President of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, IFHA
What are the most important challenges facing the IFHA in 2022?
We must continue to be a globally integrated and modern organisation which meets the needs of our members within the challenges of a globalised, dramatically changing World. There are many areas which require our attention, but the key strategic focus over the next three years includes commercial and marketing, integrity, equine and human welfare, performance assessment and quality control, harmonisation of racing rules, international movement of horses, climate change and sustainability etc.
Of course all of this comes amid the backdrop of the greatest public health crisis in a century which will continue to impact the sport of horse racing in many different ways. But these challenges also create opportunities so we must review how we operate and adapt to the new normal.
International cooperation is important, but how can this be improved or accelerated with such a fragmented gambling regulatory market in the various jurisdictions?
Wagering is extremely important to our industry providing lifeblood through various funding mechanisms and of course we want to continue to work in this area particularly in relation to the harmonisation of racing rules and also technology. These will take time, but it is not the only area where international cooperation is needed. For instance the movement of horses and equine and human welfare which aren’t directly linked to gambling are just a couple of examples. And climate change requires urgent attention.
Rising global temperatures are already increasing the frequency and severity of weather events which will have a bearing on the sustainability of horse racing. This can and should be achieved without fragmentation.
A regulated product “Global Bet” was mentioned as a great potential at WoTA’s latest webinar. When do you think the market, the operators and the sport could be ready for such an initiative?
I am a strong advocate of global collaboration in racing and wagering, and in increasing international wagering opportunities and pooling of liquidity. World Pool is one initiative which has been highly successful and has increased the return to the wagering operators and the industry significantly. To explore this further we need new wagering information and transaction protocols to enable a new platform to expand into more exotic bet types.
The development of new wagering protocols are the basis for any further development. The “Global Bet” could be one further development but it would need these new wagering protocols. Furthermore, the “Global Bet” would have to overcome further significant regulatory requirements in the different countries, and therefore the focus would first be on the expansion of commingling and world pools, as well as on developing the new protocols before “Global Bet” could be considered.
What kind of relationship do you have with betting operators in general? With Pari Mutuel operators in particular?
I would say that the relationship with our pari-mutuel partners, especially the like-minded partners, is extremely good. Obviously we share common goals and objectives. But in the future we must work harder and closer together than ever before to identify ideas and strategies to optimise the online internationalisation of online wagering and promotion of racing, not just as a gambling product, but also as entertainment and thus meeting the expectations of all customer segments.
We can drive growth through simulcasting and commingling, especially via World Pool which has already demonstrated the great revenue potential for those who have participated. To support these initiatives of commingling and World Pool requires investment in technology especially focusing on information sharing and integrity protocols in addition to any other initiatives necessary for broader global commingling.
What kind of cooperation and exchange you have in mind with an Association of World Tote horse betting operators like WoTA?
One the fundamental cornerstones for the sustainability of the racing industry across all codes is integrity. There are many areas which fall under the broad definition of integrity and one of them is wagering integrity. We face many serious challenges including that of illegal betting and we must ensure that we have the necessary integrity responses to combat the threat.
We need to work with all of our international partners, including bodies such as WoTA, to develop best practices to combat illegal betting and promote legal betting to ensure the pari-mutuel model can thrive. And of course more generally, tote wagering must be encouraged to deliver the returns to racing which will allow it to thrive in the future and meet the demands of the inevitable costs associated with tackling climate change and welfare.
Could IFHA and WoTA exchange on a regular basis and prepare joint actions? Invite each other to the General Assemblies? Create jointly a specific committee including the trotting horseracing Federation?
It is important to have regular exchanges between the IFHA and WoTA. Joint meetings are definitely welcome and we will discuss this topic in the IFHA Executive Council. It is our strategy to explore how we can extend the global coverage of racing and wagering.
Another example of collaboration between federations is the creation of The International Horse Sports Confederation (IHSC) by the IFHA representing thoroughbred racing and the FEI representing equestrian sport, in which we discuss topics of common interests.
What do you do when you are not the President of the IFHA and the CEO of the HKJC?
I was an ex-professional football player and I still have my regular exercise. Besides reading and listening to all kinds of music, I love to study pedigree for my personal horse racing and breeding interest.
Please tell us what is your best memory of a sport (horseracing or other) event you have attended?
The best memory is when one of your horses you have bred yourself wins a significant race and that happened with my horse NOW WE CAN winning the GRAND PRIX DE CHANTILLY.