JC / Railbird


Boom, Sports Betting Is Here

Anticipated as it was, Monday’s Supreme Court ruling killing the sports betting ban rocked a lot of players across the gaming industry. I wrote something for SB Nation about horse racing and its flashy new legal competition.

If you’re looking for something else to read, I have recommendations — check out the links below for some of the more interesting/informative things I’ve clicked this week about sports betting, racing’s reactions to the ruling, what might happen next in Massachusetts, and opportunities for sports media.


Supreme Court ruling opens door for legalized sports betting

“This decision will have immense implications for the entire sports industry, including the technology sector that will power most of the wagering — and be responsible for preserving the integrity of games.”

Winners, losers of sports betting legalization

The winners: New Jersey, team owners, sports data companies, gambling companies, racetracks, app makers, the betting public, Twitter.

The future of U.S. sports gambling might look like an evening I spent on an English main street

“I already knew Britons tend to bet only while breathing, and that they bet colorfully and comprehensively — and that’s just on golf. I just had never seen a real soccer gambling sheet until Wednesday night, when I set about trying to feel the American future. I entered a William Hill, saw some roulette machines and found a rack of soccer sheets, voluminous and intimidating, pages and pages with wee print on the FA Cup final of May 19 (Manchester United vs. Chelsea), the European Champions League final of May 26 (Liverpool vs. Real Madrid), the World Cup coming in June, and who would score goals, and how many, and when. An entire page concerned halftimes. One could bet on such minutiae as whether a match would have a red card.”

The Supreme Court’s sports gambling decision won’t ruin sports because any damage is already done

“As for a dystopian future of sports watching, that probably shouldn’t bother anyone, either: That future is already here. Professional sports teams have been catering towards in-stadium fan experience for years, as opposed to building stadiums or arenas that can stuff in the most people possible to watch a game.”

Here’s how NFL will embrace and cash in on sports gambling

“Monday’s decision will offer plenty. Not just through a traditional cut of gambling profits, which is sure to be sought by the NFL. There will be other streams of cash, too. Whether it’s through higher television ratings from coast to coast, new waves of advertising partners, or more complex and lucrative deals with media partners, the equation laid out is fairly simple. A wider national gambling platform means more eyeballs. More eyeballs means more customers. And more customers means the same thing it has always meant: A bloated cash register.”

The Supreme Court made it easier for more people to place bad bets

“Casinos kept just 2.81 percent of the sports wagers they handled in 1992. But over the next 15 years, casinos set the betting lines in a way to entice lower-information bettors,3 and their win rates soared well above the standard service-fee rate, peaking at a whopping 7.89 percent in 2006. Casinos are still winning in the 4- to 5-percent range over the past decade, with the house taking 5.11 percent of all wagers in 2017.”


Supreme Court opens door for added sports gambling

“On Monday the National Thoroughbred Racing Association said horse racing needs to be prepared for both new opportunities and new competition.”

Euphoria, uncertainty for racing as sports betting era dawns

“The landmark May 14 ruling is generally viewed as favorable within the U.S. horse racing industry because racetracks–at least at first–are viewed as likely to land some of the initial sports betting licenses under the logic that they are already regulated entities set up for the purpose of taking bets. In some states, legislation is already being crafted that will give racing interests a cut of the revenue from sports betting, similar to the way some casino gaming subsidizes purses. But the initial rush of euphoria within the Thoroughbred industry must be tempered by the daunting reality that numerous other non-racing entities will also want in on the lucrative action.”

Can legalized sports betting boost horse racing?

“If you look at other markets where [horse] racing is growing — and I think Australia is probably the best example — horse racing in Australia 10 years ago was in a multiyear decline,” [TVG CEO Kip] Levin said. “It was similar to the U.S. in that it was pari-mutuel only. And when online sports betting started to take off, you saw a shift.”

View from the eighth pole: Who wins from sports betting?

