The new unit, called SIS Content Services, will focus largely on fixed-odds gambling—odds that lock the moment the bet is placed. That’s standard for most sports betting but less common in horse racing, which traditionally relies on pari-mutuel betting, where odds aren’t determined until after all the bets are placed.
The difference, as SIS sees it, is a multi-billion dollar opportunity. Some U.S. regulators are warming to the idea of fixed-odds horse racing, and SIS, which is a dominant player in horse racing data globally, believes now is the time to focus on growing its presence in North America.
“Right now if you open a U.S. sports betting app, there are sports, but there’s no horse racing,” Michele Fischer, who will lead the U.S. business, said in an interview. “It’s a race to the bottom if you’re not even recognized as a sport. So we know that horse racing needs to make that transition, and it’s a transition that won’t happen overnight, but we do believe will happen over time.”
The handle for legal gambling on horse racing in America has stagnated at about $11 billion per year, according to Fischer. By contrast, New Jersey’s sportsbooks took in more than $1 billion in wagers in September alone, most of that on apps that don’t offer racing odds (it’s a different licensing process for pari-mutuel wagering). SIS is hoping fixed-odds wagering—which also allows you to create markets unavailable in pari-mutuel pools—will open the door for inclusion on apps like DraftKings or FanDuel.
To frame that opportunity, SIS CEO Richard Ames cites this statistic: At mature gambling operators in other markets, horse racing typically accounts for about 10-25% of the revenue.
“We’re quite realistic about the U.S. market and how the tradition for racing in the U.S. is different than other parts of the world, and the size of the prize will be different, but nevertheless there is a marketplace of many billions of dollars here,” Ames said in an interview. “Even if it’s 5%, that would be lovely actually, because that in itself would be many billions.”
SIS believes fixed-odds racing markets can coexist with pari-mutuel, which the company also offers. In total, SIS has built a portfolio of more than 30,000 horse races, 38,000 greyhound races and 100,000 esports events, and packages the data, video feeds and trading services for gaming operators around the world. Part of its pitch in the U.S. is the volume of the race calendar, which features year-round events at virtually all hours and could be valuable for filling holes in the U.S. sports calendar.
The U.K.-based company’s shareholders also include some of the world’s biggest gaming companies. Entain owns about 23% of SIS; William Hill owns more than 20%. BetFred is also an equity holder.
Fischer, a former Sportech executive who’s been working with SIS as a consultant, will lead the U.S. team. SIS hoped to have 15 to 20 people working in the U.S. by the end of next year, Ames said.
The company’s main focus right now is on horse-racing and esports—ironically two of the most difficult sports from a gaming regulation standpoint. SIS is not immediately looking to break into traditional sports, where exclusive data rights have been quickly divvied up, largely between a few large firms.
“We are very well known for racing, we’ve been involved in racing for 30 years, and we’ve done a good job taking that outside the U.K.,” Ames said. “We actually see a greater opportunity for us in the short to medium term around racing and esports, as opposed to trying to go head-to-head with Genius Sports and Sportradar in the other traditional sports.”