A Pioneer Yet Again: NJ May Soon Launch Fixed-Odds Betting On Horse Races

New Jersey horsemen team up with Australian firm to prepare for new Monmouth Park odds system as soon as May 2.
horse racing
After a modest dip into the water last summer, New Jersey is soon expected to be the first state to go “off the deep end” on fixed-odds betting in horse racing and level the playing field for horse bettors to get the same sort of opportunities that more and more American sports bettors are getting.
The May 2 season opening for Monmouth Park also is the “goal date” for the rollout of fixed odds. During a seminar on gambling integrity at the Seton Hill law school, track operator Dennis Drazin told an audience that a number of logistical hurdles remain.
“But Governor [Phil] Murphy says he wants to place the first bet that day, so everybody is jumping through hoops to accommodate him,” Drazin said with a smile.
It was just last month that the state’s thoroughbred horsemen announced a partnership with Australian-based company BetMakers to have it deliver and manage fixed odds — a longtime gambling staple in Europe as well as Australia — for Monmouth Park races.
Australia’s remarkable lust for gambling of all sorts has BetMakers executive Dallas Baker dreaming big.
He told the Seton Hall students and some gaming industry executives that fixed-odds betting has doubled in his country in the last decade, and that the average Australian — every man, woman, and child, he said — bets about $1,000 per year on horse racing.
Baker calculated that the same figure for Americans comes out to just over $30 per person.

Fixed-odds betting: here’s the lure

Drazin is just as bullish with his estimate that “in five or 10 years, fixed-odds betting could account for 40 to 50% of the handle in this country.”
So what’s so great about fixed-odds betting?
Under the current pari-mutuel system, the problem for a big bettor is that his massive wager tilts the pool so dramatically that it can worsen his own odds. For instance, he might love a horse at the listed 5-1 a few minutes before a race.
But as soon as his bet is recorded, the board may drop the horse to 4-1 or even 3-1 because of his big play. That’s unappealing to wealthy speculators who have plenty of other ways to try to win.
The “railbird,” meanwhile, can get frustrated because he, too, loved the 5-1 shot. The difference is, he doesn’t know he has a well-heeled kindred spirit until sometimes just as the race starts and the odds change against him.
It’s a common occurrence, Baker said, because teams of experts who evaluate algorithms tend to wait as long as possible, with 80% of the wagering handle taking place in the last two to three minutes.
The opportunity for all bettors to closely watch the odds board, then pounce on the desired number, adds to the excitement, according to Baker.
“Finding and taking the right price almost becomes an event in itself,” Baker said.

NJ regulators are shown some love

Baker, who needled Australian regulators for their alleged slowness at times to cooperate on amending rules, called New Jersey regulators “a shining beacon” in the industry worldwide.
“Not only is it the the most effective [set of rules], but it’s also the easiest to navigate as well,” Baker told NJOnlineGambling.com. “It’s not easy because it’s a pushover, either — it’s also the most stringent.”
The fixed-odds “modest dip in the water” last summer featured DraftKings offering such wagering at the $1 million Haskell Invitational.
But with this partnership, fixed-odds is scheduled to be a staple of daily racing at Monmouth Park. The betting option eventually is slated to be distributed to interested racetracks across the U.S. and around the world.
The deal with BetMakers guarantees Monmouth Park $5 million in the first five years, and the state’s horsemen also would collect a sliver of the handle from tracks that become fixed-odds partners.
Many state lawmakers tend to “wait and see” how New Jersey fares with new gambling, from casinos in 1978 to online casino gaming in 2013 to sports betting in 2018.
“There is a fair bit of that,” Baker conceded. “But the most important thing we’ve got to do is get it right, and hopefully that does enable us to add more tracks soon. But we’re here for a long time.”
“We won’t have a full suite of bookmakers ready to go on May 2, but we’ll have a few,” added Baker, who said his company has contacted Meadowlands Racetrack officials about the betting.

Timing is everything

The advent of fixed-odds betting would be another “win” for the state’s thoroughbred horsemen, who in the past two years have added a $10 million annual state subsidy and sports betting as revenue enhancers.
But this week started poorly, as seven-time defending Monmouth Park Trainer of the Year Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis — whose Maximum Security won last summer’s Haskell — were arrested Monday and accused of being at the heart of a horse racing doping scheme that includes 25 other defendants in the industry.

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