Here we talk to Joey D Michaels, Head of Business Development at Virtual Live Racing.
Q1: Joey, please tell our readers how you arrived in the racetrack industry?
Joey: I was born and raised a short distance from Penn National Race Track in Pennsylvania. I mucked out stalls and did other farm work for a horse owner whose trainer was at Penn. I hauled hay and feed onto the owner’s farm as well as into Penn for my owners, trainer and others. When I turned 18 I became a security guard at Penn, eventually leaving to become a police officer. I returned years later as the TRPB Agent/Security Director at Penn National. Over the next 25 years I worked my way up through the industry until I was President of eBet Technologies.
Q2. Tell us what attracted you to work with VLR, and explain the story behind the success of the company’s virtual thoroughbred products in the US.
Joey: I was doing consulting work for Derby Lane and US Off Track. Vincent [Caldwell, VLR’s Chairman] had approached the President of Derby Lane to become a strategic partner on the VLR project. I was assisting the Derby Lane and USOT staff regarding Virtual. When greyhound racing ceased at Derby Lane so did my consulting arrangement. Vincent immediately stepped in and asked me to continue assisting him with VLR. I jumped at the opportunity as I believe strongly in virtual racing. We have had some early success with not only the thoroughbred product but also with the greyhound product. Within weeks we will also be launching our first harness track, Hawthorne Race Course, and shortly after that we will be launching Saratoga harness as well.
Q3. What are the top 3 reasons why racetracks should consider taking virtual racing products?
Joey: Virtual Live Racing’s product suite is excellent for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that it’s a great filler product for simulcast wagering locations, attracts the younger gambler, and because it provides a great revenue source for racetracks and their horse/dog men that have past racing data, allowing them to monetize that stagnant data. The product is innovative and is ‘outside the box’ thinking. It has been very successful in the international market, particularly in the UK. There is no reason why we here in the US should not be able to achieve the same results!
Q4: What support can the track look forward to in terms of introducing VLR’s products to their race patrons?
This really is a no-brainer for tracks to not only provide their past data but also for ADW’s, tracks and other gambling locations to take the product for their guests to wager. For those tracks that want to provide their data we pay them a percentage for each wager made upon their data. It costs them no money at all for us to come into their locations, scan, photograph and digitize the outside of their facility including the race track and the surrounding area. From there it takes us a few months to ‘virtualize’ that data and then get it launched. For those gambling locations that want to provide the virtual product to their guests to wager, again that’s another no-brainer because we are on or within the everyday infrastructure of the normal racing simulcast product, and virtual is treated just as another race track. We utilize the same rails as every other race track that is available for wagering, i.e. same tote system, same settlement, same everything. We are simply a phone call, text or email away from assisting all our tracks and locations.
Q5: Finally, is there anything in the pipeline you can share?
Joey: Certainly, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes that we can’t go public with just yet – but I can promise you it’s going to be an exciting year! What I can tell you is that we currently have 7 tracks that we have virtualized and our business model is such that we want to limit ourselves to no more than 12 tracks. In this manner, we can maximize the return to those 12 tracks, as opposed to spreading the revenue across say 50 or even 75 tracks. We are negotiating with several additional tracks here in the US, as well internationally, and will announce news about those agreements when they are finalized – so watch this space!