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PMU: future plans unveiled

The largest horseracing tote operator in Europe has managed its transformation from historic operator to fully-fledged modern iGaming group since 2010 but knows it must take the initiative to realise its 2020 vision.

The outline by Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) President Philippe Germond of the group’s vision for the next seven years, PMU 2020, is no accident and shows that the group is aware of the constraints and limitations of its core business, offline parimutuel betting on horse races.

Already running at full capacity in terms of racing schedules and land-based offers, the group knows it must revitalise its core audience, the average age of current offline punters is between 35 and 54, by targeting younger punters who will become their regular clients for the next generation.

For even though the group’s online activities can be lauded for their success, the site’s .fr performance at the moment represents ‘just’ 10 percent of the €10.5 billion turnover generated by the group during 2012 and will never match the financial firepower of the group’s offline tote.

Still, online provides most of PMU’s growth for 2012 and €1.6 billion in stakes and €270 million in gross gaming revenues in 2012 is not bad for a ‘new entrant’ in the regulated igaming space, albeit with major resources and an offline monopoly on which it can draw.

So although the online side of the business will never be its main focus or its bread and butter, PMU’s 'raison d’etre' is to serve the French horseracing industry and the thousands of jobs linked to it. The group has already integrated many mobile and online elements into its retail structure to make the customer journey as smooth as possible, a trend that is only going to increase in the coming years.

Add to this PMU’s international expansion plans and the 87 percent overall growth in stakes the group enjoyed outside of France in 2012 (€176.4 million in 2011 against €329.6 million in 2012, a trend that is only going to increase) and the picture becomes clearer.

Other figures speak for themselves: in-play betting stakes, most of them made from a mobile or a tablet, made up 52 percent of PMU’s online sportsbetting total and the share of bets placed via tablets rose twelve percent in 2012 while bets on smartphones rose a massive 82 percent during the period. Between now and 2020, the company is predicting net results of €1 billion, 20 percent growth in gross gaming revenues for racing (+eight percent offline, +61 percent online over the seven years, 170 percent rise in online betting gross gaming revenues and 90 percent for online poker.

These trends are pointers as to the holistic vision PMU has of itself as an historic but modern operator and it has already started the move away from the traditional bar tabac outlets of the past towards newer and more varied retail points (newsagents, newspaper kiosks, petrol stations and PMU City betting outlets across the major French cities, etc).

These changes are being enacted to reflect 'the profound mutations that have taken place across retail points' in developed economies over recent years explained Philippe Germond, as PMU seeks 'to anticipate the interests of its consumers so as to optimise the user experience, in particular those of the younger members of the population, who have very different expectations and see those products very differently from the seniors'.

France is in a bad way economically and the mood in the country is not a happy one at the moment. French President Francois Hollande needs to get growth going and cut unemployment in 2013, two issues that impact directly on PMU’s bottom line, at the same time putting to rest the counter-cyclical argument that gambling is immune to economic recession.

But as the largest horseracing tote operator in Europe, PMU has been modern and open-minded in truly getting behind its online activities and with its PMU 2020 project is laying the groundwork for the next generation. Its contemporaries in other recently and soon-to-be-regulated markets should take heed.