Eric Halstrom, Vice President and General Manager of Racing at Indiana Grand Racing and Casino, is on a quest. He wants to create the kind of innovation that will make Indiana Grand not just the gold standard in horse tracks, but a point of reference in the larger entertainment world.
I had the pleasure of working with Eric when he led innovation at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, using new ideas to help drive a staggering 70% increase in its wagering handle.
In a time when our industry is at crossroads, Eric and his team are charging ahead with innovations like a new drone program, a new audio and visual system for the Indiana Horse Racing Commission stewards, and a robust social media presence.
Driving innovation in horse racing
Anyone working in horse racing knows our industry isn’t quick to change. For years, production and distribution have been stuck in a standard definition and closed-distribution rabbit hole. This has hindered the industry from finding new destinations and audiences, as well as new opportunities to enter the wider sports betting market.
Remote production and high definition content distribution changes what’s possible for the industry, and Eric and his team have jumped on the opportunity to delight fans and find a wider audience.
Being a horse racing enthusiast and sports bettor himself, Eric understood what customers want: a compelling viewing experience. That’s true whether they’re watching TV or at the track. And when it comes to wagering, the right camera angle can speak a thousand words. That’s why Eric is so excited about Indiana Grand’s deployment of a camera drone which will capture shots and angles that weren’t possible before.
The Matrice 200 Drone features the latest capabilities in aerial production, including zoom options with adjustable speed. The device is a little less than three feet in width and stands 16 inches high. The drone project hasn’t necessarily been easy to execute. Although drones have been deployed in a limited capacity at the Breeders’ Cup, this is the first time one will be fully integrated into horse racing TV production.
Luckily, Eric’s 15- strong team shares his ambition for innovating and Eric knew the camera drone idea had legs.
“You know your idea is good when it sparks excitement across the team,” he said. “Everyone immediately felt that deploying a camera drone would shake up the horse racing viewing experience.”
In addition to upfront investment in drone technology, Eric’s team had to recruit three drone operators willing to go through 80 hours of training with the Federal Aviation Administration to be licensed a Remote Pilot Certificate.
Geared to win
2020 has been a challenging year, with the industry relying on creative and passionate people like Eric to keep going while looking for new opportunities. Is innovation as easy as it sounds? Definitely not. Eric and his team are ready to up their game.
“We want to explore what shots are particularly interesting to our clients and deliver them consistently,” he said. “We appreciate that innovation is a trial and error process.
“As we continue to optimize the equipment, we’ll discover opportunities with the drone that we aren’t even aware of at this time.”
Rich Rosa is the Vice President of Business Development for Wagering and Simulcasting at LTN Global Communications. As LTN’s horse racing industry lead, Rich partners with tracks across the country to help them create high-quality productions and find new distribution outlets to raise their profile — and ultimately their wagering handle. LTN offers centralized production and IP-based transport services to help tracks produce and/or distribute high-quality HD and 4K content.
About LTN Global
LTN® Global is a worldwide leader in video technology solutions for producers and distributors of broadcast-quality content. Built on the world’s fastest and most reliable IP multicast network, LTN’s universal media ecosystem unites modular services and integrates with other leading technologies to bring full-video-chain workflows, driving scale from creation and acquisition to monetization and delivery.
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