The growing presence of Betfair, the changing face of today’s racing fan, and the progress made in racetrack safety and integrity highlighted a busy opening day for the 36th annual Symposium on Racing & Gaming.
Gerard Cunningham, president of Betfair USA, discussed the exchange betting model in the panel “A New Perspective on Racing – How Times Change.”
“Racing should become the envy of other sports,” said Cunningham, stressing the importance of innovation in its wagering model. The other options, he said, had a diminishing role in the future of the industry: “Hope – we can keep doing the same thing. Consolidation–shrinking your way to success does not work.”
In a dramatic demonstration of Betfair’s technology, Cunningham showed this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic alongside a chart plotting the in-running odds changes. He also stressed Betfair’s commitment to a conservative business model that welcomes regulation.
“(Racing has) a real problem not talking growth, how to bring in new owners and bettors,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the panel “Exposing Yourself to Strangers,” Churchill Downs chief marketing officer Dave Tompkins and NBC Sports vice president of marketing Mike McCarley discussed exactly how they succeeded in promoting the Kentucky Derby and Oaks to a new fan base, resulting in the highest ratings in 20 years.
“The Kentucky Derby is one of three sports events that attract more women viewers,” said McCarley.
Tompkins added, “women most embrace the visceral aspects of the brand.”
Using NBC’s “Big Event” strategy, the Derby and Oaks were imbedded into the network’s properties, from straightforward coverage on Today to even a mention on the sitcom The Office. The strategy also incorporated iVillage.com, a social networking site targeted toward women, where people could register their Derby parties and have access to party planning advice and recipes from celebrity chefs.
“Women can become the new fan,” said Tompkins, “we must create an event uniquely their own.”
Also on Tuesday, the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance released the findings of its independent counsel. The Honorable Tommy Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin and Health and Human Services secretary, praised the work of the alliance’s accreditation team.
“Accreditation did improve tracks in tangible ways,” he said. “The bad news is fans did not notice the improvements.”
Thompson recommended incorporating more public comment in the rulemaking process, as well as instituting a hotline for anonymous tips. He also called for more research into safety equipment for horses and jockeys as well as the aftercare of retired race horses. (University of Arizona)