Churchill Downs picks VenueNext for new Kentucky Derby app

Screenshot of new Kentucky Derby app built by VenueNext for Churchill Downs.

Screenshot of new Kentucky Derby app built by VenueNext for Churchill Downs.

Fans at this year’s Kentucky Derby will be able to find their way around historic Churchill Downs and place bets on races via a new venue mobile app, designed by VenueNext, the app developer for Levi’s Stadium and other football, baseball and basketball teams.

Most of the standard features of the VenueNext app platform, including interactive wayfinding and digital ticketing support, will be available to all fans for the May 7 Derby Day, according to Churchill Downs Racetrack general manager Ryan Jordan. Additionally, a small number of premium-seat ticketholders will be able to order food and drink for delivery to their seats via the app, a sort of “beta test” of one of the other VenueNext app services that Jordan said Churchill Downs plans to expand for future races.

“We’re very excited to roll this app out” on Derby Day, said Jordan in a phone interview. Though the racetrack has previously had some mobile apps, Jordan said they were mainly focused on the social element of the event, with links back to the Derby website. The VenueNext-powered app infrastructure, he said, “really translates well to our venue and we think will significantly improve the fan experience at the Kentucky Derby.”

Ryan Jordan, general manager, Churchill Downs

Ryan Jordan, general manager, Churchill Downs

For VenueNext, the big-name deal is its first outside of stadium sports, and the sixth app deal overall, following deals for apps for the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, the Orlando Magic and the Minnesota Vikings. VenueNext also designed a special Levi’s Stadium app for the recent Super Bowl 50.

Wayfinding, betting, and more

One of the top features from the VenueNext app package that “excites” Jordan is the app’s ability to use a beacon infrastructure to support a live interactive wayfinding map, where app users can track themselves in “blue dot” fashion similar to Google maps for driving. Since Churchill Downs is an old, sprawling facility, Jordan said that helping fans find their way was always a challenge.

“There’s been 142 years of building this place out, and it’s not like a bowl stadium where you can just keep walking in a circle to find things,” Jordan said. “To be able to use a mobile app to find your seats, find your car after the race, and find amenities like betting windows is very exciting. We have lots of signage, but there are lots of different buildings and signs, and it can be hard to find your way around.”

For several years now, the Derby has been building its own mobile betting app, which allows fans to place bets from anywhere at the track. That app, called Twinspires, is now also integrated within the new VenueNext app, which means that fans don’t have to exit and find another app to place wagers.

Wayfinding map screenshot

Wayfinding map screenshot

To make sure fans can stay connected anywhere on the grounds, Churchill Downs and partners Mobilitie and AT&T upgraded the venue’s DAS again this offseason, adding more capacity for AT&T 4G LTE services. Though Churchill Downs does have a small amount of Wi-Fi for the main buildings like the clubhouse and the towers, Jordan said that service is mainly for race days other than the big event.

“For regular race days [when fans are mostly in the main buildings] we may have 10,000 to 20,000 people here,” Jordan said. “For the Derby, we will have 170,000.”

Starting slow with food delivery

Also included in the app is the ability for fans to order food and drink to be delivered to their seats, or to be picked up at an express window at a nearby concession stand. Jordan said that during the offseason Churchill Downs retrofitted several kitchen areas to support the delivery and express pickup options, but that the track will start small with the service and expand from there. In addition to the Turf Club and its 500 seats where delivery will be an option, another 15 sections of seats will be able to use the app for express pickup orders, Jordan said.

“There’s a lot of employee training and infrastructure [for deliveries] that’s new to us,” said Jordan, explaining the start-slow approach. “The good news is, there’s lots of opportunity to keep expanding as we go.”

(more app screenshots below)




Friday Grab Bag: Super Bowl prop bets, anyone?

Sure you have purchased a square or two in the office pool and made a friendly wager on the outcome of the game, but that is scratching the surface. Did you know you can bet on how long the National Anthem will be or if the singer will wear gloves? Will the game go overtime?

A look at which are good and bad can be found in a number of places but I liked the ones published in SportsOnEarth and one that was in Football Outsiders as they give some context to what you should and should not do.

Is the Super Bowl a boon on the local economy?
Every year we see a number of time-honored myths rolled out about the Super Bowl. Top day for avocado consumption. No. Top day for spousal abuse. No. That it is a financial boon to the host city/area. Maybe no as well.

A piece in the New York Times points out that since past predictions of prosperity by the NFL were destroyed once the methodology was public the same might be true now. The current estimate, between $550 million and $600 was determined in secret, they will not say who did it or how they arrived at that number. However advertisers are flooding the host city so that they can be seen prior to the event so maybe they know something they are just not telling us.

Winter Olympics broadcast schedule
In case you actually can watch the games from the comfort of your sofa or a cozy corner pub here is a complete viewers’ guide to the events, when they will be broadcast. It should be noted by figure skating fans that the first events take place prior to the opening ceremony.

