July 27, 2012
Well I am back in Tucson and rested up from the long journey. I was up for 27+ hours Monday coming back from Istanbul. Since it was a 1 pm flight I was not able to sleep. Getting through customs in L.A. was about as bad as I have seen it. I had a long layover but not much time to rest there either.
Tuesday I just took the day off and slept in for a long time.
Once back in the office it was time to follow up with all the contacts I made on the trip. I hope a number of people that showed interest in our conference, make it to Tucson? A number of companies and countries are hoping to expand their import and/or export of racing signals and seemed very interested in the Global Simulcast Marketplace.
As promised in my late night blog last week from Istanbul, I am more rested and will finish my report on the Asian Racing conference. Here is a link if you want to download some of the presentations: www.arcistanbul2012.com/presentations.html
Wednesday, July 18 was the first full day of sessions. It began with some outside perspectives on advertising, consumers and technology. Marcel Fenez from Pricewaterhouse Coopers discussed the growth in new markets (Golden 8) and changing habits of consumers. The key to loyalty according to Fenze is value added. Consumers are taking control of their content. Fenez believes that there are very different levels of racing customers and thus they need to be treated differently. However, there is becoming more reluctance to share information online due to increased hacking. Trust of their data is very important.
Paul Lee with Deloitte Research talked about changing technology and its effects. According to Lee, the digital world has enhanced our experience and behavior but not affected our behavior. Core behaviors have not been changed by digital. People still like being social, doing things in groups, and enjoy entertainment.
Of particular interest to me were Mr. Lee's comments on the "half-life" of sports. Lee stated "the half-life of sports is very small afterwards." People
want it live! In other words there is little interest in an event not long afterwards. I suspect this would reduce any impact a Triple Crown winner would hope to have?
The second session on Wednesday, as I mentioned in last week's blog, I really liked the NBA's focus on the fan. In addition David Attenborough with Tabcorp presented what new efforts they are implementing to keep pace with the rapid demands of the consumer. He stated the investment cycle is rapid and we have to cater to the "my way consumer."
Richard Cheung from the Hong Kong Jockey club discussed their efforts to appeal to young customers and explained their new Racing Simulator. Last on the agenda for the day was an update by Xavier Hurstel about the growth of PMU which now has 11,300 outlets and recent sports and poker wagering has accounted for part of the growth.
The afternoon panel sessions started with Haroon Lorgat former, chief executive of the International Cricket Council, discussing how they dealt with global promotion and rules. The next two speakers started the discussion on medication, uniform screening limits and genetic developments. I have to admit that I have tired of all the medication discussions in the US. It was a good time for me to go to the exhibit area and try to catch up with some folks I wanted to talk to about our symposium and new event.
The late afternoon session Wednesday moved from the formal presentation format to more informal "roundtable" like discussions. Differences in interference rules, whipping rules and threats from genetic modification.
That night we got to go to the races at Veliefendi Racecourse. I thought it was similar to race tracks in the USA. It is hard to gauge what a regular night at the races would be as the Turkish Jockey Club hosted us for a wonderful buffet dinner in the clubhouse area. The track has both a turf and inner synthetic course. I passed on wagering due to the 50% takeout - it is against my religion to pay that much! You could see the low odds in the win pool - the effect of the takeout. I heard this gives the local illegal bookmakers quite an advantage. Of course! Due to the high takeout most of the wagers are in the exotics, especially the pick six. You could tell the pools were small and volatile in the win pool.
Thursday began with a session looking at bridging racing to a broader audience through popular culture. Four authors spoke. A Texan, Eric O'Keefe, was the author and screen writer of the movie, The Cup. Apparently it has not done too well in the states but because of the storyline featuring the Melbourne Cup it has been of much more interest in Australia. I thought it was quite interesting to learn a Texan was the author. Another book that has wide appeal in Australia is Peter Pan, by Jessica Owers. Sounds like a book I may have to check out? I was more interested in Jessica's comments about how people her age view racing and the animal welfare issues. While she is a horse person and understands the sport, but to the unschooled eye it is ugly and can involve death. The constant feeding of negative headlines is creating a rising tide of discontent. "Why would a young person, with no previous interest in racing and for example, a recent reader of the New York Times front-page exposes, be enticed in to the sport?" stated Ms. Owers. She further went on to state to me that she realized perception in this sport is everything.
