René Schneider: 1/ST CONTENT is bringing global racing to a local level

Horse Racing
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Ahead of SBC Summit Latinoamérica, René Schneider, VP Business Development and Sales at 1/ST CONTENT, outlines the opportunities for horse racing across Latin America before sharing why operators must localize their racing products. 

SBC: 1/ST CONTENT is part of the largest racing group in North America, so do you already have strong ties with LatAm?

RS: We do, and already work with some leading lights of LatAm in Codere and Betsson. Moreover, there is huge demand for North American racing in this sports-mad territory. Basically because the time-zone works so well to naturally align with, and not cannibalize, their own domestic action at customers’ preferred leisure-time windows. 

In general, racing already enjoys a strong heritage and following across countries like Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Peru, which have produced some high-class thoroughbreds, trainers and, above all, jockeys who have regularly plied their trade in North America as well. As a result, many LatAm racing enthusiasts have traditionally backed their local favorites in North America and picked up a deep understanding and loyalty to the North American racing scene.

Aside from 1/ST CONTENT’s unrivaled network of North American racetracks, which provide over 3,300 race-days each year, we also manage the international distribution rights for many of the top tracks in LatAm in our ever-growing portfolio. Just take Hipódromo de San Isidro in Buenos Aires, or Hipódromo da Gávea in Rio de Janeiro as eloquent cases in point – it’s all part of the unfolding strategy of locking up some cornerstone tracks in key markets before widening our scope. 

SBC: That’s a lot of racing! Is a 24/7 timetable your goal?

RS: As long as the quality Is there. Our US and Canadian product, which obviously maps multiple time-zones by covering over 70 North American tracks, already equips our international operators with a highly-flexible programming schedule, supported by a steady stream of rapid-cycling betting opportunities that are proven to increase digital dwell-time for new and existing customers.

To be more exact, we offer our partners approximately 90% of all U.S. and Canadian racing, including many of the planet’s most prestigious horse races, and the season’s flagship finale at the Breeders’ Cup. More recent international distribution collaborations have now made 1/ST CONTENT overwhelmingly the pre-eminent player in the international-rights space.

SBC: Is emerging regulation across LatAm making things more attractive?

RS: Certainly. As you say, generally speaking, markets are getting more regulated here, and this opens opportunities for 1/ST CONTENT to deliver fixed-odds and tote betting of the highest quality to the many previously underserved racing fans. Of course, the gray and even black markets still exist but our task as US racing’s custodians is simply to unpack our market-leading services. It’s great to see certain territories issuing new licenses and I think there’s a mindset shift coming among local operators and B2B operators.

Essentially, working with 1/ST CONTENT means a better deal for all parties involved. Indeed, we’ve staked our business model on it. That means a better racing product (from data, odds and pools access to broadcast and video streaming, news and marketing tools) which will, in turn, generate deeper fan engagement, understanding and ultimately turnover. That makes the case for paying something for premium content, and I reckon over the next two years we’ll see that realization manifest itself. 

SBC: Can LatAm be viewed as one emerging-market entity?

RS: Over-simplifying a patchwork-quilt market like LatAm is dangerous. Emerging markets are highly fragmented. Speaking from a wider purview, time was when six or seven markets would be an attractive proposition for international presence for a global betting brand. Yet, in the current cycles, what we’re witnessing is the emergence of lots of national champions (e.g. Caliente in Mexico with a whopping 75% market share) who are not globally-centralized operators. 

Every country has their own form of regulation (aside from Norway, Finland and my homeland of Austria!) with variables oscillating around return to player, tax rates, marketing restrictions and market-access restrictions to name but a few. That aforementioned trend for operators’ management teams partnering with local brands is escalating. It’s sometimes easier to retain the expertise and support local leaders. What matters to knowing the customer, meeting them in their respective communication game (i.e. familiarity) with a host of localisation techniques. 

In LatAm, everyone is naturally excited by Brazil’s awakening, and it’s undoubtedly exciting. Regulation, or at least its real-world application, was somewhat uncertain and delayed by the last election but everything’s in place now. So, I think that’s all you need to know for assessing its vast potential versus other LatAm countries! 

SBC: How important is going local in LatAm?

RS: I don’t think it’s solely the solution for LatAm, of course, although perhaps the need is magnified here. And while you can think global (as we always do at 1/ST CONTENT) you have to act local these days. Wherever you set your scene on the world stage. You can see that in the acquisitive strategies of the mega operators at the high level. 

