Bill Pascrell, III: The limitless potential of fixed-odds horse betting

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On August 5 of last year, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Bill A-4909 into law, authorising fixed-odds betting on horse racing in the Garden State.

To those unfamiliar with horse racing, this news represents a minor shift in betting procedures. To those familiar with fixed-odds betting, however, the passage of A-4909 marked a transformative moment in American horse racing.

With the passage of this bill, New Jersey became the first state in the country to legalise fixed-odds horse betting, additional proof positioning NJ as a leader in the American gambling industry.

What is fixed-odds betting?

The United States largely utilises a “pari-mutuel” system for horse betting since 1927. The term, which originated in France, translates to “to wager amongst ourselves,” and it’s quite fitting: under a pari-mutuel system, gamblers place bets against each other and pay a small fee to the race track for handling the bets.

The most important component of this system, however, is that the odds are not finalised until after all pre-start bets have been tallied. As such, larger players are able to dominate the movement of odds in a given market, which can result in late odds fluctuations.

Fixed-odds horse betting, meanwhile, allows bettors to place a wager on a horse at a set price, alleviating concerns that the odds may fluctuate before the race. This system also places a bettor’s wager against the track or bookmaker, rather than another bettor. 

Fixed-odds betting is tremendously beneficial to the sport of horse racing. It helps everyday gamblers to place secure bets at a fixed price; it simplifies the betting process; it introduces an innovative product to horse racing; and a fixed-odds bet on horse racing is classified under NJ law as a horse bet, not a sports bet, so it isn’t taxed.

These factors make the act of horse betting much more enticing for gamblers, which unlocks new revenue that ultimately flows back to stakeholders, while growing an exciting sport. 

The state of horse betting in New Jersey

Fixed-odds in New Jersey are available online through BetMakers Technology Group, the only managed trading services company offering a fixed-odds platform licensed to serve the state. In this role, BetMakers devises odds, manages risk, and secures deals with horsemen’s associations and tracks to offer fixed-odds on their cards.

The group, through the stellar Leadership of their CEO Todd Buckingham and their SVP for international operations Dallas Baker, also has a fixed-odds management and distribution agreement with Monmouth Park, New Jersey’s only thoroughbred racetrack, and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. 

Fixed-odds horse betting is launching in the Garden State thanks in great part to Dennis Drazin, president of Darby Development, Monmouth Park’s track operator. Mr. Drazin executed a unique, first of its kind agreement between the track, the Thoroughbred Horsemen and BetMakers, starting with exclusively on-track betting.

All relevant stakeholders will benefit from this fixed-odds offering i.e. the track, The Horsemen and the betting operators who love the additional content. Bettors’ options also include online fixed-odds betting with the state’s sportsbook operators now able to take fixed-odds horse bets.

A model for the country

New Jersey’s rollout of fixed-odds horse betting serves as a model for the rest of the US. This past March, the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission approved a change to the state’s sports betting rules, allowing for an 18-month trial of fixed-odds wagering on horse and greyhound racing. Colorado and New Jersey are currently the only states to allow fixed-odds horse betting as a legal alternative to the standard pari-mutuel model. 

Looking ahead 

With the introduction of fixed-odds horse racing, the future of horse racing in the US is bright, and it has limitless potential. It is far more consumer friendly and will attract younger punters more familiar with sports betting type wagers, giving the industry a much needed shot in the arm for the future.

Fixed-odds betting represents the most exciting and transformative change to horse racing in the last 50 years. We are witnessing tremendous innovation in the sport with Entain’s recent launch of a world-first, virtual reality horse racing experience in the UK. Horse racing continues to grow in popularity, largely through the industry’s embracement and promotion of fixed-odds betting. 

Perhaps most importantly, bettors around the world are slowly but surely finding themselves with new and exciting means of recreation—and we’re only getting started. It’s my hope that elected officials, regulators, industry leaders, and bettors choose to support fixed-odds horse betting in the months and years to come, as a means of promoting organisation, efficiency, profitability, and fun for all involved.  

William J. Pascrell III, or BP3, is a partner at Princeton Public Affairs Group, an internationally recognised gambling expert, a Trustee for Entain Foundation US, and a strategic adviser and lobbyist for BetMakers Technology Group. The Entain Foundation US is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to promoting responsible gambling, sports integrity and corporate compliance in the US. The organisation, led by BP3, gambling regulatory affairs expert Martin Lycka, and former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer, sponsors a variety of information and education programmes on problem gambling for professional athletes, collegiate athletes, coaches and teams at 40 US colleges and universities and several associated leagues.

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