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Connect with the Customer - By Mohit Lalvani

Posted on - 06 May 2014

Connect with the Customer
By Mohit Lalvani in Hong Kong
 
Hong Kong is conclusively the global market standard when it comes to horse racing and the opening of the ‎2014 Asian Racing Conference (ARC) on Monday the 4th of May highlighted this fact. Over 700 delegates from all over the world have flown in to Hong Kong to participate in discussions that will determine policy innovations over the coming years.
 
The first session on Tuesday was titled "Racing's lifeblood - the future landscape for wagering" and the panel which was chaired by Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht Bresges, the CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, included Jennifer Owens, an expert market analyst, Phillipe Germond (PMU CEO), Breon Corcoran (Betfair CEO), David Attenborough (Tabcorp CEO) and Paul Bittar (BHA CEO).
 
‎Racing as a whole is facing major challenges and in order to stave of the growing competition from casinos, other sports and other environmental factors, innovation that connects with the customer is a must. The idea must be to provide a complete and better experience than the others can with definitive strategies targeted to three different segments. The commercial and business segment of the industry, the racing hobbyists and the leisure and entertainment seekers are three differing profile of consumer and require varied experiences.
 
For racing to thrive, betting must do so too and in order for that to happen; credibility and integrity must be sacrosanct. It isn't enough for stewards and judges to be honest and they must be perceived to be honest as well. Punters will only wager a bet at track as against a football match or in a casino if he believes that the dice are not loaded and the belief that it isn't is as important as the underlying fact. The recent debate in India of transparency in stewards' enquiries is a step in this direction and the more information that gets out to the punter the greater will be his confidence in the product. There isn't enough that can be done in this area and zero tolerance policies on all forms of infringements are the need of the hour. Consistent information must have quality and quantity attached to it and then, and only then will we see the growth of the sport in betting revenue terms.
 
When taking a look at betting patterns in sport, cricket matches is where most betting revenue is going in India (football for the rest of the world with the exception of Hong Kong). There was a time (too long ago for ‎me to remember exactly when) when this wasn't the case in India and it wouldn't at all be surprising if illegal bookmakers in India reported a drop in betting volumes during the match fixing scandals. Without tax deductions being an inhibitor ‎in the illegal betting markets, it's extremely important that the Indian racing authorities find the buy-in of the government to make it sympathetic to its needs. While CSR activation is one effective way of doing this, overall policy needs to be changed.
 
The next edition of the ARC will be hosted in Bombay and the TAI should ensure that the serious and relevant decision makers from the state and ‎central government bodies are correctly educated by the thinkers and speakers that will be present. There is no short term solution but a start now, even with a few crumbs, will eventually give us a loaf of bread in India.
 
The two other market segments are no less a challenge but are far less complex. Infrastructure and better facilities will work towards connecting with the hobby race goer while a comprehensive entertainment experience delivered across multiple platforms including the internet will bring in the entertainment seekers. The former will bring back the sporting owners and hobby race goers while the later will create growth by targeting the baby boomers.
 
Taking the case study of the Hong Kong Jockey Club is possibly a reaching for the stars. But, it's only then that we will make a start and over time get to the winning post.

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