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Sports betting will be what we make of it

The View

In May, the United States Supreme Court struck down an old federal law barring sports gambling in most locations in the country. Within days, the floodgates opened.

Monmouth Park in New Jersey, and Dover Downs in Delaware, soon had their sports books up and running. The Meadowlands and Tioga Downs announced plans to be operational as soon as possible. Announcements have continued to come out quickly, across the United States, and likely, pressure will rise in Canada to follow suit.

Betting on sports in 2018, around the world, and even in North America, is not completely new. But with the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the books, the proliferation of sports gambling is sure to grow quickly.

Horse racing, as the only sport that customers could wager legally on, for decades, continues to enter into new territory. There are two parts to the equation.

The first question is whether or not sports betting at racetracks will help support our sport, and benefit the industry? Tracks that have struggled to stay viable will point to sports betting as a way to keep the doors open and keep horse racing sustainable. The strength of the deals signed will determine whether or not, and to what extent, horse racing is a partner in the sports betting boom. This will play out over time, and I suspect racing will achieve some wins and losses from the deals negotiated.

But to expect an enormous boom from the changes taking place, is likely not wise. To put it into perspective, the 2018 Super Bowl, North America's biggest single wagering event, brought in $158.6 million of bets across the state of Nevada - where sports betting is legal. After all of the payouts were made, the total take on the game was only $1.17 million, or 0.7%. While this year's game may have been a poor outcome for the books, sports betting is not a slot machine, where takeouts are consistent and predictable year-after-year. Some game results provide a higher take than others, it just depends what team wins.

Now as states jump in, asking for fees and revenue percentages from the money brought in through sports wagering, you can quickly see how the amount left over in a partnership, may not be a game changer for horse racing.

The second question, a bigger one, asks how sports betting will affect interest and wagering in horse racing over the long term.

Horse race wagering and sports betting share numerous traits, and have the potential to share customers. This is where the racing industry has the potential for big wins, or losses.

If horse racing can tap into every customer who walks into a sports book looking to make a wager - taps him or her on the shoulder, and introduces them to betting the races, then the opportunity is enormous.

We can offer fixed-odds match bets on every race, attractive parlays across racing and sports, racing jackpots only available for sports bettors, draws for trips to big racing events, shares of racehorses, and aggressive promo pieces that drive sports bettors over to our product - while on site.

In the U.K., the professional dart circuit has become the #2 most-watched televised sport behind soccer. They have built that sport on partnerships with major sports betting firms, and creative wagering opportunities.

On the other hand, if the horse racing industry brings sports betting into our tracks, allowing the introduction to simply run its course, the results are predictable - and quite likely, negative. Televisions previously reserved for racing will instead show football and basketball, loyal customers will switch over, and fans will be lost, rather than gained.

As with many opportunities and threats, this one is what we make of it. And the challenge is upon us.

Darryl Kaplan
[email protected]

1 Comment

August 12, 2018 - 10:06 amI don't think sports betting

Mike Mobley SAID...

I don't think sports betting will affect horse racing betting at all. The takeout on a horse racing bet is usually 15%-25% or more. The takeout on sports bets is usually under 10%. If track owners want to entice sports betters to bet the horses, they need to offer strategic wagering opportunities with more favorable takeouts.

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