In the world of betting, players are always looking to follow the action. Whether it’s on a football field, a pitching mound, or even a racetrack, bettors will always find new ways to bet on a game. Which is why there is something called historic racing popping up at racetracks all over the country. Historic racing, also known as Instant Racing, is the act of betting on races that have already taken place.
Betting can be done at terminals, which are similar in size and shape to slot machines or individual betting terminals. Players will deposit funds into the terminal, and then a race will be randomly selected from a video library containing tens of thousands of races. You don’t get told which race you’re betting on, only that it is an American Thoroughbred competition. To make it a game of skill, you will be given information like the location, date, and time of the race. The horses and jockey’s identities are also hidden.
To counter this, bettors will also be provided with statistics on the horses, like past performances and the trainer’s winning percentage. Players will then be able to bet on the race in a traditional pari-mutuel style. You can pick a winner, name a trifecta, or what have you. Once your wagers are deposited into the machine and your bets are placed, the machine will show a replay of the race. If you win, you’re paid out from a pool of previously collected bets.
While betting kind of blindly on a race that’s already taken place may seem hokey, experts estimated that over $1.1 billion has been wagered on “historical racing” in the US just last year alone. It actually saved horse racing in the state of Arkansas, while bringing in quite a bit of revenue at racetracks in Kentucky, Wyoming, and Oregon, as well. Averaged out, that’s about $275 million per state in extra revenue.
That giant boost in economic growth is a big reason why New Jersey is attempting to bring it to their racetracks. NJ has had a severe drop in revenue at their racetracks, due in large part to the lack of casino gambling at the tracks and the draw of larger purses at tracks in neighboring states. Ralph Caputo, an Assemblyman from northern New Jersey, said “the state needs revenue, the horse racing industry needs revenue. We’re very interested in any concept that will help.”
While many agree with Caputo, others are voicing their concerns, wondering if this sort of betting constitutes gaming at horse racing tracks, which is prohibited by state law. Proponents of historical racing quote industry reps, though, stating that it is a game of skill, not chance, much like pari-mutuel wagering. The ability to check a horse’s stats before the game, regardless of knowing his identity, is what really cements it as a form of legal betting at horse racing tracks, according to these reps.
Louis Cella, one of the track owners at Oaklawn in Arkansas, is urging state officials to add historic racing to their tracks. The terminals added to the historic track in Arkansas brought in hundreds of millions to a floundering business, allowing track owners to offer larger prizes and create more of a draw for bettors. When asked, Cella said “They’d be crazy not to [add instant racing]. Every racetrack that doesn’t have an alternative revenue source is going to fail.”
New Jersey’s racetracks lost their alternative revenue source in 2011 when Governor Chris Christie allowed casinos to end the nearly $30 million in annual subsidies sent to racetracks to make up for their lack of slot machines. So now, New Jersey racetracks are not allowed to offer slot machines because it might draw business away from the casinos in Atlantic City, but those casinos don’t have to offer assistance like they used to, which is killing the already dying horse racing business in NJ.
It also doesn’t help that those casinos are floundering financially, as well. The state of gambling in New Jersey has been taking hit after hit for years. And with the acting Solicitor General’s recommendation that SCOTUS throw out their sports betting case, Instant Racing might be exactly what the sports betting in New Jersey needs to get back on its feet.