Sports Betting Will Bring More Customers to Racetracks
Last week’s Supreme Court decision ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 is unconstitutional. That federal law had banned sports betting in every state but Nevada and three others with limited wagering. The Supreme Court ruling paved the way to allow states to offer sports betting.
Track owners believe horse racing has an advantage since race tracks in many states will be among the first to allow sports gambling. Many race tracks already offer slot machines and table games, popularly known as racinos, in addition to betting on horses.
But horse racing must overcome stiff political opposition in two of the Triple Crown states, Kentucky and Maryland, to take advantage of the ruling.
Kentucky is capital of thoroughbred horses but has no casinos.
While both Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY and Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD had more than 135,000 fans in attendance for the recent race days featuring the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, it’s those kind of race days and events that keep interest in horse racing afloat. And with Justify winning both races, the chance at a rare Triple Crown winner in the Belmont Stakes June 9 will keep horse racing in the media spotlight for the next three weeks.
But horse racing is still looking for a boost, and sports betting may provide it through more wagering. The handle, the total of money wagered at tracks nationwide, has fallen from $15.18 billion in 2003 to just under $11 billion the past seven years. Industry website Equibase hasn’t tracked attendance since the mid-1990s, but it has been dropping. Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said the sport is “holding its own” financially through all of the betting platforms.
But horse racing still needs more immediate help.
Churchill Downs Inc. wasted little time taking a step on this new frontier. The company announced an agreement Wednesday with Golden Nugget Atlantic City to enter online gambling and sports betting in New Jersey.
“You’re now going to see casinos, if they don’t already have race and sports books, interested in putting those in,” Waldrop said. “The two are perfect compliments and we see them all over Las Vegas. Perhaps we’ll see them in commercial casinos, and that would be a boon for horse racing. Anytime we can expand our distribution platform is a good thing.”
Casino gambling is available in 40 states, with horse racing in 32 and 14 with racinos.
Many tracks have reduced races but have remained financially solid because slot machines and table games are more profitable.
New Jersey may get a jump on sports betting in the months ahead and some other states will soon follow. Many more options could be available by the fall for the start of football season and in early November for the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.
Mobile betting will also be implemented by states over time, and as more people are able to watch their favorite sports and wager on the events, they will crossover to horse racing. Those that are already at the race tracks and casino’s betting on sports will give horse racing a try and bet on a few races. Legal sports betting in the United Stakes is going to be a boost to horse racing. You can bet on it.