Game of Silks/NYRA partnership is a bigger deal than you think it is

Going in Circles Sports
4 min readDec 12, 2022

Last Wednesday Game of Silks and the New York Racing Association announced a partnership deal where the highly esteemed, long established racing company acquired an equity ownership share of the fledgling blockchain based horseracing game. The press release stated that, “The landmark agreement…will enable the global horse racing industry to capitalize on the rapid growth of Web3 gaming…”. Most IRL (in real life) racing participants won’t at first understand the magnitude of that statement as the older generation, typically close followers of thoroughbred racing, tends not to be tech savvy. However in a sport that has always desired to be attractive to a younger audience, that desperately needs to grow its participation levels, it can’t be overstated what a massive opportunity this deal represents.

For those who aren’t familiar with Game of Silks (www.silks.io), the most basic description is it’s a blockchain-based game that utilizes real life horses and results in a fantasy sports style setting. Actually that short-sells the multitude of strategies that can be employed as more features are added (land ownership, barn building, syndication, live auctions, etc). As the game grows, the increased complexity that comes along with a larger participation level will be even more attractive to a younger audience that desires added layers of sophistication. The generation that racing has missed for so long has been discovered by the founders of Game of Silks.

David O’Rourke and NYRA see the possibility for growth in real life racing beyond just an internet fantasy game.

“Silks captures the evolution of fan engagement and appeals to both the seasoned horseplayer and complete newcomer…NYRA is committed to educating our fans about the Silks platform to grow the game and ultimately increase horse racing fan base,” said O’Rourke.

Yet even that rosy outlook undersells the ultimate potential that Game of Silks might unlock for horse racing. Most mainstream racing attempts at marketing to a new audience have focused on selling the “on track experience” to outsiders and success has been a mixed bag at best. The “get them in the building and hope some come back” theory always made a crucial error in underestimating the racing game itself. Believing that the numbers and data racing is built upon would be a barrier and not a feature has been completely opposite of what the early returns have show Game of Silks executives.

“Though Silks is just now being introduced to a wider national audience via our partnership with NYRA and Fox Sports, our Discord channel has been up for a year now and has close to 30000 members,” said Troy Levy, co-founder and VP of Game of Silks.

“We already have found some exciting trends in that Discord. It’s a younger audience primarily in their 20’s and 30’s that are eager to explore the world of horseracing data. Many joined because of their intense interest in NFT’s and we were a unique project in that space because of our relationship with real life racing. Once our Discord members started to research racing, something that wasn’t on their radar before, they came away excited by the possibilities because of the complexity, not in spite of it. A bunch have already made a visit to a local track because of their interest in Game of Silks, and I think that is just the tip of the iceberg for growth potential in the real life Thoroughbred business.”

The iceberg that Levy is referring to is made up of two critical areas where real life racing has lagged. First is the battle for wagering customers in a gambling laden environment. For decades racing had the distinction of being the only game in town when it came to gambling, though that landscape has taken close to 180 degree turn with casinos now dotting the map. Internet casinos and the newest entrant into the gambling sector, sports wagering, have now joined the fray, making gambling a crowded sector for consumers entertainment dollars.

The other half of the iceberg is horse ownership, the supply side of racing which has struggled to even maintain a shaky status quo. Foal crop numbers (the total number of horses born each year) have dropped dramatically over the last decade and while they have leveled out recently, without increased production racing’s growth is inhibited. The core feature of Game of Silks is ownership of horses in the Metaverse, based upon real life horses, their pedigrees and race results. It is a natural progression for Silks players to explore real life horse ownership opportunities, which interestingly enough was the original intent behind the development of the game.

“I had spent years and years trying to figure out how to get more people into racehorse ownership because it can be an amazing experience,” Levy stated. “Believe me I tried and failed many times before I came up with the concept of Game of Silks, which has now gone on to be so much bigger than my original idea.”

The ultimate test of success for the Game of Silks and NYRA’s deal is how much can it help change the narrative of horseracing, engage smart young people within a space that they are comfortable with and offer fans the ability to have ‘skin in the game’ within a strategic setting in a sport whose season is 364 days long. In a tradition fixated industry that is often held back because of its inability to relate to a modern world, Game of Silks can be the bridge that connects present day racing with the future.

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