12/09/2015 3:50PM

Sweepstakes idea wins award at Symposium


TUCSON, Ariz. – A three-judge panel on Wednesday selected a racing-based sweepstakes proposal as the winner of the first Innovators’ Circle Award at the Symposium on Racing and Gaming here, the conference organizers announced.

An Australian company called Six Faces will receive $15,000 for being selected the winner of the first-ever pitch-style contest held by the organizers of the Symposium, an annual event put on by the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona. Six Faces was selected among four finalists that made presentations to the panel, which were culled from a total of 89 entries received by the program since entries began to be taken in September, according to program officials.

Judges in the contest included John Hartig, the chief executive of Sports Information Group and Daily Racing Form; John Ford, the chief executive of BAM Software; and Mike Tanner, the executive director of the United States Trotting Association. The companies or organizations represented by the judges were all sponsors of the contest.

The four ideas all had merits and shortcomings, and one – a proposal to raise money for the manufacture of a computed-topography machine that would purportedly allow for relatively quick lower-limb scanning of a horse that had not been administered general anesthesia – seemed far better suited to be presented to a panel of experts in the field, given its technical nature and critical questions involving the feasibility of the equipment and its potential.

The winning proposal was presented by Shaun Pyrah, a principal in Six Faces. The proposal, called

“SwopStakes” – the name uses a regional variation of the spelling of “swap” that is unfamiliar to U.S. residents -- would involve the establishment of a sweepstakes based on the winners of a string of horse races. To make the idea work, the sweepstakes would need to sell every combination possible in the sequence of races, with the single ticket that holds the eventual winning combination taking the entire sweepstakes prize.

The critical germ of the idea was that as the sequence progressed and tickets were eliminated, the holders of the remaining live tickets would be able to sell their tickets on an on-line exchange. Conversely, losers – or players who had not purchased any initial tickets – would be able to buy live tickets offered for sale at any time prior to the final leg of the sequence being run. That would lead to a market in which the remaining tickets became more and more valuable as the final race approached.

Pyrah said during his proposal that Six Faces expected to market the idea to pari-mutuel operators in the U.S. in the future.  

The proposal for the CT scanning machine, presented by Sheila Lyons, who runs a Pennsylvania non-profit that conducts veterinary research and rehabilitates horses, would require a $1.7 million investment, Lyons said. That would include the manufacture of the machine and the funding to conduct a year-long study requiring the cooperation of three racetracks and horsemen based at the track who would allow for their horses to be scanned by the prototype.

Lyons said that the machine would be able to conduct a CT scan of a pair of a horses’ lower limbs in two minutes, allowing for the quick evaluation of injuries that may make a horse unsuitable for racing or exercise – so quick, Lyons said, that it could be used during pre-race exams. Current CT machines require horses to be administered general anesthesia because the limb must remain completely still during a process that can take 45 minutes or longer.

The proposal definitely caught the ear of the audience gathered for the presentations, as it was voted the winner of the Audience Award, determined by an anonymous vote of attendees. Lyons will receive $1,000 for gathering the most votes. 

Another idea involved the establishment of an on-line exchange for ownership shares in a racehorse, called Thoroughbred Stock Exchange. That idea would allow people to buy and sell their shares as equity positions in the revenue streams that the horse generates, according to the presenters, the wife and husband team of Leslie and Jonathan Lutton. Under the proposal, the Luttons would retain 200 shares of the 1,000 shares offered in each horse, and would act as the managing partners of the horse.

The fourth idea was a marketing tool involving the launch of an app that would offer a free-to-play chance to win $1 million if the player correctly selects the winner of 20 races in a row, called “20 Wins a Million,” presented by horse owner Joel Benson. Though winning the $1 million would easily be a 12 billion-to-1 shot, the concept was designed to get players involved in racing and award them with smaller prizes such as betting vouchers, racing merchandise, or racing-themed rewards as the players won smaller sequences of races, such as three races or five races in a row.