A mobile future to bet horses

Dec 31, 2012 3:05 AM

Tucson hosted the University Of Arizona’s 39th Annual Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming in December: the premier convention of the industry. The speakers, seminars, informal networking sessions and sponsors are a veritable who’s who in the game.

The lush desert resort Westin La Paloma housed the Symposium.

The power people of the pari-mutuel industry focused on its future and growing globalization. Attendees had a generally optimistic air, charting a course for success in the short and long term.

Director Doug Reed, his staff and students delivered a syllabus encompassing great variety and expertise, and showcased thinking outside the box. The advent of global high tech communications was addressed in a session titled “The Growth Of Wagering On The Go.”

Constantly breaking developments in information, research and money management are now seamlessly exchanged between the tracks, vendors, regulatory bodies and customers.

Panelist Ray Fok, formerly of Yahoo, spoke to the group via Skype from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, his new post as executive manager of digital experience and information. He delivered a detailed A/V presentation showing the geometric growth of the Jockey Club’s wagering.

The HKJC now hosts nearly 1/3 of all Internet accessible gamblers in Hong Kong. His astonishing graphs showed that by 2013 20% of their customers will be betting using Smartphone’s and mobile devices. A video demonstrated the entertaining easy-to-use hardware and “aps.”

The HKJC’s effort embraces a philosophy to make betting like an Internet game – speed,ease of understanding and convenient with quick results. The software also encompasses local lottery and global football (soccer) betting. His conclusion: It’s the young customers who are the objective.

Yves Ronin, racing manager of Groupe Carrus, pari-mutuel providers for on-track and simulcast in France, gave a sweeping vista of the extraordinary and profitable racing industry there. With 260-plus tracks from Normandy to Cannes, ranging from a garden-like backyard setting, to seaside county fair ovals, to the historic majesty of Longchamps and Deauville, he revealed how savvy French promoters identified and implemented décor and atmosphere to attract different target audiences unique to each venue – women, factory workers, families, or young adults.

He explained that French racetracks are owned by the horsemen and unions and are operated as Not For Profits. Volunteers comprise the majority of labor, ranging from executives to mutuel clerks. The priority of the French equestrian industry is nurturing the horses and their breeding, and having fun.

Justin Cassity, owner of Allpha Cruus, echoed the importance of “promoting the betting” and keeping focus on racing…helping to ameliorate the growing tensions between profitable casino divisions and money losing racing divisions.

Session moderator, another U of A Racing graduate, Erich Zimny, VP Hollywood Casino at Charlestown, further implored fellow managers to scrutinize race dates, post times, large purse and stakes racing promotions and work with content providers to maximize their profitability. His experience in tightening down the many seemingly fixed components of the game combines to reveal a more consistent profit or lower loss.

Panel contributor, Del Mar Director of Digital and Media Sponsorships Walker McBride (U of A grad) concurred with Mr. Fok that the future of racing is intimately tied to quick and creative embracing of new technology. His priority is to improve the relationship with customers using new interactive technology following each smart phone customer’s visit to the track. “Digital media and mobile communications must not be ignored,” he said, “or there will be a major negative impact on all of us.”

David Turner, CEO of Parallel 6, Inc., who consulted with McBride at Del Mar, added, “We developed the Del Mar player App in 17 days – right before the meet began. Our research showed our customers immediately downloaded the ap, and users grew exponentially throughout the meet. We also surveyed the (San Diego) Chargers and Padres…We are light years ahead of their use of mobile media for their customers.”

Joseph Asher, longtime Symposium contributor and CEO of William Hill USA showed research about what makes gamblers gravitate to bet mobile: convenience, quickness and usability in (office) places that would otherwise not be accessible.

Other panels at the Symposium featured Breeders’ Cup victorious trainer Dale Romans, Paul Roberts of Turnberry Consulting, John Hartig, CEO of the Daily Racing Form; Scott Wells, president of Remington Park; Georganne Hale, racing director of the Maryland Jockey Club; Rick Goodell of New York State and Wagering Board, Christopher McErlean of Penn National, and Rodnell Workman of NYRA.

The exhibition Hall featured displays from many top vendors to the industry, including DRF, The Jockey Club, Daktronics, and Groupe Carrus.


Recently released Statewide Racino November numbers are more an indication of the pending winter season than any significant uptick in overall business. Isle Capri continued the lead, up 2%. Calder showed the least erosion, down less than 1%. Gulfstream was down more than 14%; Mardi Gras had a single digit loss. Magic City slowed a trend of double-digit losses, down 3.3%.

As the winter season and holiday time rolls in, the monthly gains from a weak October looked impressive, especially Mardi Gras up 20% and Calder up 16%.

The racino card rooms were collectively up 3% and pari-mutuel play was up a somewhat astonishing, and very pleasant 8.3% as the Tropical Park meet at Calder Race Course stakes schedule was in full swing. The Breeders’ Cup action was significant in adding to the simulcast numbers.

The December numbers mark the mid-point in the 2012-2013 Florida fiscal year. We will provide an extensive look at those mid-year numbers and percentages in an upcoming issue of GamingToday.

State senate president Don Gaetz’s new Senate Gaming Committee will be chaired by Senator Garrett Richter (R-Naples). Vice chair is Senator Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach).

Consistent with their strategy to join the AAA International League, the Miami Marlins unloaded Yunel Escobar (recently acquired from Toronto) to cross state rival Rays.

Head coach Mario Cristobal was fired by FIU with no plausible explanation given.

Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson bring a combined 80 years of gaming marketing and administration experience to Gaming Today. Contact them at [email protected].

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