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Hong Kong Horse Racing Club Embraces ‘Social’ Business

  |  May 4, 2012   |  Comments

Custom-built interactive tables encourage novices to socialize, become horse racing enthusiasts.

Hong Kong Jockey Club had a business challenge: It wanted younger, tech savvy patrons to become horse-racing enthusiasts. But the sport generally appealed to older clients who relied on a complex paper-based system to track horses and place their bets.

A few years ago, the jockey club established Adrenaline, a lounge on the second and third floor of its pavilion stand that attracts a younger audience following in-depth customer studies of the digital shift in customer lifestyles and increasing demand for social and interactive entertainment. But out of 300 people who visit Adrenaline during a typical night, only one in 10 closely follow the horse races or placed bets, according to one estimate.

The jockey club still needed a strategy to ensure that its horse racing franchise remained vibrant – and to appeal to a younger generation. It formed a project team in 2009 with objectives to go digital and cashless for betting to woo the tech savvy crowd. So it enlisted Possible Worldwide, a global digital agency with offices in New York and Singapore, to assist.

The result of 2.5 years of planning, testing, training, and tweaking was put into action on Wednesday: two 10-foot by 4-foot interactive, touch-screen gaming tables designed to provide a social experience for Adrenaline patrons. The interactive tables incorporate RFID, e-commerce, video, and Web technologies, said Eric Mauriello, Possible’s VP of touch and project lead.

hongkongjockeyclub2The tables permit up to eight people to use one table simultaneously. There, a patron can tap on an app to learn more about a horse, including view a pre-race video, as well as stats about each horse’s performance. Information on the interactive game table appears in Chinese and English.

Using Jtap, an RFID card that holds money and is modeled after Hong Kong’s Octopus train pass, a patron can place a bet. Each table has 12 RFID card readers – eight for patrons and four to print receipts.

“Horse racing is not about guessing. It’s about rendering a point of view and trying to prove that point of view [about which horse will win],” Mauriello said during an interview at Possible’s New York City office.

The project took teams at Possible and the jockey club tens of thousands of hours to develop and test, he said. Its champions were Scarlette Leung, director, corporate business planning at the jockey club; CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, and CIO Sunny Lee.

The interactive tables hold potential for marketing and advertising beyond the social experience.

The "skin" on the table's surface can be customized to display a brand’s colors, logo, or advertising creative.

If it wanted to, the jockey club could develop a loyalty program using RFID cards – tied to an anonymous identification number associated with each card and not personally identifiable information. Mauriello emphasized that such a loyalty program is not being adopted at this time.

Because it’s newly launched the jockey club would like to monitor and understand customer behavior first before considering a loyalty program, Leung explained during a press conference at Adrenaline in Hong Kong. With this racing entertainment interface, the jockey club leverages digital technology that requires a new customer journey, experience, and service design to offer an integrated experience, she added.

Both Muriello and the jockey club did not disclose the cost of the project.

Adaline Lau contributed to this article.


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Anna Maria Virzi

Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.

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