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Betting On A Winning 2019

Rob Scott - fresh new ideas to the fore at Phumelela

Phumelela’s recently appointed Sports Betting Executive Rob Scott says his move from horseracing’s shop window to the engine room of the game poses some of the greatest but also most exciting challenges he has faced in his thirty years on the retail interface.

“I don’t believe a bull in a china shop mentality is the way to go. I have been behind Vee Moodley’s desk for a matter of weeks now and, while I have been on the Phumelela Executive team for some time and understand many of the dynamics and issues facing betting, I don’t want to be implementing and changing processes merely for the sake of impact. Let’s not forget that Vee was a vastly experienced hands on manager who intimately understood the various aspects of the betting machine. I want to try and bring a fresh new perspective – but only to add more genuine value,” says the 47 year old Bloemfontein – born MBA graduate and lifetime clothing retailer who has horseracing running in his blood.

He hails from a well respected South African racing family, with both his late brother and uncle respected trainers while his father, Tony, was a steward.


Rob’s black and white silks have graced the winner’s enclosure in both KZN and Gauteng for many years, even though not as prominent these days as they were in years past.

RA LogoAfter six years on the Racing Association Board, his new appointment at Phumelela presented a potential conflict of interest and he resigned from the owner body board earlier this month.

“It was a privilege to serve on the board of the RA and I was fortunate to work with some of the most passionate people in the racing industry. But due to my new position in Phumelela, I will not be able to wear both hats. I know the RA will go from strength to strength and I wish the incumbent Board Members all the best,” he said on his resignation.

Before his appointment as CEO of Tellytrack, Rob worked in various senior management positions for the now beleaguered Edcon for more than two decades.

“Clothing retail management entailed long hard hours and extensive travel. I was ready for a change and we did well out of it. The business itself was doing well but in a tough and competitive market, you can become the victim of strategic decisions that don’t pan out. We have seen many examples of it here and abroad. I’m sad to see what is happening at Edcon today and I hope that the recapitalisation efforts work. It is an old established family brand that has been on the SA retail landscape for much of our lifetimes.”

As a result of an employment constraint, he was unable to apply for a permanent position and took up a contract for a year to head Tellytrack.

“I loved it. The dynamic environment, the people. The fast-paced horseracing vibe around me. I was in my element. I was then tasked with turning the Publishing Department around and making it profitable. It’s a work in progress – and we are making strides to improving the product.”

‘Happily divorced’ in his own words, Rob is proud of his three daughters Keelan, Erin and Sinead.

Rob and daughter Keelan at the Summer Cup

The Johnny Walker Black drinker, Tottenham Hotspur supporter and all-round football fanatic, whose closest associates affectionately label ‘Fat Boy’, was educated at CBC in Bloemfontein and Queens High in Gauteng.

His infatuation with horseracing began at an early age.

His Dad was heavily involved with all aspects of racing from training to breeding in the Free State. His late uncle George was the leading trainer in Bloemfontein and another Uncle Trevor was an avid punter and owner.

His late brother Colin was later to train in KZN for many years.

The late Colin Scott

Rob recalls a ‘lifechanging’ visit to Highdown Stud by Trevor Lange and his Dad to look at a few horses for Colin and Lucky Houdalakis that was to change the course of his life – mostly for the best!

“I ended up buying twelve horses and the rest I guess is history,” he says with a broad smile.

A keen punter, his earliest memory of a betting coup was on his own horse, the talented Dynasty gelding Sage Throne, who he had acquired off the Graham Beck Dispersal Sale, and who he backed in from 25-1 to win his maiden.

Sage Throne

The Dynasty gelding Sage Throne – exciting horse to own

“We were brave then! Today I am a lot more pragmatic and sensible! I enjoy a bet naturally but find that my work keeps me so involved that I often miss actually sitting down and studying form.”

While he is still finding his feet in his new office, he says that the success of the Summer Cup day earlier this month was a good example of what could be achieved with a professional approach to the marketing.

Summer Cup day 2018 – nice crowd

But we suggest that bums on seats and fashion don’t necessarily equate to the all important driver of improved betting turnovers.

“Last year you may recall that the Cup was rain delayed to the Sunday. We were 15% up year-on-year on that day and 8% up on 2016 – which is a more realistic measure as Sundays don’t work as well for feature days. So we can’t complain about that. But market research tells us that casual visitors on the big day often live under the misconception that one needs information and major knowledge and skill to have a bet. That may be true for the seasoned punter but we need to take the fear out of that experience and we have an exciting betting concept that we hope to introduce on Sun Met day.”

Whisky Baron (photo: Wayne Marks)

Whisky Baron Sun Met lead in (photo: Wayne Marks)

He also adds that the overall experience on the big day needs to cater for the regular punter and the visitor. That is in terms of the desired facilities, the comfort and the overall appeal.

“Regulars don’t necessarily want music playing over their commentary. They want to see what they are used to. We need to embrace our regulars and casual punters and accommodate them all. I like what I see the way Gold Circle do things on July Day with the tote operators and we are looking at improving the raceday experience and giving the customer what they want.”

