New Jersey Finalizes Fixed-Odds Regulations

New way to wager on horse racing could be launched before year's end
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The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office recently adopted the state Division of Gaming Enforcement’s regulations for how New Jerseyans will be able to wager on horse races with “fixed odds.”

That means that after generations of parimutuel wagering that left gamblers on occasion betting a horse at, say, 5-1 minutes before the race, only to see late money piling in to knock the odds down as low as even money as the horses left the starting gate, bettors will know their odds as they make their bet. The shift will align betting on a horse race more closely with a wagering on other sports, the latter of which was not legal in the state until mid-2018.

“The regulations are pretty much what I expected,” Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin told NJ Online Gambling on Wednesday.

Horsemen nationwide have expressed concerns that fixed odds betting will cannibalize the parimutuel handle, which carries with it a higher “takeout” for the horsemen. But Drazin notes that fixed odds only come into play for win, place, and show betting, which only accounts for about one-third of the total amount wagered, due to the popularity of “exotic” wagers such as trifectas and Pick-6s.

Next steps for fixed odds

The timing of the finalization of the regulations was not ideal, as the Breeders’ Cup in California took place this past weekend. But Australia-based Betmakers — which would set the fixed odds — has been in negotiations with racetracks and horsemen across the U.S. for more than a year, so Drazin said it’s possible that, for example, New Jerseyans will be able to place a fixed-odds bet on a race taking place in New York “before the end of the year.”

The Cigar Mile, it should be noted, is scheduled for Dec. 4 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

BetMakers reportedly has fixed-odds deals in place with tracks such as Canterbury Park, Colonial Downs, Delaware Park, Emerald Downs, FanDuel Sportsbook & Horse Racing, Grants Pass Downs, Lone Star Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and Hawthorne. The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which once operated the Meadowlands Racetrack and Monmouth Park as well as the Meadowlands Sports Complex, must make a formal step of applying for a license to offer fixed odds, Drazin said.

Wait and see, for some NJ horsemen

The state’s harness racing industry, led by Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural, has expressed a preference to wait and see how their thoroughbred colleagues fare before adopting the new betting option. That means that the first in-state race featuring fixed odds may not come until next spring, when Monmouth Park resumes its warm-weather thoroughbred meet.

Will fixed odds catch on elsewhere? Drazin has been in touch with officials in Colorado who also are interested, but the same issue of whether to treat fixed odds as a “sports bet” or a “horse racing bet” is in play in that state as well.

Drazin noted that fixed-odds wagers in New Jersey will qualify as horse bets. While consumers likely will perceive a fixed-odds bet — where a patron walks away from the window with a ticket listing both the amount wagered and a specific payout listed — the same as a sports bet, horse wagering rules will apply. Thus, the minimum age for a fixed odds bet, as with other horse racing picks, is 18, while sports betting is limited to those age 21 and older.

The majority of U.S. tracks already offer fixed odds — but only to overseas gamblers, in countries where all sorts of betting has been allowed many years before Americans obtained some of the same options.

Other fine print in the regulations

One new twist is that, for fixed odds bettors, once they deposit a total of $2,500 into their account, they will have to formally acknowledge that they have “the capability to establish responsible gaming limits, or close his or her account,” and that they are aware of assistance available if needed via the 1-800-GAMBLER hotline.

A bettor who wins more than $10,000 on a race will have to provide their name and taxpayer ID number. And, as is standard, bettors cannot place wagers on credit.

Image: Shutterstock

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