Youbet Gambles on Handicapping Promotion

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Hoping to put a little giddyap in its member acquisition efforts, Youbet.com will launch its Beat the Pro promotion on Nov. 11.


Youbet.com allows visitors to watch and wager on harness and thoroughbred horse races in North America and abroad. To encourage new visitors to join and existing members to become more active, the site will allow players to try and handicap races more accurately than staff editor Steven Crist.


The grand prize is $25,000. All players who have picks with higher returns on investment than Crist, will split the jackpot. If no one wins, the prize money will go to charity.


This contest will allow players to put their money where their mouth is, said Ron Luniewski, executive vice president at Youbet.com, Los Angeles.


"You know there are fantasy football players out there that think they're smarter than everyone else when they pick up a rookie running back," he said. "The same holds true for horse racing. People make bets on a horse that's going off 10-to-1 and they can't believe that no one else can see ... it's going to win."


While $15 billion was wagered on horse racing last year, only a fraction of the transactions occurred on the Web, Luniewski said. The site hopes to change this.


"We're just the next logical extension. We can enhance the experience. We have relationships with 61 racetracks," he said. "We can post the odds, late changes, minutes to post. There are on-track correspondents streaming in."


To turn fans onto this action, the site is launching a marketing campaign to support the promotion. Beginning the first week of November, radio spots will begin airing during horse-racing shows in New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Ads also will appear in the Daily Racing Form, Blood Horse and other publications.


A direct mail campaign that will reach 200,000 people is expected to drop today. It will target the states where online gambling is legal using lists from sources such as the Thoroughbred Sports Network and Equibase.


"We don't view our site as a mass-market product. It has a niche appeal. We're targeted as to where we're going. We're not Monster.com," Luniewski said.


An online campaign also will kick off on as many as a dozen sites, including USAToday.com and ESPN.com.


Luniewski is confident that the Web can help hook a new generation of players on horse racing.


"Horse racing missed the baby boomers because it didn't go to television," he said. "We want to expose the bottom-end baby boomers and Net generation to the sport of kings because they basically missed it."
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