Chester Racecourse

Chester Racecourse Increases Access Efficiency via RFID

Chester Racecourse Implements Mobile E-Ticketing and Access Control Solution

Chester Racecourse

Founded in 1539, Chester Racecourse in northern England is the oldest racecourse in the world. Around 25,000 people visit the racecourse on each of the 15 race days each year.

The Chester Race Company is responsible for the operation of the racecourse. This includes the racecourse's admission and access control, security management and catering services. The Smart Event Solution and a Mobile Access Control System from HID Global are used for event management.

Chester Racecourse consistently pushes boundaries

Chester Racecourse in northern England is the oldest racecourse in the world.


An average of 25,000 people visit Chester Racecourse each race day. The event site is divided into seven enclosures with 11 visitor entrances. The vast majority of visitors make their way to the entrance just minutes before the first race. The admission tickets of thousands of people have to be checked within a very short time.

The Chester Race Company initially used physical tickets and turnstiles. There were four turnstiles per entrance. Each entrance ticket had to be controlled individually. Regardless of the number of visitors, the speed of admission control could not be adjusted. The result: long queues and waiting times reduced customer satisfaction.

Since 2021, the Chester Race Company has relied on a mobile e-ticketing and access control solution with RFID. Using a universal system, access for customers and staff is managed.

IOT Technologies in Access Control

Mobile access control is part of the Chester Race Company's digitization strategy. The objective is intelligent event management. This includes access control for visitors and employees, security management and on-site catering. These processes are to be optimized on the basis of event data. The aim is to increase customer and employee satisfaction and security, and to prevent ticket fraud.

The Chester Race Company operates a total of three racecourses

The Chester Race Company operates a total of three racecourses in Chester (England), Bangor-on-Dee (Wales) and Musselburgh (Scotland). The Smart Event Solution was first tested in Chester.

Admission to the eleven enclosures must be fast and efficient

Restaurants on the event grounds of the Chester Racecourse create an inviting atmosphere for guests. The visitors enter the racing enclosures only minutes before the start of the race. Admission to the eleven enclosures must be fast and efficient.

Together with partner HID Global, an intelligent event management solution was developed for Chester Racecourse. The main component is a digital event management platform. Smart tickets, access control, event apps and on-site services are managed through the platform.

Chester Race Company is able to collect and manage event data in real time. Based on this data, customer interaction and experience is improved before, during and after Chester Racecourse events.

Chester Racecourse

  • Founded in 1539
  • Oldest racecourse in the world
  • Horse racing 15 days a year
  • 25,000 visitors per race day
  • Mobile e-ticketing introduced in 2021
  • 260,000 sqm

Smart Event Management

Access control with RFID handhelds

The time required for access control is reduced to a few seconds with RFID handhelds.

Process information can be viewed in real time

Access authorizations, e-tickets and event services are managed on an event management platform. Process information can be viewed in real time.

15 race days each year

An average of 25,000 people visit Chester Racecourse on each of the 15 race days each year.

RFID handhelds with barcode scanners and cameras are used for access control at all enclosures of the Chester Racecourse. The rollout of the Smart Event Solution took place over a period of two months. The system was first tested with employees at a visitor entrance. Employees received e-tickets via the Chester Racecourse app. The tickets have a barcode and a QR code. The ticket is read at the entrance by means of an RFID handheld. The handhelds are equipped with both a scanner and a camera.

The code is verified by scanning or by photography. The two readout methods ensure functional access control if the scanning process is impeded due to sunlight or rain. In addition, the devices have an offline mode that allows access authorizations to be recorded and checked without an Internet connection.

After the test phase, the access control solution was deployed at all entrances. It is possible to operate six lanes at each entrance gate for admission control. Due to the simple handling, employees can be trained in the use of the RFID handhelds in just under twenty minutes. Furthermore, the handhelds are used to monitor RFID-enabled employee badges at staff entrances.

Tickets can be personalized for each customer. After purchase, the ticket can be transferred to an e-wallet or the proprietary app of the Chester Racecourse, or is printed out by the customer. RFID tickets are sent via mail. During admission, registration and verification of group tickets is possible with a single scan. Admission speed is increased. After entering the venue, customers gain access to different enclosures of the Chester Racecourse depending on the ticket type. The app allows the redemption of coupons as well as cashless payments for catering and betting services on site.

The Smart Event Solution combines access management, e-tickets and event apps in an event management cloud. Redeemed tickets can be matched with ticket sales. At peak times, staff can be deployed in advance at specific entrances. Additionally, groups of customers can combine e-tickets. Only one scan is needed for multiple people. Long waiting times are prevented. Customer satisfaction increases.

An access attempt with a ticket that has already been redeemed generates a warning. The personalized e-tickets also prevent resale to third parties. The possibility of ticket fraud is eliminated. Following the successful rollout at Chester Racecourse the solution has been deployed at another racecourse in Wales.


