TIF Paper: American Racing Lacks Customer-Centric Focus

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Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges | Horsephotos

Full fields. Harmonized rules. Modernized wagering systems and protocols. Transparent officiating.

Can these be the future of North American horse racing, and of the greater sport around the world?

“Our customers, the bettors, must be at the center of everything we do,” Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) Chief Executive Officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges told the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation (TIF) last week.

“This approach applies to everything we do as a sport. Customers must be satisfied with our approach to horse welfare, to harmonizing betting rules, interference rules, the race schedule we offer and presenting races with full fields of competitive horses.”

What bettors want should drive how racing evolves. But that has not been the case in North America.

Customer centricity has not been a focus.

Hong Kong finds itself at the heart of a customer-friendly approach to racing and Engelbrecht-Bresges is the new chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA). While he acknowledges the IFHA is not a rule-making body itself, the push for harmonizing the global racing experience for customers is moving beyond just recommended best practices.

“We can talk about the importance of a customer-centric approach and harmonizing rules all we want, but with the global commingling business–through World Pools–we are proving the commercial value of it. World Pools is creating the financial incentive to change.”

The World Pools concept is simple.

Instead of having separate pari-mutuel pools for major race days in America, Great Britain, France, Ireland, Hong Kong and South Africa, just to name a few, one massive pool can be created, maximizing liquidity and financial interest for all participants. On 17 days of commingled World Pools run across Britain and Ireland in 2021, total handle eclipsed the equivalent of $481 million.

Hong Kong is a major cog in the process, with bettors in the region often comprising roughly 60% of the liquidity in World Pools offerings, according to Engelbrecht-Bresges. In November, the HKJC provided its local customers simulcasts of two Breeders' Cup races for the first time since 2014, and the hope is to offer more later.

“I really commend the Breeders' Cup and their global vision. It was important for us to recognize the steps that have been taken to adopt racing free of medication and I hope we can expand wagering opportunities over the next three to five-year period.”

While U.S. customers have been participants in World Pools offered on key race days, such as Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and other major race days, American races have not yet been chosen as targets for World Pools.

The Modern Games fiasco sharpened attention on America's lack of a customer-centric focus, exhibited through disparate rules which disproportionately disadvantage betting customers.

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