Fantasy Games Touted as Important Tool
Photo: Tom LaMarra
Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming

Operators of online racing and sports fantasy games said Dec. 4 the time is now for the horse racing industry to capitalize on them to develop fans and generate new revenue.

Members of a panel assembled at the University of Arizona Global Symposium on Racing Gaming said the games are established, but racing may not be capitalizing on them. Some are tied to wagering sites, but others stand alone.

Michael Calderone, chief marketing officer for The Stronach Group, offered statistics that indicate the interactive gaming market around the world is valued at $70 billion, and thus is the number one form entertainment. The Stronach Group is a player with HorseRaceGame.com, which allows players to participate in the various aspects of Thoroughbred racing.

"We don't realize how many people are involved in (fantasy) games," Calderone said. "The Stronach Group is making a commitment in (fantasy) gaming. We want to get people to the tracks. We have to find new ways to educate fans and be effective in acquiring players."

Calderone said HorseRaceGame.com has about 200,000 active players and has generated about $150,000 in "partner commissions." The game isn't directly tied to a wagering site, though The Stronach Group separately owns and operates the XpressBet.com advance deposit wagering system.

Dave Nevison, founder and chief executive officer of Bodugi.com, which offers racing and other sports, appeals to the casual user but offers cross-over opportunities for bet-takers. He noted 80% of users play the games for cash, and 53% of them also make traditional wagers through the web site.

Nevison said Bodugi.com is tied to live sporting events such as horse races rather than virtual events because the live product is more engaging.

John Ford, president of BAM Software and Services, said about $2 billion is spent on fantasy sports and, according to the McKinsey and Company report of 2011, are twice as likely to bet on horse racing than non-sports fans. He said the industry can use such games as a marketing tool to encourage attendance at live meets, generate revenue through the roughly 10% profit margin, and create racing-only fantasy games, something The Jockey Club has done.

"The evolution of fantasy has really just begun," Ford said.

About 35 million people in the United States play fantasy sports games, Ford said, and many are relatively affluent with an average age of 41, about 10 years younger than the average age for a regular pari-mutuel bettor.

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