Monmouth Park Becoming A U.S. Pioneer in Fixed-Odds Horse Wagering

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Noted gaming lobbyist William Pascrell III, who attended Monmouth Park’s recent delayed season opening, was spotted in his “natural habitat” with a phone to his ear after correctly picking the winner of the first race.

“BP3,” as he is best known in the industry, noted a mixed bag as he spotted four gamblers in their 20s walking away from the ticket window.

“I heard them say that they couldn’t understand why they didn’t win on the 7-to-1 odds they bet the horse on, and only got 3-to-2 to win,” Pascrell III said Tuesday during a “virtual panel” as part of the SBC Digital Summit North America gaming industry event.

But starting with Saturday’s running of The Haskell card at the Oceanport racetrack, that issue can be addressed.

Fixed-odds racing — existing in a parallel universe to the traditional parimutuel figures on each race — will be an option for “punters,” as gamblers are called across the globe. That means that if you can find a wager offered at, for example, those 7-to-1 odds, you can lock it in immediately regardless of whether the price changes later.

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Putting horse racing in sync with sports betting

That is a convenience for any bettor — but especially “whales” whose massive bets on mere modest gambling interest otherwise can singlehandedly tilt the playing field against them.

With fixed odds, that big-time player may be able to bet at his full preferred number by finding multiple “opponents” at portions of that figure.

Pete Fornatele, who runs the In The Money LLC website, said that fixed odds are a natural expectation for many bettors who for two years in New Jersey have grown accustomed to traditional sports betting.

“I am fortunate to have an audience that I would call ‘horse racing young’ — something like 45% of my audience is under the age of 44,” Fornatele said. “Among younger people in particular, I do sense a hunger for another alternative. Recently we have had another spate of online hand-wringing — correct hand-wringing — over some of these late odds drops and other technology flaws that we see when it comes to [the traditional]tote bet.

“I feel as if it was tough enough, when horse racing was the only game in town, to explain these odds drops and the pricing that you don’t get what you pay for necessarily. In a world where everybody is so familiar with sports betting, that bug becomes a disaster.

“If you can’t enfranchise the people who are winning at your gambling game, you’re really doing a very poor job when it comes to marketing. By teaching people to win — and making them understand how to read the form and have some notion of what value is — this is a way to bring people in and make them fans for life.”

Fornatele added that horse racing “has failed to keep up with technology” — an issue solved by fixed odds wagering.

The participants in the SBC North America Digital Summit panel

Help from “Down Under”

It should be no surprise that Australian-based betting firm PointsBet will be offering fixed odds for Saturday’s Haskell card. Australia, with not even 10% of the population of the U.S., takes in more than twice as many horse racing wagers.

That dynamic has been fueled by millennials, BetMakers executive Dallas Baker told the SBC audience on Tuesday.

Martin Lycka of GVC Group said that fixed odds wagering not only does not cannibalize the parimutuel product, it provides the latter with an incentive to innovate, to the benefit of all.

“What you see on your mobile screen when you bet is what you win — that’s the winning ticket,” Lycka said.

BetMakers reached a deal with Monmouth Park in February that track operator Dennis Drazin said would “increase both the profile of Monmouth Park and horse racing in general.”

“The mechanics are easier to understand, the barrier to entry is lowered, and bookmakers can engage a different kind of demographic by broadening the market and introducing a younger generation to the sport,” said a spokesman for PointsBet, which announced its deal with BetMakers last week. “This is a potential first step in working to change how betting on horses is done in the U.S., and an attempt to revitalize a once thriving multi-billion dollar sector that has steadily declined.”

A 10-year deal with BetMakers envisions Monmouth Park as the launching pad for fixed race odds across the U.S., duplicating the gambling option available for the past decade in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Photo by Brad Penner / USA Today Sports

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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