Global cooperation in expanding the World Pool, enhancing integrated customer experience and engaging with Generation Z were the key themes of session two of the business programme “The Wager” at the 39th Asian Racing Conference on 15 February in Melbourne.
Asian Racing Federation Chairman and Hong Kong Jockey Club Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, introduced the session with a call to further advance the World Pool against a backdrop of a widening gap between sports and racing betting – and disturbing illegal betting growth at almost twice the rate of the legal market between 2019 and 2021.
“Global liquidity is the key for all pari-mutuel operators and in turn for racing industry revenue, and updating racing wagering integration protocols for a global platform is imperative,” Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
Mr. Michael Fitzsimons, Executive Director, Wagering Products at The Hong Kong Jockey Club, reinforced that view saying improved technology would power global liquidity. “Significant changes to protocols are required to enable a wider range of exotic products and synchronise the betting cut-off time with all operators to ensure customer confidence,” Mr. Fitzsimons said.
Both Mr. Fitzsimons and Mr. Adam Rytenskild, CEO and Managing Director of Tabcorp, spoke of the need to enhance the integrated customer experience and a preparedness to enter partnerships and joint ventures, while Mr. Rytenskild also endorsed the World Pool.
“I’d be happy to see a World Pool every Saturday. We are eager to be involved in more World Pools and see Saturday as just the start. We are interested in any ideas which can increase Tote liquidity,” Mr. Rytenskild said on the eve of the historic World Pool operating on all races at Saturday’s (18 February) Lightning Stakes meeting at Flemington.
The focus and expectation of the World Pool was queried by Mr. Andrew Orbach, Equities Analyst at Taylor Collison. “There’s a lot of hope hinging on the World Pool and liquidity begets liquidity but my concern would be that only 18 meetings, now, are covered by the World Pool,” he said. Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges predicted that the World Pool would operate on 100 events per year in the “foreseeable future”.
“The World Pool can drive global returns to the industry with new protocols allowing us to expand even more, while being mindful that we need the best race meetings as anchors and that customers will demand the same high level of information as is available in Hong Kong,” he said.
Alex Frost, CEO of UK Tote Group, pointed to World Pool turnover growing in Great Britain from an initial $17 million to $459 million in 2022. “It is boosting returns to the sport itself and the focus is laying the foundations for the World Pool future,” he said.
Mr. Frost said that reinvigorating existing Tote products such as the Place Pot and engaging younger fans via Tote Tournaments and Tote Fantasy competitions was vital to growing the UK Tote. “We are looking to celebrate winners which pool betting especially lends itself to,” he said.
Mr. Rytenskild concurred that connecting with 18-25 year-olds was critical and noted that Tabcorp had bought a 20 per cent share in social betting platform Dabble as part of an overall strategy which he described as “disrupting ourselves”.
“We are also prepared to disrupt the market around us as we create a new integrated customer experience and we promise a very new digital and in-venue wagering experience later this year,” he said.
Mr. Rytenskild also said that wagering operators had to be aware of broader obligations as the wagering and gaming sector came under increasing focus from global regulators.
“We will not grow our business at the expense of our social licence. We are aware of our responsibility in regards to problem gambling; cyber security and protecting our customers; investing in community and industry and investing in a sustainable future,” he said.