Career got you down? Do you love IT but think there has to
be more to your work life than fighting spam and spyware? Just to give you a peek
into what else is out there in your chosen profession, from time to time TechRepublic
will feature interviews with IT folks who work in some not-so-common industries,
and whose IT innovations creatively and directly affect the customer. If you
think you fall into that category or work for an industry “off the beaten
path,” drop us a line.

Speaking of the beaten path (and obviously, I’m not at all
above the corny segue), our first interview is with Senior Director of
Information Technology at Churchill Downs, Jay Rollins. , Churchill Downs is a premier
thoroughbred racetrack and home of the Kentucky Derby. The horse racing
industry has historically been slow to embrace technology but with increased
competition from other sports, gaming, and entertainment options, it has begun
to take advantage of digital-age innovations. Here’s what Jay Rollins had to
say to us about the technological innovations he’s overseen at Churchill.

TechRepublic: What
is the average day like for you?

Rollins: Most
days start with project status meetings involving the IT or CRM staff. We have
a lot of projects running simultaneously, so we try to stay on top of all the
challenges and opportunities that come out of those meetings. There are the
occasional fires associated with rollout of projects that take some time out of
the day, but most of my time is spent working closely with the CRM team, as
their projects are starting to come online.

TechRepublic: What
new technologies have you implemented in the last year as part of the track
renovation and how do you see them impacting your customer relationship

Rollins: We
recently implemented several new technologies at Churchill Downs that directly
impact how we communicate with our customers. The most visible technology to
our track patrons is our new BetPro service. With the help of our partners
OperaGlass Networks and United Tote, we were able to bring this integrated
wagering experience to our new $121 million facility. This Web portal-like
device allows our customers to wager on account, order food and beverage
service, watch multiple video feeds, order items from our online store, and
handicap races with advanced tools from the Daily Racing Form, Equibase and
PostTime Technologies. All this and much more is available to our patrons right
from their seats. No more waiting in lines at betting windows or concession
stands! What helped make this possible was the implementation of a Cisco
Managed Network that allows our various CRM, wagering, concession stand and
gift shop systems to exchange data in a high-speed and secure manner. This
allows the various integrations required to enable our BetPro units to work.
The infrastructure change also allows us to offer wireless Internet access and
Suite Internet access, similar to that of many mainstream hotels, for the first

TechRepublic: What
problems did you encounter when rolling out the new technologies?

Rollins: The main
issues revolved around infrastructure. We had a number of new initiatives we
wanted to roll out, but had limitations placed on us by the older and
non-standard infrastructure that we were dealing with. We addressed those
challenges quickly by outsourcing some of our infrastructure and by upgrading
our network and computing infrastructures. We’re still lagging a bit behind
where the business wants to go versus what we can deliver and support, but the
gap is much smaller than it was and is closing quickly.

TechRepublic: What’s
next on the list for new technological innovations at Churchill Downs?

Rollins: In the
next few weeks, we will be deploying a wireless wagering device and expanding
our wireless Internet access at the Churchill facility. Long-term, we are
standardizing our computing, network and telecommunications infrastructure at
all of our properties so we may offer similar services to our patrons there.
The CRM team will also be deploying new tools for our tracks to take advantage
of, including data analytics and campaign management from Epiphany, a new
centralized data warehouse, and several other technologies focused on growing
our business.