideas or comments, or complaints about lmproving the customer experience. After all, they are just losers.
mikey More than 1 year ago
The fan base of racing is to old for these ames.The average age of the true horse player has to be 60 or better.Clean up the game and maybe some of the young fans will grow.
tommy More than 1 year ago
I agree, clean up the game meaning don't fix any races!! I think if the honest the will lose money. The track makes money in 3 ways!! 1) entry free for horses to run in race 2) they take big percentage out of each betting pool 3) the track also bets!! Which means if the best jockey has the best horse and the track tells him to pull the horse or risk getting suspended or getting a raise which one would you pick? If I were a jockey I want the raise lol
Steven More than 1 year ago
I don't spend any money for my horse racing info. equibase.com and about.com/horseracing give me all my past performances and charts. There can be nothing "fantasy" about the sport; contests fulfill what we would do gambling real money and the entry fees keep most dreamers at bay. Remington, Emerald123, Del Mar, Public Handicapper, Survival at Monmouth, HorseplayerNOW, All offer winning opportunities that are equal to fantasy leagues. Raise the rewards and you will raise the number of players. NTRA saw a huge % INCREASE in 2014 because for just $50 you get 4-5 great shots at fame and fortune, just give us handicappers more creative contests with exotics included [exactas!]....
Eric Green More than 1 year ago
I'm not aware of any attempts from the racing industry to target the poker market. There's been chatter about it, but marketing folks in racing just keep preaching to the choir. Conversely, the fantasy sports industry is growing so rapidly in part due to the willingness of the decision makers to tap into the poker, racing and other markets for exposure.
xTote More than 1 year ago
There are some fresh attempts for poker like competitions, not on live races at the moment, just to attract new players using virtual or historic races http://www.racing-poker.com/