William Morris, Head of International Horse Racing at SIS, discusses the importance of providing a diversified racing portfolio in today’s marketplace, before identifying a couple of international ‘race meets’ which now form a crucial part of the company’s content portfolio.
SBC: First of all, how important is it to be able to offer a diverse racing portfolio in today’s marketplace?
WM: It’s of vital importance. At SIS, we have a rich heritage in the distribution of UK and Irish racing. This of course remains a core product for us, but in recent years we’ve been pursuing a strategy of providing 24/7 betting services to retail and online operators globally across various forms of content, including horse racing.
To provide a premium service, we need to ensure we have a wide-ranging international portfolio on offer – from Dubai to countries across Latin America, from Singapore to the US – so that we can deliver first-rate content throughout the day to our customers around the world regardless of the time zone. SIS is very much established as a content provider to bookmakers all over the world with unique content across every time zone to facilitate that.
SBC: And how challenging is it to find the relevant content to ensure an attractive 24/7 offering for your customers?
WM: It can be a challenge as territories differ in preference. What might work for an online or retail operator in the UK or Ireland might not necessarily work for an operator in Peru or Australia, which is why it is so important to always have that 24-hour mindset when we are acquiring new content.
That said, we do not incorporate sub-standard filler content to our offering at SIS – quality comes first, and after that, we look at the timing of the racing. Every race that we add to our schedule has been selected because that track can put on a high-quality event for operators and bettors.
There are several factors we take into consideration when assessing an event’s suitability. For example, the starting point for us in terms of quality for the content we acquire is adherence to the standards laid out by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA).
So, we’re looking for integrity standards as well as welfare standards for the horses and riders. But just as importantly, we’re also looking for rich data for each event, which we can ultimately use to create a compelling betting experience for our customers.
SBC: So, is it a case of working alongside these racetracks internationally to create the best possible betting experience?
WM: Absolutely. Our model at SIS when acquiring new content is to create a partnership with our racetracks in order to fairly and openly share information to maximise the returns for their racing and in turn produce a high-quality betting product for our betting operator customers. This dialogue is so important as without sharing this information in both directions, we’re never going to maximise the potential benefits for all parties.
It’s of huge importance for us that these tracks understand what works for SIS and our customers from a betting perspective. This helps them with their race planning and can influence decisions such as what kind of races they want to stage and the optimum number of runners in each race.
SBC: When you are looking to target new customers in emerging territories, what would you say are the key selling points of the existing SIS racing portfolio?
WM: When it comes to promoting our portfolio to new customers in emerging territories, the quality of our content comes first – customers can rely on us to deliver them a premium product. But with emerging territories around the world, the timings have to be right for them.
We have to sell content that is appropriate for the time zone across different regions, which is why we’ve created bespoke channels for different parts of the world, showcasing the best content at the best time of the day. In Latin America, for example, we combine our racing from around the world with a large volume of locally sourced content, which has proved very popular with operators across the continent. We have a team that does a great job of using the proprietary technology we have in-house to create content appropriate for each market.
Our bespoke channels are fully customisable and can be branded to accommodate different on-screen graphics, languages and commentaries. It is very important to understand that what might work in the UK may not work elsewhere. This is why we tailor our approach to different markets around the world based on the unique requirements of each.
SBC: International racing has grown to become a vital fixture of the SIS portfolio. Which international race meetings in particular have grown in stature in recent times?
WM: While landmark international race meetings such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe are undoubtedly of huge interest and popularity, the growth of international racing in recent times has not been based around specific key events. These have always been there. What we’ve seen in the past decade is an explosion of interest in international racing as a whole.
This can be attributed to a few factors. The presentation of international content by bookmakers has improved dramatically, while the dialogue between suppliers and international tracks about what works best for customers has driven an improvement in standards across the board.
More recently, Covid-19 has also had an impact. Jurisdictions that were able to get up and running quickly after the first lockdown, such as Germany, saw initial spikes in turnover due to a lack of competition. An increased level of interest has been sustained since then, with a much higher level of turnover than before the first lockdown.
This shows that when people get a chance to access new international content and can experience the quality of pictures, content, and supporting data that is available, they realise it’s a strong product that they want to come back to.
SBC: Continuing along the international race meet theme to finish, SIS recently retained the rights to the Saudi Cup. Why has Saudi Arabian racing become so important for SIS?
WM: Saudi Arabian racing is a natural fit for us given we are already doing a lot of business in neighbouring countries, and the combination of quality and timing tick our key boxes.
As the world’s most valuable horse race, the Saudi Cup is obviously the flagship event. But the Saudi Arabian season runs from October to March, ensuring there are plenty of opportunities for SIS to deliver premium international content. What makes Saudi Arabian racing particularly interesting is that their horse population is a mix of imported horses and domestic-bred horses.
This lends itself to highly competitive racing with an international dimension, which makes for a compelling betting experience. Despite Covid-19, we saw growth across key markets for both fixed-odds and tote from 2020 to 2021, and the team in Riyadh has been fantastic to work with.