Betting On the Past: Instant, Historical Horse Racing Coming To NJ?

J.R. Duren Updated on June 13, 2017
historical horse racings bets NJ

As New Jersey racetracks struggle through tough economic times, track owners are considering fighting for instant racing. The slot-based racing game uses basic Racing Form-type data for players to bet on races that already took place.

The instant racing debate is nothing new, but it was an AP report by Wayne Parry earlier this month in U.S. News & World Report that brought the issue back into readers’ minds.

“It’s called historical racing,” Parry wrote. “The date and place of the pre-recorded races and the names of horses and jockeys remain secret until after the money is plunked down and the videotape starts. New Jersey, whose horse racing industry is struggling, is considering legalizing such betting. The wagers would offer horse tracks, which don’t have slot machines or other casino games, a new product and a potential lifeline.”

Instant racing has worked at other tracks

Also known as “historical racing,” instant racing has helped tracks across the country boost their revenue.

Parry referenced a track in Arkansas that brought in $400 million from 500 instant racing terminals during the 2005-06 fiscal year.

New Jersey track owners see this as an opportunity to revitalize their bottom line. One NJ track owner said the instant racing terminals give patrons something to do in the time between real races.

Proponents also argue that in historical racing, the races are skill-based. This sets them apart from normal slot games.

Each race includes data about the horses and jockeys. Therefore, bettors can make educated choices about which horses could finish first, second, or third.

The argument is similar to the one made about daily fantasy sports. In DFS, managers can use existing data and past performance to choose players who may play well in a given game.

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Not the first time instant racing has come up in New Jersey

New Jersey lawmakers should be familiar with instant racing. An instant racing bill was proposed in 2014 but failed.

A 2013 article from the Press of Atlantic City discussed the merits of instant racing and many of the sources in that article were used in Parry’s new article.

What’s interesting about the PoAC piece is that it alludes to one of the main arguments against instant racing: its similarity to slots could encroach on NJ casino slot revenue.

That said, former Atlantic City Mayor Jim Whelan commented he didn’t believe instant racing would hurt casino slot revenue.

Another argument against instant racing is that it would require complex regulation. This is because, while the object of betting is a series of real horse races, those races already happened.

While there is no current bill on the table, it’s interesting to point out that racetrack owners like Jeff Gural (who were hoping to see North Jersey casinos become a reality) may view instant racing as a method of back-dooring their way into bigger profits.

“As competition mounts on all borders, instant racing will help us to compete with our neighbors whose purses and breeding programs are enhanced by slots,” Gural was quoted as saying.

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