Paddy Power Betfair wants to overhaul horse racing in the United States. The Irish bookmaker that joined forces with its former London rival earlier this year is leading the push towards an innovative betting method that is called “exchange wagering.”
Anyone who has ever traveled to a track in the US knows the betting options are rather limited.
Take a horse to win, place, show, or a combination of horses in a specific order, hand over your money and you’re done. Once the ticket is in hand, all you can do is sit back, or on the edge of your seat, and watch the race unfold.
Paddy Power Betfair thinks live in-race betting options should be offered, and odds should be available to bet on horses to lose. The format was pioneered by Betfair some 15 years ago and remains popular in the United Kingdom.
Exchange wagering entered New Jersey in April at Monmouth Park. Today, Paddy Power Betfair’s platform is at 21 tracks in the US including California’s Santa Anita Park, home of the Breeders’ Cup.
“Exchange wagering is an attractive prospect for consumers and . . . can bring new customers, increased engagement and new revenue to horse racing,” Betfair US CEO Kip Levin said in April.
Resistant to Change
Horse racing is on life support in the US, as many tracks have closed or are being kept afloat by accompanying casinos. Irish and UK bookies think their new style of wagering on the ponies is the solution to resurgence.
The US horse racing industry isn’t convinced.
The three tracks that host the Triple Crown each year, Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Belmont Park, don’t allow exchange betting.
“There are integrity issues,” Stronach Group President Mike Rogers told The New York Times last week. Rogers’ company is a track owner and operator.
Major professional sports organizations like the NFL and NBA have long opposed legalized sports gambling due to similar concerns. But those hard stances are easing, especially in the NBA where its commissioner recently came out in support of ending sports betting prohibition.
With the emergence of daily fantasy sports and casinos now spread throughout the country, many believe it’s time to welcome regulation and new betting formats. That extends from sports betting to bringing horse wagering into the modern technological 21st Century.
Dennis Drazin, president of Darby Development, which manages Monmouth Park in the Garden State, is one industry member who supports the Paddy Power Betfair system.
“We need to embrace technology for horse racing to attract new participants, new customers and new revenue streams,” Drazin said.
How It Works
Current pari-mutuel betting in the US requires bettors to risk money without knowing the final odds as they fluctuate based on activity. Exchange betting provides fixed odds that are locked at the time of the wager.
Bettors on the exchange can also create a line and place wagers with other users. The exchange takes a processing fee for each bet.
Midrace options are also available. If a player is holding a ticket for a horse to win and he’s running in second, he or she can sell the odds to another person who thinks a late charge will occur.
The unique system is certainly not how your grandfather bet on the fillies. And when it comes to trying to appeal to the millennial demographic, that’s a good thing.