Trying to Make Racing Cool in PA?

This is pretty encouraging for a racino state: a marketing scheme for horse racing with a heavy online component.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, which oversees horse racing in the state, has launched the campaign, which is geared toward a younger demographic. It's called TrackPackPA.

The campaign mentions hanging out at the bar, having a decent meal, socializing, and watching horse races. It doesn't mention the slot machines all the tracks in the state now have. The ad on the Web site does show two 20-something women holding pari-mutuel tickets.

There is a field for people to sign up for "news and offers" via e-mail, as well as a listing of major upcoming Thoroughbred and Standardbred races in the state and a map that shows where the tracks are located.

It just got started, so we'll see how many people join the "Track Pack" over time. Check it out at and let me know your thoughts.

The photo on the home page, by the way, is a view of the Delaware River and the New Jersey marshes from the grandstand at Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack. Pretty cool setting for racing.


Leave a Comment:

Virgil Fox

Philly Park is a dump - inside and out.

The facility, staff and the atmosphere do not give the impression that racing is a priority.

Meanwhile, millions of dollars roll in on the casino floors.

They're building a new facility just for the casino.

How about a turf course that doesn't look like a city soccer field, a new grandstand, more tellers, an infield screen, rest rooms that aren't flooded and unsanitary, new benches outside, a smoking section (the casino has one), larger purses and more stakes events to attract better competition?

To be fair, it appears that Penn National has invested casino revenue back into racing.

Harrah's Chester is obviously a more modern facility and is a better atmosphere for racing.

At Philadelphia Park, I almost get the impression that they WANT racing to fail.

They nickel and dime you for an inferior product in a NON-fan-friendly setting.

Its a shame.

25 Aug 2009 5:18 PM

Why doesn't the PA Dept of Ag put some time and effort and money into helping racehorses when they cannot race anymore if they want to enhance their image to the young folks and bring them out to the tracks to watch horse racing.

25 Aug 2009 7:22 PM

God Tom how much did they pay you to write this piece of crap.

Racing in PA stinks and no amount of slot money is going to make it better.

25 Aug 2009 8:34 PM


Young people don't even know horses exist.

How is your idea going to help generate interest?

25 Aug 2009 9:05 PM


25 Aug 2009 10:01 PM

I love philadelphia racing and I play it all year long, on the internet, but I have to say it is the most dismal racetrack I have ever seen.

26 Aug 2009 1:24 AM


26 Aug 2009 3:32 AM

Have to agree with Virgil Fox's commentary.  Philadelphia Park management could care less about racing ... they'd probably love it if it went away for good.  They treat the racing customers like dirt, and the grandstand is a disgrace.  They say they will turn the grandstand back over to the racing crowd once the new casino is built, but knowing the way Greenwood likes to weasel out of things (like building the stand-alone casino in the first place), I wouldn't be surprised if they never do. It's all about slots, slots, slots. The Dept. of Ag. is going to have a heck of a time to get Philly Park to cooperate with any racing promotions, that's for sure.

26 Aug 2009 7:35 AM

Clean up the racing in PA first then someone, young or old, might come to see and play.  PA is behind the curve in terms of on the track racing regulation.

26 Aug 2009 8:19 AM

As a young adult/professional Tom, I can tell you this site works for me. It is hip, trendy web wise and is informative with what we want or need to know.

Great blog and thanks for letting me know. I wish there was a site in each state highlighting tacks and events like this site. And a national site at that.

26 Aug 2009 8:51 AM

Finally a fresh idea for PA Racing.

Now if the rest of the country could "Get On Track" and pull together ,horse racing could gain some mommentum and rotate the spotlight!

26 Aug 2009 9:25 AM
Trackside Tommy

I live in York,Pa and regularly

attend the OTW(Penn National).

I also used to live near Philly Park(Keystone) and can tell you that the fans seem to always come

last when it comes betting the ponies. A recent visit to Philly

shows the management's total lack

of respect for the bettor.

Penn's OTW is ok, but many times the self service machines malfunction.

As far as the Hollywooid Casino

facility, they've at least upgraded the racing venue so that its attractive. PHILLY- FORGET ABOUT IT!!!!  

26 Aug 2009 9:32 AM

Although the purses are good,have to agree the facility is a dump. It has all the charm of a 30 year old NYC OTB.