Early on Summer Cup day

An early priority is also the establishment of a loyalty programme to reward punters and efforts to build trust and loyalty in the tote.

“The model is a simple one. There is no skulduggery on the tote. The takeout is laid down and the more favourites win and the more punters that collect, the happier we are. But items like carryovers may require a higher profile of communication and transparency. There is nothing to hide. But we need to apply our minds to ensure the customer knows and understands what’s going on. We can run them over peak periods advised well in advance from the 25th to the 7th. A carryover is the punter’s money, after all!”

He went on to add that a structured incentivisation programme is also very important.

“Ironically, market research tells us that punters are very brand loyal – despite the whinging and moaning! Look, that may well be because of convenience factors – like, for example, being used to people and systems. But we need to reward support. We want to implement it from the high-rollers down to the man in the tote who spends his R6. Our recent in-store activations to our core market – our lifeblood, the small punter – worked well. A cap, a voucher, a small gift. People appreciate it and we can see it talking in the stats,”he adds.

Rob concedes that staff attitudes and knowledge have to be improved.

“Upskilling our staff is another massive priority. We absolutely have to have the right people in the right jobs at all levels. It’s no good having a nice outlet and exciting racing and the staff are not warm and friendly. We need to learn to listen to our customers and treat them like we value them. Just like owners, without the punter we have no business.”

The long-running and costly Bookmakers dispute around the open bet is another high priority item in the Scott 2019 diary.

“I am determined to lay this saga to rest as soon as possible. We have a few good ideas to bring bookmakers to the table on a basis of reciprocal benefit. When we argue, racing is the loser in the long run and I hope that we can sit down, bury the personal animosity – if that even exists – and reach an agreement where we can protect his business and remunerate the bookmaker at a competitive level to place the bet through the tote.”

He closed by saying that he felt that the industry could be in for a watershed year in 2019.

“We live in trying but exciting times. There were massive changes in many sectors this year. New people bring new hope and new ideas. I hope that we can all work together and give everybody a chance to have his or her say in making this game great again. Talk to me. Hold me accountable. I am happy to meet and chat with anybody if racing can benefit. Thanks to the Sporting Post for what you guys do. We don’t always agree – but that’s not important! Here’s hoping that we all have a great 2019.”

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11 comments on “Betting On A Winning 2019

  1. Jessk says:

    Reading this article about Rob Scott and his potential conflict of interest, leading him to resign from the RA, makes one think that this must surely apply to Mark Currie as well !
    Remember that Mark Currie is all of :
    A. Phumelela director
    B. Racing Trust Trustee
    C. Co Chairman of Western Cape Racing.

    And just by the way, reading the Phumelela Annual Report one sees that the Racing Trust now only owns 26.5% of Phumelela, as opposed to the 35% it is obligated to ito the initial agreement.

    Who’s serving who ?
    Or what is being served ?
    Mutton Curry with so many sheep around ?

  2. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Fantatstic – “carryovers are punters money anyway ” now how do we classify the unclaimed dividends and breakages – all R50 million of it?

  3. Tony Mincione says:

    “But market research tells us that casual visitors on the big day often live under the misconception that one needs information and major knowledge and skill to have a bet.”

    Let me go on the record that in that one sentence you can see why racing will never again keep up. Read it a few times. Think how that works with everything you know about what it takes to have horses line up in the starting gates.

    The whole article is loaded with lines that have you saying “What???” out loud. One sound bite after the next. Could go on, but what’s the point.

    Holy shit.

    Merry Xmas.

    1. Editor says:

      So what is the answers to get the casual visitor to have a bet?

  4. Tony Mincione says:

    What an inane reply, have you already picked a side?

    What problem are you trying to solve if you need to find the solution to “How do we get a casual visitor to have a bet?”?

    I hope that our hopes and dreams are not pinned on how to convert a non gambler to a gambler. We already know the problems of trying to convert beer drinkers to wine drinkers.

    After an entire day of the Summer Cup pundits using Tellytrack to convince themselves that it’s a Met or July, finally Tarry just said “stop comparing”. He might have been thinking ‘enjoy the party instead of convincing yourself that you are enjoying the party’.

    I guess the least you can do after that is answer: how high a priority is this casual visitor thing? If the solution to any problem is racing is how do we capture the casual visitor, I’m selling my shares now.

    (That was for dramatic effect, I don’t have those shares).

    Just to be clear. It’s a long held idea, and a false one, that the answer to racing’s problems is bums in seats. It reminds me of a great article in Pacemaker about 15 years ago about jumping castles at big race meetings, how jumping castles just missed the whole point. Someone listened and their big meetings don’t have room for jumping castles now.

