Medical professionals refer to patients, attorneys make reference to their clients, art museums speak of patrons, and executives in horse racing prefer such descriptors as consumers and fans.  These are less commercial sounding euphemisms for “customer” or, even more crass, “bettor.”

The betting customer is the entity upon which horse racing ultimately depends for sustenance.

A consumer of horse racing, as opposed to a customer, could be an aficionado who regularly watches the sport on television but doesn’t wager; or a person who attends one horse-racing showcase event annually; or the all-important and mostly faceless individual who regularly puts money down on horses and thereby provides the lifeblood for the entire racing industry, from bloodstock to racetracks and tertiary participants.

These semantic nuances are meaningful because how racing executives think about their various target markets ultimately determines their sales and marketing strategies and tactics.  For strategic purposes, consumer and fan are imprecise, whereas customer and bettor denote an exchange or a financial transaction.

Promoting horse racing to increase television ratings certainly requires outreach strategies for people who may view the sport but never make a bet; this tack entails an appeal to the pageantry, traditions, and elegance of the sport.  But reversing the negative trend in pari-mutuel handle necessitates strategies and tactics tailored for bettors, and in particular for large-scale bettors.

Yet the words bettors and gambling, with their negative connotations, are often sanitized.  Doing so tends to divert focus from crucial issues like addressing uncompetitive takeout rates, catering to the relatively small percentage of bettors who account for the lion’s share of revenues, and cultivating badly needed new players.

While owners, trainers, jockeys, and others in the day-to-day operation of horse racing are vital to keeping the railroad running, there would not be much of a railroad to run without bettors.  The first step in revitalizing racing is to focus like a laser beam on racing’s betting franchise, rather than on fans, consumers, or slots subsidies.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business


  1. While I generally agree with virtually all of these comments, I do object to “thereby provides the lifeblood.” You later acknowledge other day-to-day factors in “keeping the railroad running,” but I’d suggest there are mutual dependencies at play here. The betting customer is of course essential. The breeder is essential. Horsemen are essential. There’s a lot of commerce taking place to get the product to the customer. Suggesting bettors are “THE” lifeblood diminishes your otherwise good points.

  2. The customer is king, Marc. Uno numero. No customers means no industry.