26 Aug 2009 10:19 AM

Kudos to PA for giving it a least someone sees the just because slots bolstered the purses, it does not mean that racing is there to's a bandaid cure at best.  If tracks don't focus on marketing their core product, HORSE RACING, the slots lobbyists can and will make sure that the racing itself goes away sooner rather than later (take a look at the angst at Prairie Meadows).

We have a little track here in little old North Dakota (metro pop. only 200,000) with a very little marketing budget and by making horse racing fun, making it our main focus and then letting people know about the above, in 2 seasons we have increased attendance by 50% and handle by 75%...just imagine what a big track, with a big marketing budget in a big city could do if they remembered that the reason we have "racetracks" is so that we can have "horse racing"!

26 Aug 2009 10:27 AM

It makes me sad to see the comments above regarding the sentiments of the patrons at Philly Park.  

I am 24 and three years ago was introduced to racing out here in Minnesota at Canterbury Park.  Just in those three years I have seen a vast improvement in marketing towards a younger crowd.  "Buck night" on Thursdays attract close to 8,000 people and 70% of them are college age, mid-twenties or young families.  If Philly Park wants to start attracting younger audiences they should see the comments made by their patrons first, address those, then contact Canterbury Park's marketing department as I see on Saturdays now a much younger mix of patrons.

26 Aug 2009 10:46 AM

I'm sure North Dakota is a nice place but it probably doesn't have anything near the competition for the entertainment dollar. Of course everything is relevant.

26 Aug 2009 11:16 AM

I worked at Philly Park, and everytime I go back, I see the same old. It was an ugly building to begin with, like a warehouse, and the backside wasn't much either. Since I haven't been back in two years, wondering if they made any changes and did the state steal that money from the HBPA? Now they want to interest people?

26 Aug 2009 11:24 AM

I showed the site to my college age sons (19 & 21).  They were unimpressed.  Not to be insulting but their critique was that the site looks like it's been designed by an old guy who is desperately trying to act young...and failing.    

And we're not from Pennsylvania but is it normal for younger people there to say things like "dressing to the nines" and "hopping in the roadster"?  I haven't heard those phrases since my grandmother died 20 years ago.

And then there's the word "gal" to describe young females.  Who says that anymore?

While the site is a good idea perhaps the webmaster should ask some young people how they talk, etc, and then do some updates.

26 Aug 2009 11:38 AM
Jim P

From the sounds of comments they should have got a small team of young people involved in helping design the project. Just those vested people alone could have been a small help in promotion. RACING, MEET YOUR COMMUNITY!!!

I'll say it again, combine some of these efforts and others with the Portland Meadows "People's Horse" promotion where you get to be an Honoray Owner with all rights and privileges. Our program donates of match of the horse's winnings to the Oregon National Guard Relief Fund. The $32,000 donation was the largest donation they had ever received.

26 Aug 2009 12:12 PM

This is to Susan W - the place still looks really bad, maybe worse than when you last saw it, and no, the state hasn't stolen the money yet.  Stay tuned.

26 Aug 2009 2:09 PM
Virgil Fox

Jim P.

Nice idea about the "small team".

I'm glad to see that ZIA Park is upgrading their surface.

26 Aug 2009 2:22 PM
Twin C Stables

I have horses racing at both Presque Isle and Penn National.  It does seem as though the racing is second to the casino and it annoys me that there is no grandstand to watch the races at either track. I do feel as though they could have made these places more racing fan friendly.  I can say that the surfaces in both places are well cared for and it is nice that Penn has a turf course.  It is certainly attracting trainers from all over the country with it's lucrative purses but again, there is NO seating for racegoers.  I do have to wonder how much these places really care about the racing.

26 Aug 2009 4:17 PM

Agree with the comments that TrackPackPA looks like an older man's version of what he thinks young people like.  The outdated language in an attempt to be cool smells suspiciously like somebody in my generation (baby boomer) cooked it up.  Besides that, maps, a calendar and a mailing list are not web wise by any stretch.

Sorry to be critical but you asked.  On the bright side, at least PA is doing something to attract new fans.  Keep trying -- the site just needs more input from the target demographic and a little tweaking.        

