Tuesday, 30 March 2010


It was interesting to see that an IPSOS Reid survey published yesterday showed that 63% of Americans believe that internet gambling is legal in the States (compared with 59% two years ago).

Even bearing in mind that 40% of Americans believe in the factual truth of the story of Noah's Ark, that's a big number. And it tells you something about the difficulty of outlawing an activity that Joe Shmo thinks is a perfectly acceptable use of his leisure time.

There isn't any question about the legality of internet gambling in the US, and to our mind, there never has been. The fact that there's so much of it going on that everyone thinks it's legal tells you how ineffective the prohibition is. Even the immigration officer who saw me through Los Angeles airport on Sunday night responded to my answer of 'internet gambling' (to the question, "what business are you in?") with the words, "there's a lot of that these days, isn't there".

My 36 hours in California were spent at TVG, the horseracing channel that we bought in January last year, now run by our Director of Horseracing, Stephen Burn. It was the first time I had visited, and I was impressed by the people I met and excited by what I saw. The offices themselves are a bit tired, but they reminded me a great deal of parts of Television Centre, which in turn brought back some happy memories.

The horseracing industry in the US is mirroring that in much of the world inasmuch as it is casting around for an identity in the modern age of wagering. But - thanks largely to the efforts of Greg Nichols, the former BHB CEO who joined us about four years ago now - there are plenty who are willing to hear our thoughts on how, with proper marketing through our TV channel and attractive wagering propositions through our pari-mutuel business, we can help them stop the recent rot and grow the overall cake.

It makes for exciting times.


  1. Hi Mark,

    Is there any chance of TVG ever being shown over here in the UK?

    I know we have ATR showing Stateside but I found TVG very good when I lived in America and I would say they do a much better job than ATR.

    Likewise it would be great if Betfair could make the American Racing pictures into Flash format as from a trading viewpoint the delay that there is at present with how you provide them makes them near unusable.

    One thing I think that has held back more people from getting involved in the American racing markets is that you have to pay for the Past Performances. People are used to free form thanks to the Racing Post and you often hear people asking where they can access the form.

    If Betfair could get some deal where you can provide customers with PP's I think a lot more people would bet on the markets.

    The recent inclusion of Betfair prices in ATR's coverage is a good initiative that I am sure will help attract more customers and lead to the markets growing.

    I recently contacted the Market Operations people about getting meetings that are being shown on ATR included in the Betfair markets as often you willl get ATR showing a meeting and Betfair doesn't have the meeting despite having it on a previous day. I am convinced people prefer to bet on meetings that they can watch rather than those they can't.

    Also has Betfair considered adding US Harness Racing? This seems to be building a bit of a following over here and as I understand it it is quite big in certain other countries. ATR show quite a few of the meetings especially after 11pm but you can only bet with the likes of Ladbrokes (into the Tote) on the markets.

    I am quite excited with how things are going to develop in America in the next 10 years. I think the industry is going to change massively when America opens up again as it is clear Betfair is already well positioned. However, from talking to those people within the horse industry they seem unaware of the impact that Betfair is going to have.

    I recently gave a talk to the Darley Flying Start course (by the way I am surprised no one in Betfair talks to the group, Clodagh Kavanagh is the person to speak to at (Darley Ireland) if Betfair want to look into giving them a talk in the future - I used to be on the course and the lack of understanding about Betfair around the world was quite staggering) and part of the talk I focussed upon America opening up and Betfair moving into the American market place and I was quite surprised by the lack of understanding about what this potentially means for the Racing and Breeding industry in America.

    I still hold to the argument that the best thing the American racing industry could do is to set up their own Exchange and keep the profits within the industry but the chances of getting all of the different states working as one is non-existent. No doubt the disjointed nature of the American racing industry is one of the advantages for Betfair getting in even though it will be a lot tougher negotiating with all the different states.

    I am looking forward to reading more about what you have to say re. the American market place.


  2. Hi Andy

    I wouldn't normally respond in such detail because otherwise I will spend my life responding, but as I have had a few answers to some of the points from our Director of Horseracing, I thought I would pass them on.

    There are contractual issues which prevent TVG being broadcast outside the US, but the team is working to overcome them. We are trialling broadcasting an audio only version of TVG on Timeform Radio and will likely continue this trial as we build up to the Triple Crown.

    Unfortunately, Betfair has no control over how the pictures are provided as we are restricted to offering whatever format the broadcasters themselves use. We are trying to persuade ATR (who provide the US races on Betfair as they are the rights holders for that content) to switch to Flash as we agree it is a better service.

    And no, there are no plans to add harness racing anytime soon.

  3. Many thanks for the reply and information.