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Can modern sportsbooks thrive without a racing offering?

By - 18 January 2022

Horse racing: one of the oldest of all sports, but what is its future within the modern-day sportsbook?

Experts from Pronet Gaming, SIS, Aspire Global, and Betegy discuss whether racing products have become a must-have for operators in emerging markets and consider the clamour for fixed-odds betting options in the United States.

Horse racing is betting and betting is horse racing, but can modern sportsbooks thrive without a racing offering?

Morten Hauge, Head of Sports, Aspire Global: The answer is yes if you are outside of the UK and Ireland. If you are operating within those countries, then it becomes very difficult – as can be seen by the fact that there are no large brands in the UK and Ireland that do not offer horse racing. The situation is different when it comes to other markets, particularly in those regions where racing does not carry so much cultural weight.

Paul Witten, Commercial Director at SIS: While modern sportsbooks can offer markets on an array of sports across the globe in different time zones throughout the day, there is no doubt that horse racing continues to play an integral role amongst bettors and operators.

In fact, in more than 30 years of creating and distributing betting events for horse and greyhound racing on a global scale at SIS, we have never seen such a strong demand for racing content. Sportsbooks want to be in the best position to offer the most immersive sports betting experience to engage and retain customers, which often includes providing a compelling horse racing offer.

From Latin American racing to high-profile events in the Middle East and North America, bettors are engaging with the range of horse racing on offer, if the quality of content is there. As a result, it’s more important than ever for operators to provide their customers with content throughout the day, at times which suit them, to capitalise on this opportunity. The demand is there – it’s about meeting it with the required quality of content and delivering it at the right time if sportsbooks really want to thrive.

Thomas Molloy, Sportsbook Product and Trading Director at Pronet Gaming: It depends on the market and more specifically, the appetite for racing within that market – horses for courses, you might say. Generally speaking, while you find there’s an element of racing heritage to draw on in LatAm, across Africa that is not necessarily present.

In the case of most regulated markets, racing is certainly an integral part of the sportsbook mix. On any given day, the number of events is huge and from an operator perspective it is a very attractive proposition: the margin is high and the product is sticky, offering punters a highly engaging experience that they want to come back to time and again. Finding the right partner is key and that’s what we were striving for when we teamed up with BetMakers earlier this year.

Alex Kornilov, CEO of Betegy: In the UK it is essential, and in certain European markets with horse racing scenes, such as Germany and France, it is important. For emerging markets, this can be a wholly different kettle of fish. LatAm is a good example of this, Colombia, or Peru for example, do not have a huge racing heritage.

Of course, it offers plenty of potential for conversion as part of the content mix, along with Esports and virtuals, and is arguably a very good way to monetise extra traffic. At the end of the day, it’s all about cultural heritage, and this really will vary from country to country.

Compare Peru and Colombia to Argentina in this case, and given Argentina’s strong polo culture and an acceptance of equine sports, and you’re always going to see more popularity than further north on the continent, which does not have that heritage – meaning that you’ll see far more sportsbook offerings without racing as the demand simply won’t be there.

What factors are considered when deciding whether to offer racing products in emerging markets?

Alex: The key aspect for this is as simple as the popularity of the sport in the market. Horse racing should work hand in hand with betting, as it is specifically designed to work with bets. We can see this with regulation of racing tracks and of course the desire to be associated between betting brands and major events in the calendar. However, if there isn’t a culture of horse racing in a market, it can be difficult to convert large swathes of the populace to enjoy the intricacies of betting on horses, as the tradition just isn’t there.

Popularity of sports should always be the first factor to consider. If that exists, then there is an opportunity to grow popularity of events like horse racing to fill gaps in the calendar, and in many cases – this can be very lucrative.

Australia is a good example of this – look at the Spring Carnival, where they have successfully cultivated a huge following during the traditional lull period between football and cricket seasons, carving out a key place in the sporting, and thus betting, calendar for racing. It becomes easy to promote and enjoy, and given its prestige, it can strongly appeal to all generations and demographics.

Paul: A different approach is required when offering horse racing content in emerging markets, particularly if the region has little racing heritage. From our experience, it boils down to closely supporting operators who are new to the sport and making the content more relevant for their specific audience.

In markets across Eastern Europe, we have seen that bettors with little knowledge of horse racing can still find the betting experience enjoyable. It means placing a greater emphasis on offering markets that are easier for newcomers to understand. This has proven to drive betting engagement in areas across the globe that traditionally have not been associated with horse racing.

Thomas: Rights holders play a crucial role in ensuring that racing is funded properly. We are seeing a very similar movement emerge in racing to what has played out with sports rights data across other sports, often leading to litigation. As we see it, racing needs to be funded properly to become sustainable. The margin that race betting offers allows for fees to be paid back into the sport while still allowing the operator to make a healthy profit.

Morten: Naturally, commercial factors are a major consideration. You also need strong information on the race card to inform betting decisions and the availability of live streaming so that punters can watch the action.

There hasn’t traditionally been too much interest in UK racing in many other countries. Differing time zones play some part in that, but now we are starting to push UK racing in African markets. It is an interesting project, particularly because we are one of the first providers to be pushing such products in the region. We believe our offering is strong and we are hopeful that the take-up will be very positive.

What drives demand for racing betting outside of markets with an established appetite for the sport?

Paul: The availability of racing content across all hours of the day is very appealing to sportsbooks worldwide. Operators are constantly demanding new content to meet the growing expectations of their customers. Even those sportsbooks that operate in jurisdictions that have little association with horse racing are discovering the sport is a valuable and engaging betting product, delivering sustained levels of betting activity.

With quality race meetings taking place daily across different time zones, horse racing provides operators with a greater frequency of betting opportunities. At SIS, we have a market-leading range of UK and international racing, so operators can take advantage of our 24/7 Live Betting Channels to help provide an engaging betting experience to their customers throughout the day.

Morten: Looking particularly at Africa, punters love to have the chance to win big. All that is needed is to put together a couple of horses on the same betting slip and they can achieve just that. You also have key factors such as live streaming and fast-paced, exciting action, which drive engagement and ensure a positive experience.

Thomas: It boils down to the number of events that can be put in front of the customer, in what’s now a global sport. Racebooks very often feature races from over 20 countries, with up to 5,000 races per week. When we expanded into horse racing this year with BetMakers, we gained access to over 250,000 races every year and live streams of up to 2,500 races per week.

It also allowed us to offer SameRaceMultis, with accumulator bets able to be placed within a single race. That is a particularly attractive option for those markets where customers want to spend little with the chance of winning big.

Alex: It’s all about continuous events and fixtures. Racing offers an action-packed schedule nearly every day of the year, and much like esports or casino, these races go off at extremely regular intervals. Races are something you can bet on anytime you want to get in on the experience as it’s truly global, whether that’s Cheltenham in the UK, Santa Ana in California, or Ellerslie in New Zealand, making it truly 24/7. Streaming has also come in leaps and bounds, meaning that you can effectively have round-the-clock racing TV via your betting operator of choice.

This frequency is exactly what drives the appetite and given its global reach, it is certainly not limited to a specific region. Of course, horse racing has very strong societal acceptance for many countries given its place in popular culture, which easily outstrips and other betting event.

Given this history, it’s a prestigious sport, and this attracts those who may turn away from the less glamourous side of betting, whether that be minor football leagues or other less notable sporting fixtures Such prestige is always going to be something that many will want to share and talk about, which creates further brand capital.

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