26 Aug 2009 7:03 PM

Let's face it ... how much impact could a web site make?  How will young people find it?  Are they going to run ads in mainstream media to direct potential fans to this site?  Unless someone Googles "racing in Pennsylvania" or something to that effect, this web site will be swallowed up in the big black hole that is the Internet.  Sorry, but it's going to take more than this to get new fans to the racetrack.

26 Aug 2009 8:26 PM

I live in York PA and visit Penn National fairly regularly.  Honestly, for racing fans, the old grandstand was nice.  As someone above mentioned, there is no grandstand now.  Aside from that flaw, the public areas of the track are very nice -- paddock, betting area, small refreshment area, decent bathrooms, etc.  

26 Aug 2009 9:26 PM

OK - full response up now, with some tips I hope they try to actually follow up on:

27 Aug 2009 9:45 AM

I applaud the effort, and agree with Elise about a website not being enough by itself. It is an important part of any marketing/ad campaign. As for young people's websites? This would have to have cell phone photos of d-list celebs without their underwear to qualify,so thank god it doesn't.

27 Aug 2009 10:08 AM

Thanks to all who have commented thus far. ... Some really good observations and suggestions.

27 Aug 2009 11:45 AM
Jason Shandler

Tom: Are you talking about John's comment too? lol

27 Aug 2009 3:10 PM

I have to disagree about Penn National's grandstand.  The third floor is beautiful.  Nice, warm colors, clean and modern.  The box seats looked great.  Leather (ok fake) with new flat screen tvs in each box.  Right by the finish line there are boxes with couches, end tables and really comfy chairs.  I'm not sure if you have to pay for any of those - but I'm a thirty something and it worked for me.  The old place was a concrete hell hole.

27 Aug 2009 3:11 PM

Jason: You know I have a tin cup on my desk for contributions. ...

27 Aug 2009 3:39 PM
Bobby Wine

Delaware Park has a beautiful facility, and when one of the triple crown races is on, they play it on the infield jumbo screen with sound.  Hopefully Philadelphia Park will try to emulate Delaware Park.  But even with this huge amount of money, they haven't done anything for this most despicable of racing venues comparable to the slums in New Delhi.

27 Aug 2009 4:30 PM
Evan Hammonds

In the area, no doubt Delaware Park is the best for the horses. On the other hand, say what you want...Philly Park still holds a special place in my heart - home to the biggest ticket I have ever cashed.

Long live the Pha!

27 Aug 2009 9:10 PM

im a 16 year old horse racing enthusiast. i go to philly park almost every weekend. i enjoy horse racing. i dont care what the racetrack looks like, i love hte sport. thats the reason i travel to the track. as a matter of act, i am currently in saratoga springs for hte travers. the younger generation is more into texting and checking their facebook then reading the daily racing form or blood horse magazine.

27 Aug 2009 11:46 PM

bobby, philly park displays hte triple crown races on 2 big screens as well: one in the infield and one in the picnic grove.

but im not gonna lie...the place is a dump. us bettors only have hte 5th floor and a teeny tiny strip on the 1st floor that is cramped to bet...until the casino moves out. its been terrible for the triple crown the past few years. i look at monmouth park and saratoga, and philly park reminds me of an industrial building. philly park is the UGLIEST racetrack. maybe the fact that you cant byob anymore to the picnic area will draw people away from philly park.

28 Aug 2009 12:06 AM

What is most disturbing about Philadelphia Park is that management does not care about its employees, fans, horsemen ... and certainly not the horses.  Otherwise, why would they subject all of the equine residents on the backstretch to an obscene display of fireworks and loud music on the 4th of July, all in order to announce that the name of the new casino is "PARX"?  I would like to know what genius thought of the new name for this casino - it's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen!  

28 Aug 2009 2:41 PM


29 Aug 2009 6:16 AM


29 Aug 2009 6:43 AM
witness to death

Philly Park has become so filled with smoke, you could choke. Where's the health department? The reason being that smokers aren't allowed anywhere else but casinos for the most part. Then you walk outside and there are no odds boards working, but plenty of portable hot dog vendors. The whole place is all about slot machines. They wouldn't race if they could have slots and not race.  They hate horsemen and race fans. They took the tellers out from downstairs (except live), as if it costs them more to have one teller downstairs at all times. They stopped selling programs downstairs too, except on race days.

01 Sep 2009 2:24 PM

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