Smartphones have transformed the gambling industry. Digital turnover for ASX-listed Tabcorp \u2013 which generated more than $2 billion in revenue in FY17 \u2013 grew by close to 14 per cent over the last financial year.\nBut physical bookmakers and betting venues remain an important part of the company\u2019s business model. Tabcorp considers its retail network as a key point of difference from its online-only wagering competitors.\n\u201cTo the end customer, Tabcorp venue partners are the face of the business. Ensuring Tabcorp retail venue partners feel valued is a key part of delivering an optimal experience for the end customer,\u201d explains chief information officer Kim Wenn.\nThe gambling giant\u2019s licensed venue and agency partners also play an important role in the community, the company says. With the rise and rise of bets made in-app, their future needed to be secured.\n\u201cPubs and clubs are part of the Australian social fabric and the erosion of wagering revenue through the growth in digital wagering impacts the communities they serve,\u201d Wenn, who leads a technology team of more than 900 people, explains.\nA trend was emerging: often customers would place bets via digital devices, even when they were in a retail venue. On average, up to three per cent of betting turnover in retail venues is now placed through the TAB app rather than over the counter or through an electronic betting terminal in the venue.\nBut there was a problem. Bets made on smartphones and tablets \u2018in-store\u2019 were not being captured, meaning partners were potentially missing out on due commission.\nAfter a number of experiments and fast fails, Wenn\u2019s team this year launched digital commissions. It has proven hugely successful \u2013 in the first six months\u2019 since its introduction, the system picked up more than $100 million in in-venue digital turnover and delivered the applicable commission on these bets to the retail channel. What\u2019s more it saved more than $4 million in potential hardware and rollout costs.\nKeeping tabs\nIt is in no small part thanks to Wenn and her team that digital gambling has really taken off in Australia.\nThe company\u2019s apps and websites are considered \u201cbest in class\u201d by Tabcorp CEO David Attenborough, with new features being constantly added like Quaddie Cash Out, Check Collect and Bundle Bet to name a few.\n\u201cBut the digitisation of the wagering business was leaving Tabcorp\u2019s venue partners behind,\u201d Wenn says.\n\u201cMy technology team needed to act fast to find a technology solution that would bring the company\u2019s retail network into the digital wagering world.\u201d\nAn initial proposal planned to put Bluetooth beacons in Tabcorp\u2019s more than 2,800 retail venues in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT. It was quickly determined to be unviable in terms of cost of the hardware and installation.\n\u201cThis was strategically overcome with the new solution removing any need for hardware,\u201d Wenn says.\nAfter much experimentation, the team instead used a GPS, Google Maps and sophisticated big data enabled reporting solution, with no hardware required.\n\u201cWe\u2019ve embraced an agile way of working. This agile thinking allowed the team to quickly adapt to find a new solution,\u201d Wenn says. \u201cThe ability to scale rapidly meant Tabcorp\u2019s retail venue partners saw results quickly which was important from a cultural impact perspective.\u201d\nThe financial impact was significant too. The company\u2019s retail wagering network received commission on more than $100 million of bets in their venues. Some venues are receiving commission on an additional 8.5 per cent of turnover that previously wouldn\u2019t have been picked up.\nThe Australian Hotels Association \u2013 one of Tabcorp\u2019s largest venue partners \u2013 even went out publicly to thank Tabcorp for the initiative.\nAnother recent initiative has also supported the retail channel, and given customers greater choice while keeping within strict regulatory requirements.\nKeno \u2013 a lottery-like gambling game \u2013 is an important and growing part of Tabcorp\u2019s offering. Keno revenues reached just over $212.7 million in FY17, up two per cent from the previous year.\nA digital offering of the app saw 13,400 customers sign up. But the company had to make it\u2019s app work within the bounds of NSW government regulation which restricts Keno play to within a venue boundary.\n\u201cWe needed to find a solution that enabled a customer to play Keno via the app within a venue, but for the play to be disabled once outside the venue. The boundary needed to be strictly accurate to adhere to regulation,\u201d Wenn says.\n\u201cThe innovation process consisted of working through a large number of prototypes to determine which technologies were worthy of further exploration. Through this process we eliminated many technologies and solution designs in a short period of time for very low cost by executing short, highly focused proof of concepts,\u201d she adds.\nThe result \u2013 developed in partnership with Israeli indoor location technology firm Spreo \u2013 utilises 3D geo-fencing with Bluetooth beacons, intelligent floorplans and a complex algorithm embedded in the Keno app. It meets the regulatory requirement of accuracy to within one metre with the ability to recognise a physical boundary.\n\u201cOnce the high level solution was identified, the team and I began to rapidly iterate to improve the proof of concept design. To date the team has rolled out over 170 iterations of the geofencing software, each one delivering an incremental improvement to some aspect of the system. It\u2019s a continuous cycle of innovation,\u201d Wenn says.\n\u201cThe team continues to gather feedback from customers, venue partners and analytics platforms to identify further areas for improvement and have a long list of further innovations and enhancements they are working through.\u201d\nSeat at the table\nWenn has a seat at the Tabcorp executive table, which she considers \u201cvital to achieve success as a CIO\u201d.\n\u201cTabcorp is essentially a large technology company, processing millions of transactions each year. We compete in a highly competitive and regulated environment \u2013 innovation and technology enhancements are crucial to our company\u2019s financial success,\u201d she says.\n\u201cMy biggest lesson is understanding that all organisations are disrupted through technology. It is important for CIOs to work collaboratively with business peers to embrace the changes \u2013 and not be too defensive of decisions made in the past. It\u2019s easy to defend \u2013 it\u2019s really hard to find a way to disrupt with your peers.\u201d\nAs well as raising the level of collaboration between the technology division and the wider business, Wenn is a noted champion of women in the industry.\nShe is involved in formal mentoring programs at Tabcorp including the Women\u2019s Mentoring Program \u2013 a 12-week programme designed to empower and grow females to fulfil their personal and professional goals \u2013 which has been completed by more than 150 women at the company.\nWenn also supports a mentoring group in her team called \u201cWomen in Wagering\u201d and a technology community outside of Tabcorp called Node Girls. Women in Wagering is a self-starting group that meet monthly to discuss challenges in the sector. Node Girls is led by a Tabcorp developer and offers workshops for women who would like to learn and develop their coding skills.\nWenn this year also led a project to conduct research into the lack of women in STEM based careers and begin a national debate about ways to fix the problem.\nHer efforts mean women now make up 39 per cent of the Tabcorp\u2019s senior leadership roles.\n\u201cThis has been a period of profound technological change at Tabcorp as we have responded to the shift in preference towards digital betting from our customers while simultaneously bolstering our retail network,\u201d said David Attenborough, managing director and chief executive officer Tabcorp. \u201cBoth the size and importance of our technology function has grown markedly during this time.\u201d\nAnd given the huge successes of Wenn\u2019s team over recent years, it\u2019s a safe bet that will continue.\nNote: Kim Wenn left her role at Tabcorp in December after more than eight years. Wenn was replaced by Mandy Ross.