“We woke up in a different world today. Yesterday, outside of the state of Nevada, the only legal ‘sports’ betting in the United States was on horse racing. Today, or more realistically in the coming months and years, Americans will be able to bet on baseball, basketball, football and hockey, among other sports. They’ll be able to bet on the next pitch, the next touchdown. And this helps racing how exactly?”

Sports betting provides plenty of upside for racing

McKinsey & Company analysis: “While all forms of gaming ultimately compete for shares of the wagering wallet, we believe the cannibalization threat from legal sports betting is limited.”

Sports betting brings massive opportunity to horse racing

“Las Vegas-style sports wagering will offer a challenge for horse racing in all jurisdictions and it’s one that needs to be met aggressively and intelligently so that the sport can benefit from the billions of dollars that will be tossed into legal wagering pools in the years to come. It’s a time when horse racing cannot afford to passively watch from sidelines. It has to have a seat at the table when laws are enacted in the various states so that it can protect its interests and become a vital part of a new era in gambling, instead of finding itself overwhelmed by the new form of competition.”

Sports betting will likely not be a positive for horse racing

“Sports betting’s passage has not guaranteed even one dollar to horse racing.”

Horse-racing channel ready at gate for legal U.S. sports betting

Bloomberg piece about TVG from before the Supreme Court ruling.

Churchill Downs Inc.’s long road to New Jersey

“The anticipated start of New Jersey operations for CDI is first quarter 2019. It has been a long road to New Jersey for Churchill — at least six years.”

Could sports betting boost the action at horse racing tracks?

The view from Stronach (and California): “We would pursue [a sports book] at every one of our racetracks,” said Tim Ritvo.

California sports betting bill unlikely for November ballot

“The Supreme Court decision will be the subject of a closed-door meeting Wednesday involving representatives of racetracks, horsemen’s groups, and attorneys ‘to discuss what is in the best interest of racing,’ according to [CHRB chairman Chuck] Winner.”


Here’s what the sports gambling ruling means for Massachusetts

“Currently, Massachusetts lawmakers have not acted on a proposal to study sports betting, and it’s not clear whether any actions on the measure will come before this year’s session winds down. Until lawmakers act, we won’t know what the prospects are for legalization — including what the games would look like, where you could play, and what companies will be able to offer games here.”

Legal sports betting: Here’s how it could happen, and happen fast

“The local legal market could get pretty big. Massachusetts is home to rabid sports fans and top-tier teams, as well as two resort casinos expected to open this year and in 2019, and a slots parlor …”

All bets are on

“Those running the state’s new casino industry, shockingly, think their facilities are best suited to handle any sports wagering that comes online. But how can you look past the most experienced hands, asks Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer at largely moribund Suffolk Downs, which still does a healthy business in off-track bets. Suffolk Downs is already in ‘the legal betting business’ and would be ‘ready to go as soon as, if not ahead of, a lot of the other wagering businesses in the state,’ Tuttle said. Then there are the sports fantasy sites like DraftKings, which certainly don’t want to be left at the gate. In the spirit offered by Loveman, they are all ready to be of humble service.”

If it’s legalized in Massachusetts, sports betting could take many forms

Players vying for a piece: Sports teams, casino license holders, racetracks and simulcast parlors (Suffolk Downs), daily fantasy sports companies.

Making book on Beacon Hill

“I have spoken, in particular, with my Senate co-chair about an approach to how we might look at this and I’ve had conversations with the speaker as well,” [Representative Joseph] Wagner said. “It’s something we need to do a deep dive on and we need to do it expeditiously. Other states will move quickly on this and I think the challenge will be to be quick out of the gate in an effort to look at this in a comprehensive way, but not so quickly that we do something and don’t get it right.”

As others race ahead with sports betting, DeLeo blows the whistle

“I think there’s a couple of questions I think that really have to be decided beforehand. I think right off the bat you have the question of integrity,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said. “Secondly, also, is the issue of revenue. What’s going to happen in terms of the states around us, the other states in the country and whatnot.”