A Digital Fulfillment Model for Customers and Staff

Manusr Akhtar and Kevin Dixon explain why digital access control solutions have now become a must-have rather than a nice-to-have for high quality venues.

On the left: Mansur Akhtar, Head of IT, Chester Racecourse
On the right: Kevin Dixon, Sales Manager, HID Global

Mansur Akhtar: Chester Racecourse occupies 260,000 sqm of land and is divided into 7 enclosures with a total of 11 gates. An average of 25,000 people enter the racecourse on a race day. The problem: Due to the racecourse’s proximity to the city center, a vast majority of visitors arrive just minutes before the start of the race. This means that we face a huge influx of people at all of our gates and turnstiles at around the same time. We required a digital gate entry system that was both efficient and allowed fast entry.

Kevin Dixon: Customer behavior has changed. Compared to five years ago, digital solutions for access control and customer engagement have now become a must-have rather than a nice-to-have – especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has become critical to monitor who has entered the venue, and where they have been. Nowadays, it’s not a matter of convincing people to implement a solution, but rather fitting the solution according to their needs. What can the system do? Is beacon tracking possible? How can we track assets and staff? Can we have digital tickets? Can we put the ticket into an app? Can we put the ticket in the Google or Apple Wallet? These are the hot topics in this industry for the next two years.

Akhtar: We started trials in Chester, in England before expanding deployment to our racecourse in northern Wales. The deployment started from one to two gates, and then expanded to two enclosures. With the feedback from the entry operatives, we were able to compare devices and slowly develop and set up the solution for live gate testing.

The goal was to increase both the speed and efficiency of entry into the racecourse at all gates. Reducing the maximum number of tickets on a mobile phone app to four meant that a group of eight people could enter the premises with just two mobile phones with four tickets, as opposed to having to scan eight individual tickets. This resulted in a 60% reduction in time for ticket scanning.

The app was initially tested with our members of staff who were given receivers and an RFID card on lanyards. This way, the location of each staff member was transparent at any given time. Knowing which appropriate staff is closest to a respective issue, reduces the time needed to find the staff member, and the waiting time to fix the issue.

Dixon: We were able to integrate the solution into the previous ticketing system of Chester Racecourse. The propriety app provided was re-branded and put in the Google Store for Chester Racecourse.

Akhtar: There are four key advantages to this solution. The first is the offline capabilities of the handheld readers. Given that there are gates situated all around the racecourse, we are not able to provide Wi-Fi at certain areas. Having an offline copy of the database on the reader allows us to scan and verify tickets even without WiFi connectivity.

The second involves customer and staff comfort. Now that the ticket is obtained via the smartphone app, customers no longer have to worry about losing or forgetting their tickets. For staff, the solution is straightforward and easy to understand. Training sessions to use the hardware can be done in just under 20 minutes prior to the start of the event. Previously, a training session was required two days prior to the event.

The third is the data benefits of the solution. Having complete visibility of the customer base, gate entry locations, flow rate, crowd numbers, breakdown of customer behavior, ticket or enclosure type, which gates customers prefer to enter and at what time is a huge advantage. These insights are key to planning for future years. With more customer data, which is collected via the app, we are now also able to send surveys at the end of race days to all visitors. This also enables better customer engagement.

Dixon: The fourth involves the flexibility of the solution. With the handhelds, you can assign more stewards to gates that are busier. If gate three has longer queues compared to gate four, you can deploy two to three handhelds from gate four to gate three within minutes.

Akhtar: We required a mobile solution that was front and center, rather than an afterthought. Although we did look at a number of solutions, HID Global impressed the most with their solution of handheld devices and backend dashboards. It was particularly appealing that we could see exactly who is entering, when and where they are entering from.

Dixon: One of the strengths at HID Global is the close cooperation we have with our customers. For each project, we sit down with our customers, work with them, see what they need, not only now, but for the next few years and develop a customized roadmap for them. It’s possible to start small. For Chester Racecourse, we started with a small number of handhelds, scanning tickets into the venue and then building on the modules. We then increased the number of handhelds, bound the ticket to the app and then talked about accreditation.

Akhtar: The next steps for us are to expand deployment in our racecourse in Scotland, to improve the safety and welfare of our staff, and to implement a monitoring system for our staff. We have around 1200 members of staff working on any given race day in 4-5 divisions. To ensure that staff are only allowed access to equipment that is necessary for their role for safety and security purposes, information on the staff member should be scanned at the point of entry, followed by an inspection of belongings and verification of credentials and location of work. We need to know who is on-site and why they are there. The rollout for this will take place with our 3rd party agencies.

We also plan to look into the tracking of high-value physical assets. Technical equipment like laptops, projectors, but also racecourse equipment like tractors, buggies and other mechanical objects should also be tracked on-site.

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