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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Impediments to Global Simulcasting

An article on Standardbred Canada's website talked about the annual Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming where they discussed issues regarding global simulcasting.  Back when I wrote about this very subject three years ago I thought it was an important untapped market for racing and nothing has transpired to make me feel any different.  As I stated back then, one impediment to maximizing global penetration and revenue is the lack of standardization of past performance information.   
While the original article talked about other aspects of globalization, the primary focus was on standardized past performance information.  Since it is still relevant, I am reprinting the article.  This blog entry originally appeared on November 19, 2009.

Globalizing the Standardbred Product
The future of harness racing is in globalization. We already have globalization when it comes to breeding; yearling buyers from Europe come to our sales to pick up racing stock and there is always a European breeder looking to pick up a stallion or broodmare prospect to improve the breed in their country. The reverse to a lesser degree is true as we have foreign bred stallions such as Revenue standing stud in the States. In Quebec, before the demise of their racing program, French bred horses were imported to race as well as stand stud.

The global movement also comes to the racing side as well. It is not uncommon to see horses from Australia and New Zealand imported to race at North American raceways. International racing has made a come back. While we still don't have a true international event like the old Roosevelt International, WEG and the Meadowlands now have stake races where winners of major European races are invited to compete in some of our major races. In addition to the aged stock, we are now seeing some two and three year old North American bred horses owned by Europeans coming back to our shores to race in some of our stake races, including the Breeders Crown. American horses are also making the trip abroad. We just had Explosive Matter racing in Italy and we regularly send a horse or two to race in the Elitlopp, even occasionally racing in the Prix d'Amerique. Two years ago, Enough Talk not only raced in the Elitlopp, he stayed to race in the Copenhagen Cup. Make no mistake, this is not an aberration. There will be more American horses flying overseas and foreign horses hitting our shores to conduct small racing engagements.

Even more significant to the globalization of harness racing will be wagering. While we are behind the runners in respect to wagering, the day will come where we will have the opportunity to wager on harness racing around the globe and I am not just talking about four or five races from the Prix d'Amerique race card; we are talking full card simulcasting. As we have more horses making the trip overseas or coming from abroad, there will be more interest in the product from other countries as well as interest in the North American product. As track operators, horsemen and ADWs all over the world will be searching for revenue sources; they will be welcoming wagering from foreign sites into their pools on a regular basis and will be looking to accommodate their gamblers looking for action in the morning or late night. The world is open 24 hours a day. As technology continues to improve and it becomes cheaper to carry signals and accept wagers, ADWs and track operators will realize since they have the infrastructure in place, they may as well stay open and increase revenue (think of your 24 hour supermarkets and fast food restaurants).

There is one impediment to global wagering; the lack of standardized racing information. In fact, this is one of the reasons why you are not seeing any large scale simulcasting of standardbred racing from abroad while you already are seeing simulcasting of the runners from Ireland, England, Japan and Australia. Why do you think the V75 and V64 wagers from Sweden have been largely a disappointment in North America? The size of the pools is not the impediment; it is the lack of past performance information. How can any North American gamblers be expected to wager large amounts of money based on this information? In Europe, horses regularly travel between countries to race in major events, yet in some countries, they don't provide past performance information for races held in other countries. We don't need to go past our borders to see some of these problems. Next time you see a horse from another country racing take a look at the program; you will have minimal past performance information for their foreign starts. You don't know the track name, the purse amount, the condition of the race, no running line. You will get the distance, the horse’s race time (the mile rate if you are lucky), the horse’s finishing position and probably the first three finishers. It is hard to figure out what level of competition the horse faced. Don't feel bad, you are not alone. Racing secretaries are just as challenged; this is why horses from down under typically have to race in a set class for a few starts until they manage to determine where the horse belongs.

What is the solution? All the breed registries need to get together and develop a standard reporting process so meaningful past performance lines for each horse can be created for use in a local racing program regardless where the horse raced and which may be accessed by the various breed registries for purposes of creating past performance programs. It does not need to be a complete race line like we have in North America, but enough information to be meaningful to a local handicapper. This is not a nice to have; it is a must do. Failure to provide handicappers proper past performance information in a format they are used to will fatally inhibit the possibility of a meaningful global wagering market. I would suggest the following information be captured at a minimum: gait; date of race; name of track; distance of race in meters (I would suggest in our programs we start listing the distance both in miles and meters for comparison purposes); type of race (stake, conditioned, claiming, under saddle); whether a starting gate was used or not, track condition; race time; horse's final time; mile rate; starting position; finishing position; lengths back, number of starters; top three finishers; if a handicap, the distance of handicap. Consideration should also be given to establishing a numerical rating system which can be used universally to illustrate the level of competition in each race. This is not to say we should eliminate our past performance lines; the new format would be used for horses that raced overseas or foreign races.

The world is a small place. However, unless a standard for past performance reporting is developed, all the technology available will be for naught

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