No looking back as Rodger hits the ground running

By Dennis Ryan

30 Aug 2023

No looking back as Rodger hits the ground runningIt’s been a whirlwind three months for Cameron Rodger since his appointment as Entain New Zealand

Cameron Rodger’s feet have hardly touched the ground since being appointed Managing Director of Entain New Zealand three months ago, but he has enjoyed every minute of his deeper dive into the racing industry.
Rodger was already no stranger to the unique racing world, having entered it in a professional capacity a decade ago after initially working as a barrister and solicitor in Auckland. His first role was commercial analyst and then legal counsel at the New Zealand Racing Board, the body that was forerunner to the combined NZ Racing Industry Board/TAB.
He then graduated to Head of Legal at TAB NZ and for the final year before the late May announcement of the joint venture between TAB NZ and the global Entain network, he was TAB NZ’s Chief Commercial Officer.
“During my time in corporate law I got to know what long hours meant, which prepared me up for what has followed in the years since working at the TAB and now Entain,” Rodger said when he sat down with RaceForm to reflect on his whirlwind past three months.
“It’s been full-on since my appointment, but it’s been a fantastic experience getting to know so much about the inner workings of Entain as well as the wider industry.”
Rodger was recruited by Entain Australia’s CEO Dean Shannon and his deputy Lachlan Fitt, and quickly came to realise how deeply immersed they are in racing itself.
“To anyone who has interacted with them thus far, it’s undeniable that Dean and Lach are racing mad. The part that many wouldn’t have seen firsthand yet is just how good they are at building a wagering business.
“With them at the helm of the strategic partnership we are very well served and for me and others we can’t wait for next year as it gathers momentum.
“The virtuous circle that we talk about – where everyone in the chain working together stands to benefit by what is being brought to that table – is already starting to ramp up.”
A month into the new season, racing’s table is being furnished in the most obvious way with significant stakes increases. The eight flat races at last Saturday’s Foxbridge Plate meeting at Te Rapa had total stakes of $410,000 versus $300,000 12 months ago, Sunday’s Matamata Industry meeting saw an eight-race increase from $112,000 to $148,000, while next week’s opening day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival will offer $1,030,000 against last year’s $830,000 across 10 races. That includes the Tarzino Trophy at the increased Group One minimum of $400,000.
Rodger offers some interesting insights to traditional aspects of the TAB along with pending developments aimed at a younger, untapped audience. “We recognise the need to support our retail outlets, where there’s a healthy culture of people socialising week in, week out, with betting being central to that activity. We should never forget what our traditional support base has to offer.
“On the other hand, there’s a new generation who don’t accept what we could call the number eight wire approach. Our job over the next six or seven months is to ensure that what we deliver in New Zealand is world class, a betting platform and wagering experience that is truly best in class.
“We are a patriotic nation, but we can’t rely on that to build our customer base. We need to couple that up with everything at our disposal, the primary focus to integrate the platform and overlay it with the technologies that have been unlocked and are now available to us through our strategic partnership.
“The Neds and Ladbrokes platforms give punters an insight into what can be expected here, but with our own brand – it’s going to be the biggest change-over that will meet the expectations of the next generation.”
While Rodger has been observing the massive amount of work taking place internally with the customer base, he has also been getting to know racing’s coalface.
“I knew a lot less about what makes the industry tick than I probably thought,” he admits. “To see the whole process at grass roots level, from the time a foal is born to everything that goes into developing a racehorse.
“It’s been fascinating to spend time at some of the big farms as well as talking to the smaller operators, and at the other end of the equation seeing what takes place at the training track. I just marvel at the stories that pop up when you’re talking to people – there are just so many of them and they all deserve telling.
“I’ve also developed a greater understanding of just how many people there are doing their bit to help make racing prosper. It’s important to get to understand that, to arrange our priorities and support what goes toward making a successful industry.
“That’s why Entain is alongside NZTR and its initiatives around mental health and the welfare of people who are part of the industry, and there’s also the work the codes are doing around animal welfare.”
On a personal level, Rodger feels privileged to be engaged in a key role at such a time of industry advancement.
“From the time I was given this chance there’s been no looking back. For someone who loves sport, racing and all, and loves wagering, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
“As well as the team led by Dean and Lach, I’m very fortunate to have people like Sam Moncur and Jess Meech helping lead the team here in New Zealand. They both fundamentally understand the game and have deep commercial acumen. I feel incredibly fortunate to have them by my side as we step through this journey.
“It’s also been so invigorating to get together with everyone in the organisation and bring them up to speed on our plans for the future, seeing how they’re all so engaged. There’s a real air of excitement across our broadcast team, at our sport and racing desk, all those who make it happen.”