Chester racecourse is gaining something of a reputation for forward thinking and new ideas. Last year it did away with the Tote and introduced its own similar service, chesterBET. We’ve discussed the issues punters have found with that before, so we won’t go over old ground.
The latest innovation the course has tried out is a cashless bar, in which, I’m sorry to say, they were not giving out free drinks. What they did was to provide some invited guests to try out a mobile phone app to order and pay for food and drink. In all, 640 orders were processed using the app, which met with wide approval from staff and customers alike.
The event saw the worldwide launch of the ZNAP™ app, developed by a MPayMe. The invited folk from the business, media and celebrity worlds used the app to scan a QR-code on a welcome sign at the entrance, giving them access to view the QR-BAR drinks menu. To place orders, guests simply selected choices from the menu and added them to the virtual shopping cart in the app. They proceeded to check-out and entered their table number so that drinks could be delivered quickly to their table, which removed the need for queuing.
It’s this last aspect that has given the racecourse pause for thought as to whether the app could be used for betting. Emma Blackmore, Head of Commercial at Chester Racecourse said, “We are always looking to innovate and enhance the customer experience. We didn’t look at using this for betting initially, but throughout the day on Saturday it was clear there was an appetite from the customers to be able to use the technology for betting as well. It would be something we would look at but there would be more issues to examine there, as we sometimes have to give out refunds.”
And winnings as well!
The legal side of the cashless approach was cleared some tine ago, as Tony May, Head of Gaming at Chester explained. “We got permission from the Gambling Commission earlier in the year to be able to use tablets in our hospitality in a very similar way, which you load up prior to betting. The money has to come off a debit card, not a credit card. The tablets are our own, linked only to chesterBET.”
At the moment, people who have won after placing a bet through the tablets, are still paid out in cash, but it can only be a matter of time before returns can be paid direct into the account that has deposited money on the tablet.
I felt that racing lost something of its unique atmosphere when bookmakers went all electric and started issuing us with bus tickets instead of their own tokens. There’s always a bit of a buzz standing in the queue to pick up your winnings after a race, and that would be lost if they simply went back into an account.
Would that matter to you? Do you think it might lead people to gamble more than they intended to on a day at the races?