It’s been a long and winding road, but on Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy finally signed into law a bill permitting fixed odds wagering on Monmouth Park thoroughbred races. The bill, which passed unanimously in the State Senate and Assembly in late June, clarifies the rules on odds that have been offered on occasion in the state since 2018.
“You just have to be patient with these things,” Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin told NJ Online Gambling. “This is really a step in the right direction.”
In parimutuel betting, a gambler could bet $100 on a horse at 10-to-1 only to see the odds dip to, say, 5-1 just the race begins. With fixed odds, that bettor would get paid off at the 10-1 price, regardless of whether the final parimutuel price was 5-1 or 15-1.
That puts betting on “the ponies” in line with the experience of sports bettors at the FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack, or at the Caesars (formerly William Hill) Sportsbook at Monmouth Park.
“The old system of parimutuel betting is antiquated, and this is one of the most exciting innovations in horse racing in many years,” prominent New Jersey lobbyist William Pascrell III told NJ Online Gambling.
Monmouth Park goes first
The bill was first introduced in November, but concerns raised by standardbred industry leaders induced the bill’s sponsors to wait and see if a deal could be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.
Ultimately, Drazin and his horsemen will go ahead with the betting via a deal struck with Australian firm BetMakers more than 18 months ago. Meadowlands Racetrack and Freehold Raceway bettors interested in fixed odds will have to wait a bit longer.
The concern among many horsemen is that the “takeout,” the amount held by the tracks from the amount wagered, tends to be lower for fixed odds than for parimutuel. In other words, if all of the current horseplayers simply switched over to fixed odds, that would cost the horsemen money.
But Pascrell noted that the typical horse bettor is at least 60 years old, whereas younger gamblers tend to be put off by parimutuel odds. The belief is that just as online casino gaming wound up benefiting the casinos by attracting a younger set of customers, fixed odds can do the same for horse racing. And if the older bettors prefer to keep their money in the parimutuel pools, that option’s not going anywhere.
Another New Jersey innovation in horse betting — exchange wagering, where gamblers can offer and accept bets from other horse players — mostly has fizzled in the past few years. But Pascrell said he expects BetMakers to market its product aggressively to bring awareness of the option to younger gamblers in particular.
Meanwhile, many of the largest sports betting operators — think FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, PointsBet, etc. — have expressed interest in fixed odds, Pascrell added. And those companies, too, are liable to offer betting incentives similar to ones provided to those who prefer to risk money on team sports.
Too late for a major push in 2021?
Regulators at the state Division of Gaming Enforcement are expected to review a set of “emergency regulations” next week, which would allow for fixed odds on Monmouth Park races well before the end of the track’s summer meet on Sept. 26.
But with The Haskell Stakes — the track’s premier race — having come and gone several weeks ago, and with the majority of the 2021 racing season in the books, Drazin conceded that there will be discussions about how big a deal should be made of implementing fixed odds down the stretch.
Of course, New Jersey’s step forward could mean that legislators and horsemen in other states take an interest in following suit — and Pascrell said there are at least a dozen such states where fixed odds are under some consideration.
BetMakers also will distribute fixed odds to interested racetracks across the U.S. and around the world. Drazin said it likely would take “three to five years” for the fixed odds industry to approach maturity.
Photo: Peter Ackerman/Imagn Content Services