A Horse Is A Horse…NJ Lawmakers Unsure How To Classify Historical Race Betting

J.R. Duren Updated on June 26, 2017
horse shoe being applied

Last week, we wrote about the resurgence of historical racing, a horse-racing betting platform where gamblers place bets on races that have already happened. Bettors use Racing Form-esque data to inform them about a given race’s horses and jockeys.

Alongside talk that historical racing could be coming to New Jersey is a conversation about how exactly these slots would be treated based on the state’s constitution. These games have already proven successful for racetracks in other states.

Assemblyman Chris Brown said there is no confusion: Slots are gambling, and they aren’t allowed outside Atlantic City. Brown, a staunch opponent of New Jersey casino expansion, waxed poetic in an Asbury Park Press interview about the historical slots “controversy.”

“The question to me remains, is this an expansion of gambling?” Brown said. “Shakespeare said a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. A slot machine by any other name can do just as much damage to not only the region I come from, but throughout the state.”

The constitutional question for NJ gambling expansion

NJ’s constitution doesn’t allow new forms of gambling to hit the state’s casinos or racetracks without citizen approval via a statewide referendum.

“Referendum” carries bad connotations among those who want yes votes. The 2016 referendum to expand casinos to North Jersey received embarrassingly little support.

However, track owners and the state’s horsemen group argue that historical racing isn’t a new form of gambling. Racetrack betting already exists. And supporters argue their customers would be placing bets based on data about each horse and jockey, same as they would for a forthcoming race.

‘Skill-based’ not flying with gambling growth detractors

Those against expanding gambling beyond Atlantic City will be quick to point out historical racing is just another form of slot play. The game does provide data about horses and jockeys. But the game doesn’t force bettors to view that data; they can bet purely on chance.

It’s also likely some lawmakers will argue historical racing is just a backdoor way of racetracks creating gambling on their premises.

Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural was an outspoken supporter of the failed November referendum, and historical racing machines give him and and his fellow racetrack owners a way to soften that loss with slots-style income.

That said, Gural hasn’t given up hope on a new casino in North Jersey. He has gone so far as to guarantee one will be built in the future.

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