White paper on sports betting

The report issued by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in March 2018.


Congratulations, sports media: You just got a big business-model subsidy from the Supreme Court

“An awful lot of sports reporting is about to move from entertainment information — stuff you read because you enjoy it — to production information — stuff you read because you think it’ll help you make money. Whatever your thoughts on gambling — I tend to come down on the side that it’s a giant vacuum sucking money out of the wallets of middle- and working-class Americans, ruining a lot of lives in the process, but hey, that’s just me — the opportunity for sports journalism is clear.”

Sports betting could soon be legalized: Media companies can’t wait

“Media companies have heard versions of this before. But now several of them are optimistic that legalized gambling could be a thing, for real. And they are mulling ways to take advantage. As Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated talks to prospective buyers, for instance, it is telling them it could put betting advice and other info aimed at gamblers into a digital subscription package that could eventually generate a substantial minority of the title’s revenues … it’s easy to imagine a mobile prompt from Turner’s Bleacher Report that doesn’t just tell you that the Celtics-Sixers game has gotten interesting in the fourth quarter, but asks if you want to place a bet.”


Sports Betting and Bookmaking: An American History

Arne Lang’s history of sports betting in America thoroughly covers the state of play right up to 2015. “This excellent look at ‘America’s love/hate affair with sports gambling’ delivers fascinating insights,” said Publishers Weekly.

“Whole new, fun world”

First impressions of the Betfair New Jersey exchange wagering platform:

The one thing that is striking to me is that I’m more engaged in betting throughout the entire process of activity in a race when liquidity begins to show up. So when trades begin in a race, I’m keeping my eye on that activity throughout the entire process. Because this is fixed odds wagering, there are opportunities to “middle” out of positions and lock up small profits in these fluctuations, if that’s your thing. This is way different than waiting 30 minutes between races to see when the real late money comes in to react. The exchange allows you be engaged in a race at any time, real action *way* before the race. The other side of this is that you can just name your price well ahead of time and just leave it there to be matched.

The exchange opens on Tuesday. Disclosure — I’m freelancing with the agency handling marketing and public relations for the company’s U.S. exchange launch. But if you’re a New Jersey bettor and you’re interested in the platform, then reading this player’s post about his beta experience is worth your time.

5/16/16 Addendum: More early players’ impressions are linked here.

Increased Purses, Reduced Takeout

Citing the success of their September 5 program, Suffolk Downs announced the addition of a stakes race, purse increases for Mass-bred stakes, and promoted reduced takeout of 15% for all wagers on the October 3 card.

Saturday’s Suffolk Return

Live horse racing returns to Suffolk Downs this Saturday, the first of three days scheduled this fall at the East Boston track, with a 13-race card worth $507,500 in purses that drew 111 entries. One race is over hurdles, five are on turf, three are Massachusetts-bred stakes, and two are written for horses who started at least once at Suffolk Downs in 2014. First post is 12:30 PM ET.

Horses with local connections fill the fields — a full 77 starters are state-breds, ran at the track last year, or are owned or trained by familiar names, including Jay Bernardini and Bobby Raymond. Last year’s leading rider David Amiss is back, as is jockey Tammi Piermarini, who has 10 mounts, including for trainers Christophe Clement, Gary Contessa, and David Jacobson.

In the state-bred stakes: 2014 Rise Jim winner Victor Laszlo returns to defend his title, as does 2014 Isadorable winner Doublicious in that race. Plausible, winner of the 2014 Norman Hall, starts in the African Prince.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved on Thursday a reduction in Suffolk Downs’ takeout rates. All wagers on the October 3 and 31 cards — but not on this Saturday’s card — will be 15%, down from 19% on straight bets and 26% on exotics. Matt Hegarty raises the possibility that simulcasting sites may balk at the drop. “It’s certainly a concern,” Lou Raffeto told him:

… when asked whether simulcast sites will bite the bullet. “I think they will, because it’s in the best interests of the horseplayers. And really it’s not like we’re Saratoga or Del Mar, running all summer. It’s two days. It shouldn’t be a big deal.”

