Australian Betting History and the Evolution of RewardBet

RewardBet founder Greg Conroy, who has decades of experience in the wagering industry, reflects on how betting has changed over the years and how that has shaped his vision for the future.  Greg started his career at NSW TAB in 1986.

When I started in the wagering industry in 1986, races still closed at advertised start time and the main betting options were win/place, quinella, daily doubles and the trifecta.

Minimum bet sizes were 50c and betting was transitioning from writing onto a piece of paper which was keyed in by an operator to filling out a mark-sense ticket that was inserted into a betting terminal.

Information displays were provided by Teletext and form guides were tied by a string to a counter.  Many customers would use PhoneTAB from home as this was the most convenient way to bet when not in a TAB.

Only incremental changes were made up until 1995 when Tab Limited started work on the world’s first internet wagering site named “iBet” which took its first bets in 1997. 

First Internet Betting Site: "iBet"

I was a major part of that team, designing much of the user-interface responsible for placing the bets and also programming and designing the supporting information such as Audio Replays, TAB Ticker – a stock market-like racing information display and many of the form and related odds displays. 

The opportunities of the Internet and what they provided to wagering have been immense.

It’s interesting to reflect that when iBet was launched, you had your “digital certificate” on a floppy disk that you had to carry from PC to PC, most customers used a dial-up 14.4kbps modem and the major concern was credit card security with online transactions.

The history of wagering, especially since the TABs started more than 50 years ago, has been one of product innovation being driven by technological abilities. 

Technology Has Driven Wagering

For each successive shift in technological capacity, there have been similar improvements in wagering capability and services. 

Originally, races closed hours before the race, but punters were then allowed to bet up until the jump. It moved from only being able to bet on win and place to being allowed to wager on exotics including first fours and quaddies. 

The way bets are placed has also changed. Punters used to have to call a bet to an operator but can now place them in transactions online through the Internet and speech recognition software.

The Internet has accelerated this rate of change, allowing a vast amount of new options which were never cost-effective to offer via other channels. 

Furthermore, the complexity of offerings has increased – such as betting exchanges. However, not all customers have been able to keep up with the rapid technological change, let alone product complexity changes.

The Internet has also provided another significant opportunity – the ability for product development to occur outside the domain of the traditional TABs. 

It is possible for a product to exist completely outside the TABs in regards to the design, the user-interface and indeed, the features and processing, as long as it can link to your TAB or betting operator account - you can still place a bet. Most betting operators provide this linkage to enable professional punters to transact with them.

The Birth of RewardBet 

After I left Tab Limited (formerly NSW TAB) when it was taken over by Victoria’s Tabcorp, in 2006, I worked closely with Ed Wray (the co-founder of Betfair) as a contractor in Sydney before moving to Melbourne early 2007 when Betfair established their first Australian office.

I met my wife and purchased our house so close to Caulfield racecourse that I can hear the protest siren. I always wanted to live close to a racecourse due to my passion for the racing industry.

We both joined as members and frequented the races, often with other friends. Not all ideas come in a Eureka moment, but some time earlier I had sketched out a product idea (I then always carried a pen and notepad, although now an iPhone) whilst sitting at dinner. This idea came back into my head out of the frustration of seeing my wife and her friends have a great time selecting their horses but never backing them properly.

They simply made all the same mistakes that I’d seen people make for the last 20 years when I’d watch them at the races or in the TABs. 

With Staking Punters Fall in a Heap

There’s no doubt everyone can choose a winner, but when it comes to the most important aspect – the staking – they fall over in a heap.

To illustrate how important staking is, I could provide you with 99 winners out of my next 100 tips but you could still lose if you didn’t stake them properly. Staking IS that important and it’s the difference between why the professionals win as much as they do and why many punters lose as much as they do. 

So I thought to myself – what would the perfect betting product be like if it could be designed today, knowing all that I’ve learnt in the last 20 years and having all the technology and opportunity at my hands like we do.

Qualities of the Perfect Wagering Product

  1. Very simple to use, with only a few steps so all racegoers could use it.
  2. Utilise the current suite of wagering bet types that are available as they are well understood, regulated and already exist in the TAB’s and wagering operators’ systems.
  3. Work across all channels – not just the internet. It would have to translate to TAB tickets, operator request at the races, telephone betting, touch screen terminals. 
  4. It would offer features that would help a customer bet better, and become a customer for life.
  5. It would offer safeguards to protect a new customer from betting poorly, especially over-betting – which reduces their chance of ever winning.
  6. Provide features that appeal to every level of bettor – from the novice up to the professional.
  7. Provide a much better experience and be engaging and fun for the customers to use.
  8. Be a much quicker way to place your bets, since customers have so little time and there are so many distractions at the races and so many options available.
  9. Help the customer win more by staking more efficiently.

Last, but by no means least, it would help the racing industry, through providing significantly more turnover, additional revenue and through attracting, retaining, and engaging the wagering customers of today and tomorrow.

RewardBet - The Perfect Wagering Product, shaped by history.

History: The first press release for the world's first Internet Wagering site:

History: The first press release for the world's first Internet Wagering site:

History: The original iBet screen showing the revolutionary 'Tab Ticker'

History: The original iBet screen showing the revolutionary 'Tab Ticker'

History: The iBet betting screen

History: The iBet betting screen