But speaking in the lane of horse racing, a legitimately global sport, you have to understand that it’s an incredibly local sport as well. Sure, we all speak a version of the same language, and we all can understand each other when we talk. However, when a bettor from one part of the planet opens up a racing publication or looks at past-performance data from another corner of the globe, it can be hard for them to intuitively interpret the information with enough comfort and familiarity to confidently place a wager. And that’s before we even get into fixed odds-versus-tote, dirt-versus-turf, flat-versus-jumps, or even local stewarding rules! 

So, recognising the universal reality that people like racing, and they like to bet on racing internationally, you have to react to what any given local market needs. Firstly, you’ve got to get the product right – which is what we’ve previously done with North American horse racing – and then you can take it to countries and you can fine-tune it to player proclivities and cultural differences. 

In our case, that means working with local partners and local betting companies and local journalists to turn that product into a suitable product for that market. As a token but instructive example, we’ve seen the small-stakes-big-win Pick6 is the only bet that reliably attracts players in many low-to-lower income economies, which means you’ve got to routinely serve up a competitive card of six races with solid field sizes every day. Happily, that’s never been a problem for us, and our depth of content, data and educational resources will allow us to serve local needs in LatAm, too.

SBC: What else can 1/ST CONTENT bring that’s appealing for LatAm operators in particular?

RS: At the end of the day, it’s all about ensuring the integrity of our racing and its products. We can also add value in a tricky territory for payments and fluctuating currencies. We also own and run Hipica TV for our Spanish-speaking audiences from all our 1/ST-owned racetracks in the States, like Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate Fields, Pimlico and Santa Anita. 

Whether it’s a spectacular Saturday card, or a Monday in San Francisco, our guys are on. As we’ve just discussed, it’s so important to interact with fans on their own local terms, and nowhere is that more important than when it comes to language.

SBC: Is there any technology do you feel will have the biggest impact on sports betting?

RS: I believe this is finally the moment when artificial intelligence (from trading to marketing tools) and data collection finally align for progressively effective modes of personalisation. If your system truly knows and understands your customer from the log-in, a frictionless personalized experience is now an attainable reality.

As for our own tech innovation, we’ve recently rolled out “In-running Betting”, an industry-first for North American racing, with our partners at TPD (Total Performance Data) to a range of Tier-1 operators who have been quick to report positive spikes in turnover. This breakthrough product was fashioned to disrupt the sportsbook space by delivering reliable live pricing on a popular sport which had previously struggled to keep pace with a broader sports betting marketplace, where over 70% of turnover is generated in-play. Now, however, TPD and 1/ST CONTENT have combined to produce a dependable in-play offering that crystalizes accurate odds for the most solid in-play, fixed-odds pricing around.

The feed fuses the industry starting price with the best of automated trading via TPD’s astonishing range of consequential in-running analytics, including stride length, stride frequency and sectional timings enabled by saddle-cloth GPS tracking. These variables are accordingly harvested in-play by TPD’s machine-learning trading tools whose algorithms train themselves on race pace for precise pricing that delivers a distinct step-change in live fixed-odds wagering.

SBC: Just to gauge your sporting passions, if you could attend one event, what would it be?

RS: I suppose the World Cup football final, or the Super Bowl would make for the most popular answers. However, I’m going to fly the flag for racing with the Breeders’ Cup, especially as I’m heading out to stunning Santa Anita Park with the 1/ST CONTENT team to watch horse racing’s World Championships unfold in the first weekend of November. Each and every year, the Breeders’ Cup delivers with passionate fans, pulsating action and a roll call of truly global champions, both equine and human. 

Its rarefied atmosphere is powered by that combination of fantastic sport allied to a collective fellowship. Instead of the more tribal set-ups of most sporting events, no matter which horse you’ve backed or what side of the US-European divide you’re on, for example, we all converge on the thrilling finishes and wishing the protagonists come home safely. As a venue, the jaw-dropping San Gabriel Mountains will frame a natural stage for this year’s stop in Santa Anita. 

SBC: What are you looking forward to at SBC Summit Latinoamérica?

RS: SBC Summit Latinoamérica is the premier conference for senior executives of the Latin American gaming and betting industry. The event brings together leadership teams and product specialists from retail and online operators in markets like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, alongside many others, to pool and share ideas on best practices, launches in emerging LatAm markets, localized marketing strategies and the latest technology. Obviously, many of these regions represent our target territories for both existing and new clients, and I can’t wait to get to work at this year’s renewal in Miami, the gateway from North America to the South.

This year’s venue at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood is one of the most recognisable tradeshow venues on the circuit, just on the outskirts of Miami, South Florida. The 1/ST CONTENT sales team will be walking the floors to greet old friends and forge meaningful partnerships all week before returning to Los Angeles for the WOTA summit and then the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park, for which 1/ST CONTENT holds the long-term international distribution rights. It’s a busy time but it’s always good to be in demand!