For a breakdown on what will be interesting as well as the challenges that the broadcaster NBC could face look over to Sports Illustrated and a piece by Richard Deitsch. Will the network let possible bad news from the surrounding area taint its broadcasts?

Why no respect for American soccer players?
With the World Cup now looming on the sports horizon ESPNFC did a piece on why it seems that European based leagues do not value American players and why increasingly that feeling is being reciprocated.

The nice thing about the piece is that it does not jump to a conclusion but points out how different development systems, short earning window and other factors all play in the decisions that players make in where they want to play.

Another black eye for Sochi?
The upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia has received a series of bad news with intolerance, corruption and potential terrorism issues rising to the forefront. Now a recent piece from ABC shows that there could be another piece of bad news on the horizon.

They are saying that one of the key figures in helping Russia win the games over Austria and South Korea was a man named Gafur Rakhimov. The trouble with Rakhimov is that he is considered by U.S. authorities to be one of the top four or five people in the heroin trade and is under indictment in Uzbekistan.

Favourit Bets App Draws Bettors to Gambling Platform


Favourit, a newly launched App from a pair of brothers in Melbourne Australia is reaching out to sports gamblers with an app that both brings together gamblers and sites to take the bets and friends that want to compete together using social media.

Founded in 2012 by brothers Toby and Josh Simmons, Favourit is touting itself as the Social sports betting network it has already attracted $3.6 million in Series A venture funding, a move that alone will help give it a boost over many rivals that are bootstrapping their way to market.

The concept is simple. Fans can gamble real money, where allowed, or virtual currency. The site sets fans up with betting operators for the real thing and with friends via social media for the all important bragging rights, and real betting as well if so desired.

It is designed as a global program, and while it covers some sports that Americans might not have a sporting interest in such as Australian Football League it covers a range of ones that might have a more direct appeal such as the NBA or the NFL.

While it has been available as a Web app and in HTML form for mobile users, studies have shown that increasingly smartphone and tablet users much prefer apps designed specifically for those platforms and that s what the company has done, creating a version that is currently downloadable for free from Apple’s iTunes store and that will run on Apple iOS devices.

Favourit includes real time virtual betting, as well as real betting via regulated partners and player to player bets. It includes stats, previews and live scores of events and has a social stream so that betters can chat and receive up to date news. You can also follow all of your bets and see social trends in betting and has a board that ranks bettors in terms of complexity and allows users to earn “BetIQ” points.

There have been plenty of apps that have sought to leverage the connection between social media and betting, and plenty that have focused just on the betting aspect of the equation. Apps such as 2Bet2, SideBet and others are already participating at some level and its been pretty clear that others are dying to get involved. A hold back, at least in the US, is that it is illegal to bet online. However that may be changing and other countries have already allowed it, as is obvious from what Favourit is doing.

I wonder if the push that the state of New Jersey is having about sports gambling will help open the door to more gambling in the US, particularly online? I guess only time will tell, but in terms of a head start for actual gambling, off shore sites like Favourit have a real advantage

Jersey Voters Overwhelmingly Support Sports Betting

LeRoy's Sports Book in Las Vegas has a mobile sports betting application ready to go if Federal laws are relaxed

New Jersey voters overwhelmingly supported sports betting at Atlantic City Casinos and state racetracks, paving the way for a legal challenge to Federal restrictions against legal sports betting on mobile devices.

According to a Philadelphia Media Network report, the ballot initiative passed by greater than a two-to-one ratio. Republican Gov. Chris Christie says the initiative provides him ammunition to challenge the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, passed by Congress in 2006, which prohibits all states except those that already allowed sports wagering to implement sports betting systems.

“With this referendum, we have an opportunity that gives the state more solid footing to challenge the federal ban on sports wagering outside of a few select places,” Christie said before he voted in favor of Public Question 1, according to Philadelphia Media Network.

The move is significant because reform to the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act and The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1992, are needed in order to allow legal sports betting on mobile devices across the United States. Today, because of Federal law, an estimated $380 billion annually in illegal sports betting is conducted in the United States annually, according to National Gambling Impact Study Commission. Much of that is conducted through the online portals of offshore casinos, which are widely known to provide poor customer service and slow payouts.

New law would prove a boom for mobile device application developers. To date, Cantor Gaming, which operates the race and sports books of such Las Vegas casino powerhouses as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the Tropicana Las Vegas, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and The Palazzo, and American Wagering, which operates a chain of race and sports books called Leroy’s, have released sports wagering applications that work in the state of Nevada. In addition, leading sports social media application developer PlayUp USA has similar capabilities through sister companies in international markets. Numerous other mobile sports application developers are also preparing sports wagering applications.

Research firm Gartner Group estimated that global mobile gaming revenues reached $5.6 billion in 2010, and predicted the market would grow to $11.4 billion dollars by 2014.