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Thursday Thoughts: Sports Bettors Could Turn Into Horse Players

by Al Cimaglia

July 5, 2018

The Meadowlands will begin taking sports bets on July 14, the same day as the Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace. It will take a while to have a meaningful perspective as to whether legalized sports gambling will help or hurt horse racing. In my view sports betting at a race track can be more beneficial in growing the handle than having one-armed bandits in house or next door.

Although sports gambling represents a spit in the bucket compared to the action generated by slot machines, by its very nature it allows for a person to multi-task. If one of those "tasks" is betting on a race that can only help but increase the handle and grow the fan base. Slot machine gamblers have not proven to be anything more than one-armed bandit players. There hasn't been a rise in handle because of slot machines near a race track. Although revenue from slots does subsidize purses, its existence has not led to more horse racing fans.

Being able to bet on games inside a race track, as will be the case at the Meadowlands, can expose sports gamblers to horse racing. There appears to be a trend to create a sports bar atmosphere at race tracks. The Meadowlands has The Victory Sports Bar and Club where patrons can place bets on sports plus watch games and the races. Getting more people to the race track and having them stay for a longer time should be beneficial in growing the sport.

One key component to sports gambling which should help horse racing attract new blood is in-game betting, which is growing in popularity. A person could place a bet on a game before it starts and then hedge their bet after the contest begins. For example, if someone plays a 10-point underdog to win and they are up outright at halftime, a bet could be placed on the favored team to win the second half. This type of hedging can go on throughout a game and sometimes both bets can be profitable. By having more betting options, gamblers could stay at the track sports bar for the entire game. If so they may have the opportunity to bet on several races as well.

Slot machine players need to keep pushing buttons and feeding in money or tokens, as this type of gambling requires continual attention. The positive for horse racing is sports gambling allows a person to do something else while a game is going on and they are at the track. You can place a bet on a horse race while watching a game on a flat screen monitor. Both activities could happen at the same time and sports bettors could turn into horse players.

Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.