    1. Editor says:

      inane an – adjective lacking sense or meaning; silly / synonyms: silly, foolish, stupid, fatuous, idiotic, absurd, ridiculous, ludicrous, laughable, risible, imbecilic, moronic, cretinous, unintelligent, witless, asinine, pointless, senseless, frivolous, nonsensical, brainless, mindless, thoughtless, vacuous, vapid, empty-headed

      Thanks for the kind words.

      One of the issues we discussed with Mr Scott in the interview was converting the ‘çrowds’ of partygoers to punters.

      He touched on simplifying the bet options to make it fun, easy and also not needing too much information – nobody is arguing about racing not being a brain game for the everyday punter

  5. Tex says:

    In the short team – Casual race goers – Keep it simple – Their entrance ticket should have a tote betting voucher included “R50” they should also receive a free simplified version of the race card with each runners colors clearly printed and the forecast betting and a one pager of how to read betting and the tote board – how to have a bet eg: “ tell the teller the racing venue and race number when placing a bet. win/place – swinger – boxed trifecta – place accumulator.

    The long term – should develop a simple mobile phone app as per the above and be able to process bets and top up their account.

    Tellytrack needs to get a reliable tracking system of each runners number/colors at the bottom of there screen like Singapore and Hong Kong.

    This is from my personal experience with casual/ newy race goers on EXPRO race days when I give tours and talks to the sponsors and their guests.

  6. Steve Reid says:

    Rob Scott must be the Editors poster boy, never before has one individual had his bio splashed on these pages with such regularity over the last few years as our own Fat Boy. It’s good to know that something besides the N1 in either direction has come out of Bloemfontein.

    Talk is cheap and I see lots of talk. If Phumelela are serious about increasing turnover, and thus profitability, there is a simple solution to their problem. Share. The open bet has been demonised by Phumelela for years and holds the solution to your problem. The tote is a cash cow that holds no risks. Why would you not do a deal with bookies and include them in the profits, and thus increase your bottom line substantially? Your rake on tote bets amounts to around 20%. To me this is a no- brainer. Do a deal and pay bookies to put these open bets through the tote and reward them on a performance scale. The higher the volume, the higher the commission. Get even more creative and supply them the tote machines and stationary needed. Get even more creative and pay the salaries of tote operators in establishments that achieve pre-determined targets. Dont insult them by offering 4% with punitive banking requirements. Over the years I have witnessed the arrogance of Phumelela’s now departed du Plessis in his attempts to take the bookies on with the attitude that Phumelela were entitled to all tote business. This arrogance by Mr Bean spilled through in the broadcast fees fiasco. Who has been the loser? If Phumelela are prepared to pay higher commissions to overseas partners, there should be no reason why local bookmakers should not be afforded the same opportunity. Most bookmakers are proper businessmen and would accept a no-risk deal that is fair to both sides. The bottom line here is that you don’t bank percentages. Every cent that comes in from previous open bet customers is incremental profit. The solution is simple once your arrogance and pride is removed.

    My second “tip for Rob” is to take a long hard look at your offerings to punters. Don’t waste your time with loyalty programs. Have a look at your betting outlets and compare what is offered there to what the competition are offering. With one or two Betting World exceptions, your retail sites lag way behind in terms of facilities, location and staffing competence. Ask yourself where YOU would want to spend an afternoon punting, it wont be at a TAB outlet that is a guarantee. Dude your staff…… Wow you need to do something urgently. Enough has been said about attitudes, product knowledge.punctuality of opening betting, services not offered that should have been, et al. I don’t need to expand. The difference in the quality of bookmaking staff when compared to your lot is mind blowing.. All of these interactions lose you customers.

    Good luck, you going to need it.

  7. Leon Smuts says:

    Good luck Rob and wishing you well in your new role. If you ever want to have a chat about taking racing forward let me know as i have a few product and marketing ideas and developed gaming software that should make a difference.

  8. Gary Lawrence says:

    In response to Tex’s relevant comments, the Singapore and Hong Kong race goers are definitely not economically similar to the South African race goers. SA race tracks are conspiciously empty. No transformation plan has been envisaged. 85% of potential race goers find the local tote or phone bet the safest or convienent way to place a bet.
    However if fractional ownership we’re offered by the racing authorities and presented to previously discriminated horse enthusastists, such as the large syndicates in the East or USA, perhaps people with an interest in racing would start to fill the empty stands.
    The silence on this proposal, my second, is deafening.

  9. Rian says:

    Geez man Ed, your English lesson was Childish and absolute Bulls%^t
    I must agree with Steve that the tote outlets are a mess and have not changed since Moodley took over…
    Try drawing cash from your acc at any tote outlet and you will understand how crap and outdated the system and hardware is, those monitors are ancient.
    Most partygoers come armed with their bank cards or pay upfront for the experience, eats drinks, etc so lets start by letting the partygoer pay with his card at the tote machine
    So how do we convert them and hope they going to part with hard earned money is to keep it simple.
    They dont have time to study form or battle to read the small print of the Tab form or even get lost in the Computaform stats , all greek to a first timer although the jockey silks will make make it easier for them to pick a winner
    Have a great New Year Partygoers

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