The possibility of NJ sports betting could push horse racing in the state toward online casinos

Are NJ Online Casinos A Missed Opportunity For State’s Racetracks?

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Tucked away in a new sports betting bill in New Jersey appears to be a roadmap for the state’s racetracks to offer online gambling.

GamblingCompliance‘s Chris Krafcik first noticed the provision.

The bill states:

“A racetrack permitholder that operates an online sports pool many not offer any other game or type of wagering online other than a sports pool or wagering on horse races, except that the racetrack permitholder may do so pursuant to an agreement approved by the division with a casino that holds an Internet gaming permit that allows such additional online wagering.”

This seems like a big deal, but as Chris Grove noted, racetracks can already do this under the status quo. There’s nothing currently preventing a New Jersey racetrack from partnering with an Atlantic City casino and launching a branded online gambling website.

Whether the new bill would make it easier for racetracks to do this is an interesting question. But the real question is why haven’t New Jersey’s racetracks followed the lead of out-of-state operators like Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino and partnered with an Atlantic City casino to launch an online casino?

Peas and carrots, or apples and oranges?

There’s not a lot of historical crossover between online casino and horse racing customer bases. Yet on the surface, live racing and online gambling seem like they could be a match made in heaven.

There’s a lot of downtime in between races. That’s downtime that could be spent playing online slots, or, depending on who Monmouth Park partners with, virtual sports betting, including virtual horse racing — a product that will definitely appeal to racing’s existing customer base.

Furthermore, if the state allows tracks to offer sports betting, particularly online sports betting, online casino games would act as a complementary product. This could create numerous cross-selling opportunities among sports, horses and casino games.

Making the case for tracks going online

With the horse racing industry in a decades-long decline, racetracks are constantly in search of three things:

  • New revenue
  • Increased foot traffic
  • Younger customers

Online gambling lights the path to all three. And one would think that the local brand recognition coupled with a substantial database of customers would make a racetrack like New Jersey’s Monmouth Park a pretty successful online casino skin. That would benefit Monmouth and its hypothetical Atlantic City partner.

Money, money, money

As it has for Atlantic City’s casinos, online gaming would provide a racetrack with an additive revenue stream.

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More visitors

By rewarding online play with perks at the racetrack, Monmouth Park could draw players who have never set foot in a racing facility. It could do that with free wagers, box seats or food and beverage vouchers.

This might also entice current customers to increase their spend by playing online (at the track or when they return home) in order to earn these same perks.

Monmouth could also get really creative. It could offer exclusive perks for online play. Or it could make the transition from casino to horse racing smoother by hosting a weekly/monthly primer covering the different horse racing wagers and how pari-mutuel betting works.

New blood

Online gambling has helped Atlantic City’s casinos uncover new, younger customers. If any sector of gaming could use such an infusion, it’s racing.

Online gaming could lead to a bigger prize

Online gambling could also help New Jersey racetracks achieve their ultimate goal: casino gambling.

Tracks offering online casino games could serve as a normalization mechanism that eventually leads to land-based casino gaming at Monmouth Park and the state’s other racetracks.

After all, if they can offer it online, why not at their facility?

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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