by Rebecca Merrett

Wi-Fi network drives business growth for horse racing club

Feb 28, 20135 mins
MobileSmall and Medium Business

Operating under a local area network, and with limited access to fibre, Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC) wasn’t able to scale up its Internet connectivity during peak times at racing events, nor was it able to offer coverage throughout its entire race course.

With an excess of 30,000 patrons attending a main event, congestion during the horse races was a major problem for MVRC as it prevented patrons from being able to share photos and videos of the races via social media and access information on its website.

That is why MVRC decided it needed to deploy a Wi-Fi network that was able to scale up during peak times. The racing club chose Triforce’s Chris Skorsis, who has worked for Racing Victoria and has established a strong relationship with the racing club’s CEO, as its defacto/outsourced CIO to manage the project.

Working with wireless network provider Vertel, Skorsis said a 200 megabit microwave service was deployed and distributed to about 40 access points throughout the racing club’s venue.

“This is the first of its kind [to be deployed] in Australia and Moonee Valley Racing Club want to stay ahead of the game in terms of delivering the best possible services and experience for customers on race day,” he said.

MVRC wanted to segment its wireless Internet service into two parts – one for internal operations such as its barcode ticket scanning system and the other for its customers. It also wanted to be able to limit Internet access to certain areas of the venue during non-race days so it can save on costs in not having to have full coverage all of the time.

“When not having a race meeting, Moonee Valley Racing Club is holding a lot of functions where organisations require Internet access,” Skorsis said.

“For non-race day functions we don’t want to just open up the Internet for free… So we can open up Internet access to the organisation and the number of people that require Internet access. We just don’t want people walking around the race course when there’s no race event happening, we want to put some restrictions and business rules around how it is used.”

In addition, Skorsis said segmenting parts of the Wi-Fi network means MVRC can offer wireless Internet access as a separate service on top of renting out its function rooms to organisations, which would help generate revenue for the racing club.

Having a Wi-Fi network in place will also enable MVRC to help grow its membership by creating more targeted advertising and marketing itself to customers who use the wireless Internet service for free, Skorsis said. This, along with other initiatives, could drive an extra $500,000 a year in revenue for the racing club, according to Skorsis.

“Long term I think it can exceed a million dollars a year because we have got some long-term initiatives that we want to look at around how the large carriers – Telstra, Optus, Vodafone – operate on course.”

Skorsis would not disclose the amount MVRC pays per month for all services that are part of the Wi-Fi network. However, he said from consolidating the racing club’s systems and technologies under the Wi-Fi network he expects the racing club to make savings in the order of $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

But it’s more than just cost savings and revenue opportunities that MVRC hopes to gain from deploying a Wi-Fi network, Skorsis said. To be in business for the long term, he said the racing club needs to change its “old man’s sport” image and attract young people to the races so mobility is key in achieving this.

“When young people come onto the race course initially they may not be attracted to the horse racing aspect, they come for the social event. So if they have a good social experience online then they’ll come back and it will eventually lead to them having a bet,” Skorsis said.

“As that [mobile] wallet concept develops and grows then I think already having the infrastructure will mean we can leverage that. That’s got the capacity of increasing the spending [of patrons] on race day.

“This network now will introduce a new wave of race goers, the younger generation who are very savvy with technology so as they take over to be the majority of the race goers they’ll be using mobile devices to wager, they won’t be going face-to-face with the bookmakers, they won’t be queuing up to have a bet on the TAB.”

Skorsis claims that the racing club has not experienced any teething issues yet, and plans to expand on the Wi-Fi access points to cover the race course more broadly as part of a “phase two” of the project.

“Eventually we may need to install up to 80 access points to cover every aspect of the race course,” he said.

“The first milestone was to get the Wi-Fi working, get through some of the key race meetings like the Cox Plate and now that they have confidence in the infrastructure I think you’ll find over the next 12 months it will grow.”

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett

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