19 April 2007

What's up on the Mountain?

Recently, I've been planning lots of lovely Derby-related posts while waiting in a variety of dentist and oral surgeons' offices; unfortunately, by the time I leave the office, the lovely pain medications they've been giving me have pushed all thoughts of posting far, far away.

However, somewhere in the midst of a Vicodin-induced haze, I discovered that my local track has seen fit to make it just a bit harder to be a racing fan.

I suppose I should explain: We're not big gamblers here at the Castle. And unless some unforeseen windfall comes our way, we'll stay that way. We only visit an OTB on high holy days comprised of multiple graded stakes races. We only bet on races we watch. We don't have cable. We don't have phone wagering accounts. We don't bet online. Perhaps most damning of all: we've been known to play a dime superfecta now and then.

We are, dare I say it, the "little fan". But, as a cinematic Red Pollard might say, though we be but little, we are fierce. We're there in the stands for the maiden special weights and the N2L claiming races. We're there wagering when the top race of the night is a 27K allowance race.
We are spending an increasing number of weekend evenings over the border in West Virginia, watching lower tier horses race -- and enjoying every minute of it. Sometimes, during the week, we even watch live racing from the Mountaineer website on our tiny little computer screen -- just to see our favorite horse run.

I like to believe that with enough folks like us, thoroughbred racing can survive. I also like to believe that the tracks would like more folks to develop into fans. I like to think that while track management might not understand how to attract new fans, they aren't trying to alienate the fans they do have or placing unnecessary obstacles between fans and the sport. I like to believe that somewhere, someone is trying to think about the longterm benefits of growing a fan base for the future.

Of course, I am an idiot.

Instead of encouraging me to follow the careers of claimers like Blazing Countess and Deadwood Dame, or to see how that new bug boy (can't remember his name) handles the mud, Mountaineer would like to see me bet online. So much so, that the once free live video feed courtesy of Youbet.com has been replaced by a feed via RacelineBet.com which requires me to plunk down $100 in wagers a month. Here's the rationale:

"In order to maintain the highest video standards for our customers and to eliminate any unauthorized use of the Mountaineer video signal, we have implemented a subscription based video service. Through RacelineBet.com, you have access to our current live racing as well as a video replay library of previous races. In addition, you can implement a “Stable Alert” notification to keep you informed when one of your favorite horses is entered. To ensure unrestricted video access, minimum wagering requirements of $100 in the previous 30 calendar days must be maintained."
Sure, Mountaineer has every right to do this. And maybe it will bring in some bucks (especially since it appears that RacelineBet.com is some sort of Mountaineer Gaming subsidiary.)

Maybe it's just my pain medication, but I'm still missing the logic. Why would Mountaineer send me to a site that offers racing from a number of better-known tracks -- and make me wager $100 a month? Once I've got an account, I can spend it on races from the Kentucky, New York, or California tracks as easily as at Mountaineer. You know, those temptress tracks that get media coverage, race analysis and hype, even human interest stories in the racing media. The kind of track that has commentary about every horse right there beside the past performances. It might be nice to watch races from those tracks. It might be nice to follow those Saratoga two-year-olds and see some of them become household names the following year.

And I might forget all about Mountaineer, with its Deadwood Dames and Blazing Countesses. And who wins then?


Neal said...

From your comments, it appears that Mountaineer has gone the way of a lot of other tracks, using Account Wagering Companies to view their video. The only track that I know of that offers video right from their website is Keeneland.

There are other account wagering companies with lower minimums for video use. I have an account with WinTicket, owned partially by River Downs and Beulah Park. They only require $50 a month with some other variants. I'm not a big bettor by any means, but I can usually bet that much in a week. And yes, I often watch and wager on the Mark and Nancy Show.

While we're on WinTicket. If you decide to go that route, they offer $100 credit when you bet $100 in the first month. And, if I can refer you, I get an additional $50 credit for my account.

Other alternatives are satelite television. Dish Network has both TVG and HRTV. I can find Mountaineer, sans Mark and Nancy almost every night on one or the other.

Tote Board Brad said...

yeah, that's a bummer that you can't get the feed anymore. perhaps they just don't want to spend the cash to subsidize the feed for free anymore and can cover their costs this way. I doubt there's any windfall associated with it, though, and you're right that it cuts out the little fan and there is a cost for that. It's a cost that they won't today, though. They'll pay it over the years, though, just as the sport did when forgoing the distribution channel of TV in the 50s and 60s.

Then there's the matter of "stealing" the signal. Essentially the fear is that rogue outfits lift the feed from their site and offer wagering on the race, but book it themselves. i'm not sure how much that affects handle, though.

Calracing.com still has live video for cali tracks, though. At least we do something right out here.