With luck, this little horseplayer-friendly experiment will goose some interest.

Buck Up

Shying from picking American Pharoah? Dick Jerardi understands (DRF+):

The near Triple Crown misses have collectively psyched us all out. I definitely include myself in that group.

When you see Smarty Jones run maybe the best race of his life and get beat, and you see Big Brown get eased, and you see California Chrome get stepped on at the start, get trapped on the rail and get beat, you would not be human if you did not at least consider the history that also includes Spectacular Bid getting a ridiculous ride, Silver Charm doing everything but win, and Real Quiet winning for all but the final stride.

For sure! But the Belmont Stakes has also been a great race for playing against the favorite in recent years. The last post-time favorite to win was Afleet Alex in 2005, and only short-priced Union Rags (the second favorite to 3-2 Dullahan) in 2012 disturbs the string of double-digits since:

Winning favorites are indicated by a gray background.

For that matter, Curlin in 2007 was the last favorite to finish second.

American Pharoah is 3-5 on the morning line for the Belmont Stakes, which drew a field of eight, and if the public sticks to its Triple Crown wagering ways, it’ll be as “incorrigibly optimistic” as ever about his chances.

Root for history, bet for cashing.

6/5/15 Addendum: More on playing against from Ted McClelland:

If you want to go for an even bigger payoff, spend $84 to box all the challengers in the exacta…. In Triple Crown attempts since 1987, when the exacta was introduced, that strategy would have cost $1,284 and returned $5,119 — a 299 percent return.

6/8/15 Update: American Pharoah’s win added to the chart above. He’s the first favorite to win since Afleet Alex. His win pay is the lowest this century. The betting public looks pretty smart this year.

The Right Side

So, here’s a feature idea I’ve been kicking around — an occasional series called “You’re Doing It Right,” calling out instances in horse racing of good work. For example, Woodbine choosing to replace its Polytrack surface with Tapeta, because it makes sense for their racing program and business goals. Or NYRA, for whatever it’s doing to deliver a sharp, never-buffering high-definition video feed of its races across its digital platforms. Or TimeformUS, for its upcoming faster and more responsive relaunch and the backend development involved in making that happen. (I got a peek; you’ll want to check it out.)

Or Kentucky Downs, which edged out Keeneland — the leader for six years running — in the 2015 edition of the Horseplayers Association track ratings by offering full fields and lower takout:

“… Kentucky Downs has definitely given horseplayers something to get excited about,” said HANA President Jeff Platt. “Despite the short meet, the ratings algorithm does not discriminate when it comes to value; Kentucky Downs has it and horseplayers have been responding.”

Complete rankings are in this month’s Horseplayers Association magazine (PDF). There’s also a terrific interview in it with Andrew Beyer about carryovers, jackpots, and the grind of the modern game, plus seven questions for several players and handicappers. (Including me. Thanks, HANA!)


The March edition of HANA’s monthly newsletter is now out, and it includes two great interviews, one with jockey Julien Leparoux, and the other with Dana Byerly talking about Horse Racing Data Sets, the site she launched last month for sharing data. I’m biased, but HRDS is swiftly becoming a good, useful resource — the most recent addition to the site is a spreadsheet from Brisnet containing 25 years of winning speed and class ratings, which I’ve just begun exploring for possible Kentucky Derby implications.

Somewhat related: TimeformUS posted their winning figures for the last five years of Triple Crown race preps. You can find Beyer speed figures for the same races since 2010 in the Derby prep schedule (the column labeled “BSF”).

HANA’s newsletter also includes a short primer on churn, which Lonnie Goldfeder recommends setting a goal for each day you play. Goldfeder’s latest column at Daily Racing Form is about staying sharp; it’s a reminder that wagering, like any discipline, requires a commitment to practice.

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