Opening Day at Santa Anita Park  in Arcadia, CA, on December 26th brings the excitement everyone associates with horse racing. Screaming fans, fast-talking announcers, the ebb and flow of a horse race, and the constant checking of mobile phones will dominate the day after Christmas.
Wait. Checking one's mobile phone constantly isn't normally associated with horse racing (even if it is associated with just about everything else we do). Yes, even the sports and betting atmosphere at the race track is seeing a mobile invasion as the park launches their mobile wagering app for onsite patrons.
“This is the direction we need to be going,” said Santa Anita vice president of sales and marketing Chris Quinn. “Technology is making our sport much more accessible and this mobile wagering platform is going to provide our on-track fans with a level of convenience that we haven’t been able to offer before."
Betting on horses can only be done at race tracks and authorized off-track betting locations, which is why we've never seen mobile or online apps used in this manner. Santa Anita is doing something different by localizing the availability of betting, allowing only those who are using the park's Wi-Fi to access the mobile betting site.
The trend toward localized mobile access is growing. The Internet allows many conveniences when it comes to shopping for merchandise and services but also presents challenges based on speed and the "site hopping" that occurs when visitors have access to alternatives. Localizing mobile access with incentives to visit physical locations is the paradigm shift many in retail have been hoping to see.
Imagine a localized mobile app or website that allows those connected through a store's Wi-Fi to access instant savings, find in-store specials, or interact with employees (and even other customers). The control factor that is lost through online shopping can be regained by giving in-store visitors access to things they wouldn't be able to access from their home.
As with Santa Anita Park, the incentive is convenience. Anyone who has tried to wager at a track knows about waiting in line. Close to race time, tensions can often rise in line as the need to rush to place the bet grows with every second ticking away. Santa Anita's mobile betting feature eliminitates the tedium and pressure of being in line to place a bet.
It also gives people access to information at their fingertips that has traditionally been relegated to the race-day prints.
The park, which opens for the new season on December 26th, will be monitoring closely to make sure the technology and infrastructure are strong.
“Currently, we are working to provide the best infrastructure to support the mobile wagering platform,” said Nina Zukin, Santa Anita's director of information technology. “With the addition of numerous wireless towers and commercial access points, our customers can be assured of a convenient and secure mobile wagering experience.”
The racing world (and just about everyone else) will be watching closely as well.