New UK based greyhound Global Tote highlights murky vision rights web

Ultimate Live Greyhound Channel

UK based SIS (Sports Information Services) and Sportech PLC today announced a global co-mingling totalisator agreement that will allow SIS to create and disseminate a worldwide pool for greyhound racing. While Australian greyhound racing seems decades away from achieving its own National Tote pool, SIS has contracted Sportech to facilitate a Global Tote product on UK and Irish greyhound races.

SIS, which is a UK owned and operated supplier of 24/7 betting services to retail and online operators globally, acquired the digital rights to stream UK Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service (BAGS) greyhound racing to international customers in 2015. The deal allows SIS to provide coverage from 20 UK tracks featuring almost 30,000 races each year and operate similar deals in mainland Europe and South Africa.

The deal with Sportech’s Global Tote comes on the heels of the successful implementation of the “Ascot World Pool” for UK Totepool, Ascot Racecourse, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club and enables SIS to offer a global pool to satisfy the world greyhound racing market.

The new Global Tote deal seems to sidestep the 2017 agreement SIS signed with Topbetta to use their Global Tote product for UK and Irish greyhound racing. Topbetta subsequently rebranded to The Betmakers to sell their product, leaving the original Topbetta online bookmaking operation behind. Topbetta is now owned by Play Up Interactive and is a completely separate entity to The Betmakers B2B company.

The UK Global Tote agreement is underpinned by SIS’s ability to market and distribute the data and vision from UK and Irish greyhound racing. In the increasingly online world of betting, the importance of being able to watch what you are betting on has never been higher. This is why media rights and especially digital (streaming) rights are of particular importance. Both the AFL and Victorian horse racing have taken important steps to own their own digital media platforms in recent years, with Racing.com an obvious example.

However in the world of Australian greyhound racing, identifying the digital rights holders, the brokers and the deals around media rights is about as clear as finding the winner in a low grade Tier 3 greyhound race. Outside the fact Tabcorp through Sky Racing have the broadcast rights in Australia, the rest is a mystery. But media and digital streaming rights and distribution deals are being done around our racing all the time.

In May 2019 The Betmakers signed a deal with SIS to distribute SIS’s 33,000 annual British and Irish Greyhound racing content into the Australian and NZ markets on a non-exclusive basis. The Betmakers hope to provide live UK and Irish race streaming and data direct to local bookmakers.

SIS are no strangers to the Australian greyhound business either. In 2017 Tabcorp, through its racing media arm Sky Channel; entered an agreement with SIS for supply of UK greyhound racing live pictures and data. At the launch, Sky Channel started broadcasting two race meetings a day to Australia, with SIS supplied picture and data feeds augmented with Tabcorp’s own local, in-house commentary for the Australian audience.

SIS and other digital rights holders first came to the attention of Australian Racing Greyhound, when Cyprus based Vermantia launched its Ultimate Live Greyhound Channel which was streaming live Australian greyhound racing in to South Africa. The company is majority owned by UK based Arena Racing Company (ARC) who have also facilitated other Australian greyhound vision deals in to Africa.

Nigerian based African bookmaker Fortune Bets has a deal through gambling content provider Vermantia to broadcast the Ultimate Live Greyhound Channel. The ARC owned Ultimate Live Greyhound Channel from Vermantia claims to have the rights to the odds, data and vision of 40,000 greyhound races from Australia, UK and the US.

In this age of regulation, Point Of Consumption Tax (POCT), race field fees, data fees, and digital rights; how much do Australian greyhound participants earn from these media rights deal and the associated betting turnover?

Australian Racing Greyhound looked through the Annual Reports for both GRV and GRNSW; but neither reported any Vermantia revenue, nor Nigerian betting turnover figures.

Tabcorp also have deals to show ARC’s UK greyhound racing coverage via its Sky Racing service in Australia, and conversely ARC distribute both horse and greyhound racing content from its Sky Racing service for online and retail distribution in various territories across Europe.

If it is all starting to sound like a complex spider web of networks and deals, then you would be forgiven. The detail and nature of these vision arrangements are often well concealed from industry participants.

In NSW the media rights to most, if not all the greyhound clubs is held by a company called Greyhound Media Services Pty Ltd. The company does not make its reports public, nor do they appear in any recent GRNSW annual reports. Brent Hogan and Brenton Scott have been known to have been Directors of Greyhound Media Services Pty Ltd which appears to have been founded in 2005 and lists a Darlinghurst, Sydney, NSW registered business address. A Greyhound Media Services company brief describes its services as “rights negotiations and contract management reporting”.

The returns on the sale of these vision rights overseas and locally, is an especially opaque area of the business for the industry; and it is unclear what if any returns flow back to local greyhound participants whose product is shown overseas and presumably attracts global betting activity and turnover.

If greyhound racing is to flourish in the new digital world, it is extremely important that the digital vision rights holders of the product are clearly defined, and that the returns from that vision and all associated overseas gambling are returned to the industry at a viable and competitive rate.

With almost all physical export of our greyhounds blocked through regulation, the export sales of our data and vision overseas are critical to establishing foreign investment and long term viability.

It’s very hard to grow diversified channels of revenue outside the national retail and online betting network when you’ve sold or lost control of distribution of your product outside Australian shores.

While corporate confidentiality might obscure full disclosure of all the details of Australian greyhound racing vision rights contracts; surely it is not unreasonable for rights holder to report back to industry participants on the percentage turnover rates and gross amounts returned locally from the overseas betting turnover and sales of their product. The local participants are the ones providing the product after all.

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