As new services such as soccer betting become available, the Jockey Club is counting on its information technology (IT) architecture to ensure its operations can expand quickly and without the need for a complete overhaul. Steve Beason, the club's executive director for information technology, said his department faced the formidable task of meeting the day-to-day IT needs of a large enterprise with applications ranging from catering and point of sales, to office automation and even laboratory information to support the club's veterinary services. At the same time, the department is being asked to leverage new technologies to provide new betting services to customers. These new services are becoming increasingly important, with channels such as internet betting, the club's customer input terminal, and specially developed personal digital assistant (PDA) applications growing increasingly popular. Mr Beason said growth in this type of customer use had led to more cashless betting as opposed to punters using the club's off-course betting centres, a trend the club wants to encourage. With operating costs of $4.9 million for every race during the 78 race meetings per season, the club is looking to technology to cut down on the costs associated with handling all that cash, such as hiring guards and armoured cars. The cashless betting strategy appears to be working, with growing acceptance among punters. Mr Beason said the trend started during the Sars outbreak, when people were reluctant to go to the track. This year, for the first time, more than half of the revenue came from non-cash betting. Although the club wanted fewer bets placed at off-course betting centres, Mr Beason said it had no plans to close any of the 115 centres. However, many of the mainly part-time staff are seeing their roles change. Instead of taking bets, staff are being retrained to help customers use cashless betting facilities within the centres. As well as providing information on the runners and riders, the centres also offer telephones to place bets through tele-betting accounts and sockets for punters to plug in Customer Input Terminals (CITs). Mr Beason said the club was also looking to license its technology to PDA makers to enable them to create add-on devices that would allow users to place a bet electronically. He said the club had previously worked with Handspring (now part of PalmOne) to develop a device with built-in betting facilities, but found the two-year life span of Handspring's products was too short for the club's customers. William Ho, the club's senior development manager for betting facilities, said: 'Our strategy is to leverage as many channels as possible to ensure we operate in a very efficient way.' Introducing these new channels and new products such as soccer betting, was fairly straightforward for the IT department because of the scalable nature of its infrastructure, Mr Ho said. Each different device connects to its own gateway via a firewall before connecting to specific gaming applications hosted on dedicated servers in the back office. Mr Ho said the architecture's next evolution would be to allow betting through interactive television and 3G devices.