After that session, industry insiders from Hong Kong and Turkey discussed their efforts to package racing for broader appeal. Henry Birtles a sports media consultant pontificated on his idea of a global TV series featuring twelve great international races. I love the idea but the mountain of hurdles seems greater than Everest.
Thursday afternoon featured several updates on initiatives and new ideas. They included James Gagliano reporting on the McKinsey Report and the follow up from that report, Ian Mackay, CEO for the Australian Turf Club, unveiled the new plans for redevelopment at Ranwick Racecourse and Paul Dixon, chairman of the Horseman's Group in the UK, briefly discussing UK's Racing for Change and what his organization is doing. Two outsiders presented new ideas for racing: Dave Nevison promoting his Bodugi website which to me seemed like a betting exchange for the millennials and Scott Shechtman and Thomas Ascher presented an informative look at their Longitude and single pool wagering. I thought Longitude's presentation was much more informative and easier to understand than their prior printed materials. It would be interesting to see a simulation of the single pool wagering in action using existing data.
Thursday night we were treated to a cruise on the Bosphorus. Istanbul is unique as the only city on two continents, Asia and Europe. The Bosphorus separate the city/continents and runs from the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea.
The final day was Friday and I have to admit giving 100% concentration in these sessions was a challenge after getting back to the room at midnight or later each night since the social functions lasted too long. The day was primarily a series of updates on racing around the world. I will give you brief highlights but save the details for inclusion in my class this fall semester in which I spend a great portion of my curriculum on racing around the world.
In Ireland they are feeling the pain of reduced government support and money is moving offshore with the bookmakers. Hong Kong on the other hand has had explosive growth with football wagering and horse racing. After several years of decline in horse racing the last few in Hong Kong have rebounded well.
Singapore has experienced at least a 20% decline with the establishment of two large casinos in their market. That came as no surprise given what we saw in the US. India reported a high tax on racing and a lack of uniformity among the five racing authorities as things that have stifled growth. I did talk to several of the authorities in India and they are exploring the possibility of international simulcasting and may attend our Global Simulcast Marketplace. I will keep everyone informed.
New Zealand said they are moving from a supply based to a demand based industry (read the latest OHRIA report on the Ontario Horse Racing Industry.) They see the west coast of the US as an opportunity for export and are planning on being at the Global Simulcast Marketplace.
Australia was another bright spot showing growth. Fixed odds betting have grown to 12% of their business and they now offer exotics in fixed odds. I would love to see fixed odds come to the US marketplace! It really can add excitment and shoping opportunties to the wagering and make the time between racing more entertaining and exciting. Like Australia, France has been one of the markets showing growth in the racing. PMU has expanded distribution and had the benefit of a poker monopoly.
The afternoon was filled with racing history in a number of countries including: Turkey, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Qatar and Mongolia developments. Well hopefully, a number of racing executives I spoke with make it to Tucson in December as I think there is some opportunity for US tracks to explore growth beyond their boarders and the people they need to meet and do business with will be in Tucson December 3 through 6.
The ARC closed with a nice Ramadan feast at the Ciragan Palace. I think by now everyone was tired but the entertainment was good.
This week I spent much of my time following up with folks I had discussions with at the ARC last week. I sent a number of them more information they requested on either the Symposium and the Global Simulcast Marketplace or our educational programs. Email was not too bad to catch up on as I stayed in contact with my email each night when I returned to the hotel room last week. RTIP faculty also meet to continue our brainstorming on symposium topics and
I think in the next few weeks we should have more topics to announce.