Standardbred Canada\'s Wagering Conference concluded its panel discussions Wednesday morning and then went into a private session involving 24 industry \"stakeholders\" that afternoon to formulate a strategic plan for trying ways to increase betting on harness racing in Canada.
Discussions on Wednesday morning covered customer relations from the standpoint of bettors and again covered betting exchanges, pool sizes and new wagers.
In the final session Les Butler, vice president of gaming at Northlands in Edmonton, Alberta, said he believes the industry should first focus its efforts on increasing the size of wagering pools. \"If there is one thing this industry needs, at least nationally, is it needs big pools. We have to test, and it\'s not going to be the same for every track.\"
Handicapper Dave Towers said he wouldn\'t necessarily play a Pick 6 or Pick 7 simply because the pools were large. \"I think getting pool sizes up in all pools is important,\" said Towers, who suggested that fewer exotic wagers be offered on some cards.
A discussion about customer acquisition and retainment was launched during The Customer is King panel. The panel - which was moderated by Kelly Spencer, Grand River Raceway Marketing manager - began with Andrew MacDonald (WEG vice-president, Marketing and Communications) beginning the discussion with an overview of recent customer service initiatives at WEG.
MacDonald said that in March, 2000, Woodbine began its player reward program and tied it to the existing account wagering program. \"In virtue of tying it to our account holders, we began with 5,000 and are now up to 42,000,\" MacDonald explained. \"It\'s a more effective way for us to manage those customers.\"
\"Higher volume customers get a lower takeout,\" noted MacDonald, \"and WEG often works with customers one-on-one to devise a customized plan that suits their needs.
\"For those who bet $250,000 or more annually, Woodbine has a VIP program, which offers a number of services over and above the norm, including discretionary takeout adjustments [they\'re now weekly, but may soon become to compete with offshore betting opportunities], preferred seating, food and beverage, and other similar rewards. Each VIP is also assigned a point of contact with the racetrack - an employee who is responsible for managing that customer relationship.\"
Sarah Bohn, director of Marketing Operations for Casino Windsor, followed MacDonald by offering a brief explanation of the program at her facility.
\"I\'ve never worked with a more sophisticated program,\" she raved, in reference to Windsor\'s Total Rewards Program. Forty-three million customers have joined the program, which allows gamers to take their points and rewards from property to property.
Handicapper James Erickson said player rewards can be as simple as offering free betting forms/programs and information tools which are not always available for free to all customers.--By Kathy Parker