Time for horse racing to wager on in-play opportunity

Our New Product Manager, Alistair Clare, recently spoke to G3 Magazine about how horse racing is poised to undergo an in-play revolution, thanks in large part to the ground-breaking SIS Horses In-Running product that is set to steal the show at ICE in London.

Time for horse racing to wager on in-play opportunity

In the operators’ race for supremacy, in-play has provided the perfect boost as players look to take part in more markets, more of the time. Horse racing has remained the only major betting sport not to join the revolution – until now. Alistair Clare, New Product Manager at SIS looks at what the horse racing industry is doing to catch-up.

For a long time, in-play betting was the future. Not anymore; now it is very much the present, with outright and derivative markets playing a key part in the growth of online bookmakers and, in particular, their mobile proposition.

A quick look at the William Hill website reveals that the bookmaker currently has around 2,000 in-play markets available. Ladbrokes’ in-play offering covers 45 matches across five sports – football, tennis, volleyball, ice hockey and table tennis.

Bet365 and Paddy Power are providing in-play opportunities to bet on everything from the Romania Liga III football to ATP Kremlin Cup doubles tennis.
As for horseracing, at the time of writing, the 14:20 from Yarmouth was won by Erissimus Maximus and, while some bookmakers offered in-play markets on outright and E/W bets, that’s where the horse racing experience began and ended.

It’s not to say that there isn’t a thirst from bookmakers to offer more in-play markets for horse racing. The endeavour is certainly there, but a lack of robust data has been a key factor which has slowed down their ability to offer more wide-reaching, derivative markets.

It might seem surprising, in this world of player heat maps and heart rate trackers, that a solid solution to the problem hasn’t yet been found, but a number of reasons have combined to put the blockers on progression.

Expenditure, as with many new technology, provided the first fence to hurdle. In recent years a number of in-running solutions have been put forward, but they often involved costly hardware and running costs, increased manpower and labour intensive implementation at the various tracks.

Several solutions worked fantastically well, but as we have seen in trials in the United States, could require investment upwards of $500,000 for every course that wanted to implement in-running technology. For a sport that has in recent years been looking to streamline its overheads, that cost has proved too much of a prohibitive gamble.

With costs that high, barely seven or eight of the larger American courses would have the resources to fund such an implementation, leaving 80% of the courses without it. Part of the issue for the industry as a whole is that there hasn’t been a solution developed which could be practical for the vast majority of courses and establish a new status quo.

In the UK’s other big betting sport – football – rich data can be obtained from Premier League games right the way through to lower leagues and internationally. It may have more financial muscle, yet the sport is also funding infrastructure on a much larger scale. Horse racing can look to emulate this.

When efforts have been made to bring costs down, concessions have often had to be made to products, which can affect many of the areas which are crucial for bookmakers to provide trustworthy, consistent products to their customers. If any corners are cut on latency, quality and the delivery of absolute accuracy in the results and data provided, then the whole operation falls down.

Another stumbling block in the development of in-running data has been quite fundamental – namely, the horses themselves. Even with highly sophisticated GPS technology, which SIS is using to develop its own in-running product, there has been a requirement for in-depth research and understanding into exactly how a horse moves around a course and, ad addendum, the GPS device situation on the animal. How will it move throughout a race? How will we understand the idiosyncrasies of each individual horse?

When you then add in the fact that other sports, such as football, are played on standardised, closed pitches, versus racecourses which are unique to their landscape and run over several kilometres, and you have a recipe for a tricky solution.

However, as we’ve found at SIS with the development of our own in-running product, that is set to change. The GPS technology available can now offer a cost-effective, easily implemented way of tracking horses on a course, across any track and taking advantage of further leaps in the quality of wireless networks and on course capability.

Simple transmitters, set up trackside, are now allowing cheap and effective hardware to be installed on a need-for-use basis, changing the previous, inhibitive requirement for costly, fixed systems.

Developed properly and robustly, in-running data has the opportunity to shake up the horse racing industry, along with the betting industry alongside. Going from one or two in-play markets, to tens of possible wagers, is an exciting thought for operators looking to grow their revenues.

Looking wider, and we could see racing analysis become hugely more in-depth and interesting for consumers. Think Monday Night Football, or any Formula 1 race. The permutations are seemingly endless.

These are exciting times for the horse racing industry, but only if it can properly harness the opportunity that in-running data can provide.

Alistair Clare has been New Product Manager at SIS since June 2013 and is responsible for the development of SIS’ Horse In-running data project. He has worked on the delivery of intricate data projects for over 15 years, primarily in financial, trading and technology industries.

To read the December issue of G3 Magazine, click here.