A bill expanding and legalizing fixed-odds wagering on New Jersey horse races emerged from committees in that state’s senate – a little more than a week after being introduced in New Jersey’s state legislature.

Tote board-Fixed Odds
North American horseplayers currently bet using the pari-mutuel system, which pays out based on money wagered in a common pool — with fluctuating odds. New Jersey may be the first US state allowing fixed-odds wagering on horse races. (Image: Ryan Denver/Equi-Photo)

The bill, allowing permanent fixed odds on races, enjoys bipartisan support in the state legislature. The New Jersey Senate’s Budget and Appropriations Committee unanimously approved State Sen. Vin Gopal’s bill on Monday. Gopal, a Democrat, represents the home district of Monmouth Park.

A similar bill emerged from the New Jersey Assembly, sponsored by Representatives Ralph Caputo and Ronald Dancer. Caputo is the chair of the state assembly’s Gaming Committee, while Dancer is the Deputy Republican Leader in the state assembly. Should the bill pass both houses, it would land on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk for an expected signature.

Should Murphy sign the bill, it will institute fixed odds at New Jersey’s racetracks in time for the 2021 Monmouth Park meet. The state offered fixed-odds wagering in the past, with Betfair handling those wagers. After four-plus years, the company discontinued the practice in September, due to low handles. Those low handles were largely a result of Betfair failing to reach agreements with most of the state’s major tracks.

Fixed-Odds Wagering Huge Down Under

With that, Darby Development, the owner and operator of Monmouth Park, brought in Australian company, BetMakers, to re-institute and expand fixed-odds wagering. Darby Development and BetMakers announced a 10-year agreement in February, where BetMakers manages a fixed-odds betting market on Monmouth’s races.

Fixed-odds wagering differs from the vastly more common pari-mutuel wagering employed at North American racetracks. It is popular in Australia, where it is credited with doubling the betting handle in that horseracing-mad country. Since 2012, fixed-odds wagering created a 24% purse boost in Australian races in a country wagering $25 billion annually.

Its popularity stems from rectifying an endemic problem to pari-mutuel wagering that infuriates horseplayers of all bankrolls. That being the sudden odds plunges that can occur after the starting gates open.

Every Horseplayer Knows What He’s Talking About

“As a racetrack operator who talks to people, talks to our customers, one of the biggest complaints I get is when someone says they bet a horse at 8/5 and, by the time they broke out of the gate and went a little bit, the horse was 3/5,” Darby Development Chairman and CEO Dennis Drazin told Thoroughbred Daily News. “They think something has to be wrong with this picture. This way, the bettor will have clarity on what the odds are, and they’re not going to change. It will result in better satisfaction for the person making the wager.”

BetMakers officials said they haven’t decided on a fixed-odds wagering takeout, but the company’s head of international operations, Dallas Baker, said it “will be pretty similar to what you see with the tote, or maybe a little more competitive.”

As of now, the bill covers only New Jersey tracks and the state’s residents only. Drazin said BetMakers is seeking expansion outside New Jersey. That, however, brings the Interstate Horseracing Act into the picture, and would require consent from racetrack operators in those states.

Other States, Canadian Provinces, Ready for Fixed-Odds

BetMakers currently has agreements with eight other tracks in the US and Canada, including Lone Star Park in Texas, Emerald Downs in Washington, Colonial Downs in Virginia, and Assiniboia in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. All of these states/provinces require regulatory approval before fixed-odds betting begins.

“We believe that US horse racing has the potential to be the largest betting sport in the US, including Basketball, American Football, and Baseball,” BetMakers CEO Todd Buckingham said in a press release. “There is a real opportunity for the US horse racing market to grow like it has in Australia, which has seen prize money levels double over the past 7-10 years based on a funding model that is equitable to all participants.”