Tue | Jan 21, 2020

SVL banking on export of betting to grow business - Chairman wants dialogue with Caymanas Park stakeholders

Published:Friday | December 6, 2019 | 12:36 AMHuntley Medley - Senior Business Writer
Chairman of Supreme Ventures Limited, Gary Peart.
Chairman of Supreme Ventures Limited, Gary Peart.

Gaming company Supreme Ventures Limited, SVL, wants to be a major contender in the global sport betting market and Gary Peart is convinced that this growing segment has the potential to double the size of the business he was tapped to chair in June.

That explains, he says, the careful targeting of more than $1.5 billion already invested in income-generating infrastructure at its racetrack at Caymanas Park, St Catherine, which has been operated for the past three years on a 30-year lease from the Jamaican Government by SVL subsidiary Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited, SVREL.

The search for revenue and profit growth beyond last year’s gross sales of $62.9 billion and net profits of just over $2 billion, has also led to cost containment and a more streamlined organisational structure that takes effect at SVL on January 1.

The new set-up has assigned CEOs and boards to all SVL subsidiaries, which report into the main company led by president and CEO Ann-Dawn Young Sang. Young Sang has also been given responsibility to accelerate the overseas expansion of the business that started recently with the beaming of the horse racing signal for betting from its track in Jamaica to Guyana, located on the South American mainland.

Peart, a stockbroker, investment and management practitioner, explains how he sees the new group CEO carrying out the expansion function.

Competitive advantage

“We want a president and CEO to be using their best asset, which is their mind, saying, where are the jurisdictions we can move into? She will open up a market, execute the transaction, I drop it in as another subsidiary, put in a board, a CEO, it starts to run. If we get even one every three years, it’s the easiest and best way to double the business,” he said in an interview with the Financial Gleaner.

A former chairman of the Jamaican gaming regulator, the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission, Peart is of the view that Jamaica’s advanced regulatory system within which SVL operates, provides the company with a competitive advantage in several markets of the Caribbean where regulations are still developing.

While the SVL chairman would not say where the Jamaican company is likely to set up shop next, he is clear that the market expansion would not be confined to the Caribbean. In September, the Caymanas Park broadcast signal was also successfully relayed to the New York Racing Association platform in the United States.

As an example of the potential for more revenues to be generated from the investments at Caymanas Park, Peart said that on the first day of exporting races via the signal, SVREL earned about US$2,000 in new revenues, which are now up to about US$30,000 a day.

This, he says, has helped to double annual revenues from just over $300 million in 2016 to more than $700 million in 2017. Revenues to SVL’s JustBet sport betting operation continued to grow at a fast clip to $1.1 billion last year, but the segment posted a net loss of $26.9 million.

The strategy for profit-making targets the mining of significantly greater revenues from a global build-out of the signal, as well as the aggressive development of an online sports betting platform that launched on December 1 and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. The new digital platform extends SVL’s mobile betting service, MBet, which it introduced last year, supported by mobile wallet Quisk.

In detailing the strategic approach, Peart, who has been a director on SVL’s board since 2017, acknowledged criticisms of the state of disrepair of some infrastructure at Caymanas Park, but said the company was prioritising investments in capital works that can unlock revenues towards a first-time profit for SVREL this year.

Those projects included installing the new signal, inclusive of the laying of cables; replacing an obsolete tote board as part of the broadcast operations; rehabilitating a malfunctioning well to provide water for refreshing horses, cleaning stables and preparing the track; buying several new water trucks for more efficient scheduling of track preparation to accommodate more races; as well as repairing roads leading to the park.

Increase in purses

The chairman adds that over the period, race purses have been increased by 20 per cent, increasing operating losses.

“We are not daunted by the losses at Caymanas because we understand that once we have a path to profitability, it is just a matter of execution. And we believe we have a path to profitability,” he said.

Peart is proposing a forum for stakeholders to meet for full and frank discussions, at least once every three months, to work through what he said are multifaceted issues at the track.

Those issues, Peart notes, include the need for more horses to make races more competitive. The solution, he says, could see the gaming and betting company importing horses for resale to breeders, adding that tax policies and the high cost of airfreight have been discouraging importation by individuals.

But he is firm that losses at Caymanas Park, which are approaching $500 million, cannot continue be allowed to mushroom.

“There is no way I can take SVL’s money and put into SVREL and cannot demonstrate to my auditors that I can find a way to profitability. That would be like literally taking people’s hard-earned investment and throwing it into Kingston Harbour. SVL is the only publicly listed and traded company in the gaming sector in Jamaica. Every director has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that they demonstrate to their shareholders that they are creating value,” he said.

Enormous growth potential

To achieve shareholder value, the SVL chairman wants to see the doubling of the business from the Caribbean and global expansion, leveraging the investments already made in Caymanas Park, and capitalising on what he sees as enormous growth potential in sports betting.

“One of the fastest-growing segments in international gaming is sports betting. It is one of the things that drove our decision to acquire 51 per cent of AnyBet,” he said.

The purchase by SVL of a 51 per cent stake in Post to Post Betting Limited, which trades as AnyBet, was a $572.2-million deal. SVL has an option to buy another 29 per cent of AnyBet, and Peart says negotiation are under way to close that transaction at a price yet to be determined. Post to Post principal Damian Chin-You now sits on the SVL board.

The acquisition is part of efforts for SVL to get a foothold in a segment of the local betting market it does not now serve.

The SVL chairman says he is open to talks with other competitors for similar transactions to grow the company’s share of the legal betting market, of which JustBet and AnyBet control between 80 per cent and 95 per cent. He says a big chunk of the overall market is held by unregistered and illegal bet takers in Jamaica and by foreign online betting platforms like the United Kingdom-based Bet 365, which accepts wagers on horse racing and several other sports, from anywhere around the world, including from gamblers in Jamaica.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com