Monetizing Guest Wi-Fi at the Saratoga Race Course

Located in upstate New York, the Saratoga Race Course is the oldest continuously operated thoroughbred racetrack in the U.S. According to Bob Hughes, Vice President and CIO for the New York Racing Association (NYRA), fans often spend an entire day at the beautiful 350-acre Saratoga Race Course, which features historic horse barns, picnic areas, restaurants, and tracks. Perhaps not surprisingly, visitors also expect free access to fast and ubiquitous guest Wi-Fi throughout the sprawling property.

“People want to use their mobile devices for everything from food ordering to betting,” Hughes told The Ruckus Room. “We can see that fans are using the downtime between races to watch replays of past races, which they hope may give them better insights into a horse’s performance. They have to be able to connect to the Wi-Fi network, wherever they are in the park, at any time of the day or evening.”

As Hugh noted, the Saratoga Race Course decided to upgrade its guest Wi-Fi network about two years ago. Because the IT staff is lean, Hugh wanted a company to handle the design and deployment and then manage the network on a day-to-day basis. He chose Ruckus partner Deep Blue Communication, which deployed approximately 250 Ruckus access points (APs) to cover the grounds and ensure reliable guest Wi-Fi coverage for as many as 15,000 client devices. On Travers Day, an event that typically draws the highest attendance during the racing season, the Ruckus Wi-Fi network handled an average of more than one terabyte of traffic without any issues.

Beyond providing fast and ubiquitous Wi-Fi, Deep Blue Communication knew that the Saratoga Race Course wanted to further monetize its Wi-Fi network by generating more interactions, transactions, and promotions. So Deep Blue CEO Brian Epstein introduced Hughes to RaGaPa, another Ruckus partner which offers CaptiveXS, a Wi-Fi monetization and engagement solution for large public venues.

“The CaptiveXS platform provides a number of touchpoints for engagement with customers,” RaGaPa CEO Gagandeep Singh told The Ruckus Room. “Each offers an opportunity to gain valuable information and insights into customer demographics and interests. This information can then be used to create targeted promotions and more effective marketing campaigns.”

One such opportunity is the splash page captive portal that fans see when they first connect to the Saratoga Race Course guest WiFi. CaptiveXS collects information about visitors, including email addresses and demographic statistics that help create targeted marketing promotions. CaptiveXS can also push videos, display banners, surveys, and other useful venue-specific content via the splash page.

“A qualified email list is worth its weight in gold,” Singh explained. “When companies buy lists, it can cost anywhere from 35–50 cents per email address. Even then, there’s a high probability the list has bad addresses, so companies can waste a lot of money. In contrast, our CaptiveXS Cloud captured tens of thousands of qualified emails in the very first year for the Saratoga Race Course.”

CaptiveXS offers yet another monetization opportunity when fans browse websites using the Saratoga Race Course guest Wi-Fi. More specifically, CaptiveXS’ content insertion feature allows the Saratoga Race Course to insert venue-specific content such as interstitial and bottom banner ads, as well as videos on splash pages that generate additional revenue.

According to Hughes, CaptiveXS will also enable the Saratoga Race Course to start building a more detailed and comprehensive profiling of its customer bases, such as footfall traffic and consumption trends for food and beverages.

“We have to maintain wireless performance so that visitors are comfortable staying on the network. We also keep adding capabilities to monetize the guest Wi-Fi and the Ruckus network simply keeps up. For us, it’s a winning combination,” he added.

Learn more in this case study.

Deep Blue Communications, LLC