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By Graham Potter | Sunday, January 31, 2016

Graham Potter writes a weekly column for the Sunshine Coast daily. Due to demand from those having trouble accessing the paper these columns are now also published on HRO courtesy of the Sunshine Coast daily.

Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges pulled no punches when he addressed the Asian Racing Conference in Mumbai this week.

“The global economy is facing very strong headwinds and the general prevailing conditions will make it very challenging for the wagering business in the future,” said Engelbrecht-Bresges.

“In many countries the wagering market is in an almost constant state of flux, with changes being driven by both technology and regulation. The notion that wagering on racing is a fully mature product is a trap which must be avoided. Innovation and internationalization are key opportunities for growth.”

In his wording, Englebrecht-Bresges cleverly pushed the term ‘innovation’ as a means to an end ... a term which is likely to be far more palatable to those who have kept the racing ship anchored for so long in their resistance to ‘change.’

Afterall, who would not like to be innovative?

“As an industry, we must do the following things,” continued Englebrecht-Bresges. “Embrace technology to connect directly with customers and create relevant offerings. Develop new tote technology which supports a better customer experience.”

“Advance the development of a new tote protocol for commingling, leveraging our strength in exotic bet types. Make concerted efforts to create and protect our intellectual property rights nationally and internationally ... and fight illegal and unregulated betting.”

That list clearly describes a multi-faceted challenge. It also accurately underlines the weight of work racing has to do to even hold its ground in the current climate before it can think of making any advances.

Conferences are all well and good as I am sure are all the good intentions of those who participate in the event. I have no doubt conferences serve a useful purpose up to a point, but the bottom line as to their relevance is what happens when the talking stops.

As delegates and attendees make their way home, are they already piecing together their new strategy?

Have they taken the best advice out of the experience as it relates to their particular racing precinct and, if they have, do they have the means and the wherewithall to implement effective change ... sorry, innovation ... and to undertake and embrace that principle effectively in the timeframe required to make a difference?

Or do they just go back to normal.

Don’t misunderstand me. I know there are no easy answers but the fact that Engelbrecht-Bresges, who oversees arguably the best run racing precinct in the world, has such misgivings and feels the urgency for innovation really does put the tribulations of the trailing, troubled local racing scene in Queensland in dire perspective.

Racing Queensland obviously plays in a completely different, lower league to Hong Kong racing (as most precincts do) so it would be palpably unfair to draw any extended comparisons between two business structures operating in vastly different market places under very different conditions.

My point though, as detailed by Engelbrecht-Bresges, is that I do believe that most racing precincts around the world share several common denominators when it comes to challenges facing the industry.

On that level they can, and should, work together.

I guess that’s why they have these conferences ... to share information and ideas which, in theory, can help everybody to plot a path to a better future.

I just wonder though, how much of that ‘conference’ theory is actually ever put into practice on a significant scale!

Only when we know that can we truly judge the value of the exercise.

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