Fixed-Odds Racing Bill Clears New Jersey Legislature, Awaits Governor’s Signature

By | June 22, 2021

Thanks to a pair of unanimous votes in the New Jersey Legislature Monday, fixed-odds horse racing is a signature away from becoming reality in the Garden State.

New Jersey fixed-odds racing
Chublicious holds off Postinio’s Vow to win a race at Monmouth Park in Oceanside, NJ on Friday. Track officials are hoping to soon offer fixed-odds wagering on races after lawmakers passed a bill Monday that sets up the regulatory structure for the wagering product. (Image: Monmouth Park)

The state Senate voted 40-0 to pass an amended version of the bill Assembly members passed 74-0-1 a month ago. After the Senate’s vote Monday, the Assembly voted 71-0 to concur with the changes and send the bill to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

Assembly Bill 4909, co-sponsored by Assemblymen Ralph Caputo (D-Belleville) and Ronald Dancer (R-Cream Ridge), would authorize the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, with input from the state’s Racing Commission, to set up the regulatory framework within 90 days of its effective date.

Lawmakers passed the bill with an emergency clause, meaning the bill would take effect immediately once Murphy signs it.

Proponents hope crafting the regulations won’t take that long. Last month, Dennis Drazin, the CEO of Monmouth Park operator Darby Development, said he wanted the regulations in place for the Oceanport track’s signature event – the Grade I Haskell Stakes, which is set for July 17.

Pari-Mutuel vs. Fixed Odds

Horse racing traditionally uses pari-mutuel wagering where odds are not set until the race begins. In some cases, bettors will pounce on a horse with attractive odds only to see those odds drop sharply, sometimes even after the race starts, as all the money from various betting outlets is reported.

With fixed odds, bettors would lock in on the odds of a horse at the time of the wager. Outside of Las Vegas, where some sportsbooks offer fixed odds for big events like the Kentucky Derby, New Jersey would be the first state to offer fixed odds at a large scale.

North Carolina, where sports betting is allowed at the state’s tribal casinos, also allows for some fixed-odds wagering.

BetMakers to Manage Wagering Product

In February 2020, Darby Development and the New Jersey signed an agreement with Australian-based BetMakers to manage a fixed-odds racing product for the state. In Australia, fixed-odds wagering has been credited with helping the sport grow in recent years.

Under the 10-year deal, BetMakers would secure arrangements with sportsbooks and other licensees to offer it to bettors in New Jersey.

In a statement after the votes, BetMakers CEO Todd Buckingham said the bill was hammered out through a “thorough and exhaustive” process with legislators and racing stakeholders.

We have done this with a view to setting the right legal and commercial framework for introducing fixed-odds betting into the US through New Jersey,” Buckingham said.

“We feel the support for fixed odds as a solution to facilitate growth in the horse racing industry in the U.S. gaining momentum throughout the industry.”

New Jersey Fixed-Odds Racing Bill Details

According to the bill, a person age 18 or older would need to physically be in New Jersey to establish a fixed-odds wagering account. An exception, though, would be for New Jersey residents who have a valid account but are in another location where fixed-odds wagering “is not inconsistent” with laws from that jurisdiction or the federal government.

Account holders can make bets in person, via a phone call, online.

Also, just like a retail sportsbook, a person could make a fixed-odds wager at the track or off-track betting parlor without needing to create an account.

Sportsbooks and others that agree to participate in the fixed-odds product must also agree to contribute half of the fixed-odds revenues, after deducting expenses, to purses for both thoroughbred and harness racing.

Eventually, the goal is to offer fixed-odds betting on races taking place outside of New Jersey as well.

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