Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Author Home Author Archives Search Articles Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Kevin Smith

TVG, Hope for Rosy Weekend

3 May 2002

All eyes will be on Churchill Downs Saturday when the 128th Kentucky Derby takes the center stage of the American sports scene.

For online bookmakers the Running of the Roses marks an important event for gaining new customers and spreading their brand within the horseracing industry.

"The visibility of the [Kentucky Derby] and the excitement that goes on during the week are unmatched in racing."

-David Marshall and TVG, two of America's biggest online betting operators, have been gearing up for the event and both feel poised for huge weekends., the California-based betting site that recently underwent a management overhaul, has inked a deal with Churchill Downs to be an interactive partner. Through the deal, will have a live feed of the Derby on its site and will get extra exposure through media deals with the Churchill simulcasting feed.

David Marshall, the new CEO of, said the Derby is key in getting the brand out to a new audience.

"The derby is the biggest race day in the United States," he said. "In terms of visibility particularly it is a huge event. I think we are the only national, legal online wagering network that carries all the race tracks. The offshore guys are one thing, but in terms of legal online operators, we are it. So for us the visibility of the Derby is great because it increases national visibility of racing."

Marshall said is expecting to surpass the $100 million in turnover it saw from last year's Derby and is confident this year's event could produce record numbers. Last week the company had its best week ever in turnover, and a large reason for that, he said, was the pre-Derby excitement that was generated from various marketing deals.

Another giant in the California account wagering industry, Gemstar-TV Guide International's TVG Online, overhauled its Web site nearly three months ago in anticipation of the big race, according to John Hindman, vice president of communications for the TVG Network.

Hindman said customers dictated many of the changes. The most common need, he said, was a straightforward and clean site.

"They wanted a quick way to make a bet with a lot of information," he said, "so we stripped a lot of the graphics out of it and made it efficient." He pointed out that a new user can set an up account in less than 10 minutes. News content and other non-betting items were removed from the site; the focus now is on making wagers.

"Since we introduced it we have seen a huge uptake in our subscriber base that wagers online," he said. "We used to get about 45 percent of our wagers from the Internet and now we get about 70 percent. And a clear majority of new business comes through the site as well."

Hindman said TVG has a policy of not releasing prediction on handle for any event, but he did say they hope to generate nearly 70 percent of the handle from the Derby off of the Internet.

Both Marshall and Hindman agree that the Derby represents huge potential for online operators to convert casual bettors into regular customers.

"The Kentucky Derby is the biggest day of racing for the year," Hindman said. "TVG's goal is to create new fans and draw more attention to the sport of horseracing and there is no better weekend to do that than Derby Weekend.

"For the sports fan, the Kentucky Derby is already part of their vernacular," he added. "This is a golden opportunity to increase your audience and get those people in and maybe keep them as regular customers."

Days before the Derby was already busy with pre-race excitement.

"Our phones are ringing off the hook right now and we have everyone manning them," Marshall said. "The visibility of the event and the excitement that goes on during the week are unmatched in racing."

TVG did numerous Derby-specific marketing campaigns, included fantasy games and contests on TV Guide Online and Infinity Broadcasting's site.

As an official interactive partner of Churchill Downs, Marshall said, was able to secure important agreements that could have big dividends in the future.

He said any simulcasting facility that feeds the Derby signal on Saturday will be airing commercials in between action on the Churchill Downs signal. "That is pretty important to us," he said. "We are also in their official program too, so that give us some more exposure."

Those extra marketing efforts are on top of the normal placements of advertisements in the Daily Racing Forum and more than half-dozen interviews with radio and TV stations broadcasting from Churchill Downs during Derby week.

"The relationship with Churchill has been great and is very important to us," he said.

No Global Reach. . . Yet

Although the Kentucky Derby remains the biggest day of horseracing in the United States, it sill possesses massive growth potential through international bettors.

Blue Square Interactive Gaming, one of the United Kingdom's leading Internet-based sports-betting operators, said the action it will see from the Derby pales in comparison to what the England's Grand National event brings in.

Ed Pownall, the company's press officer, said the Derby will be priced up, as the event has international horses and trainers that have captivated the collective interest of the United Kingdom's betting world.

He said the National brought in more than 120,000 bets. The Derby will be far from that, he said, but interest is there from the European punter.

"The Grand National is an institution here, and we get people that have never bet before coming on for that," he said. "The Kentucky Derby grows hugely every year."

Hindman said TVG hasn't targeted the international market yet, but that could change in another year or two.

"We feel the international market has exciting and expansive possibilities for something like the Kentucky Derby," he said. "We have so far focused on domestic business, but you will see us moving in that direction in the near future. Events like the Kentucky Derby are the perfect way to introduce international people to American racing. We think they will find American racing very compelling."

TVG, Hope for Rosy Weekend is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith