New York Lawmakers Want Full Sportsbook Kiosks at the State’s Horse Racing Tracks

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A new piece of legislation proposed this week could see sportsbook kiosks installed at New York state horse racing venues.

Assembly Bill A59223 is sponsored by Member David Weprin (D-24), and is currently at the committee debate stage.

It aims to “authorize gambling on professional sporting events and athletic events sponsored by universities or colleges at betting facilities located at thoroughbred and harness racetracks operating in this state…”

Also in the bill is a final proviso that says “All proceeds of such gambling be applied exclusively to or in aid or support of education.”

And They’re Off

Betting on the races is already possible via legal online sportsbooks, launched here in January 2022. However, politicians are looking to expand that offering to physical sports betting kiosks at the state’s racetracks.

Currently, only casinos are licensed to offer physical sports betting facilities in New York. That excludes 10 of the 11 state’s 11 race tracks from offering in-person betting, as only one of them (Tioga Downs in Nichols) has a casino on site.  

However, even if lawmakers consider it a good idea, it remains to be seen how profitable combining general sports betting and horse racing will be.

The hope is that both sports betting taxes and horse racing venues will see a boost from their combined presentation. They foresee a revenue stream that could also benefit public schools and education in New York State if the bill passes.

However, research conducted in other states with sports betting kiosks at racetracks suggests the overlap between customers isn’t hugely significant. Plus, people can already place sports bets on their phones while at the racetrack or not. These two factors could result in slow uptake of the plan by racetracks, even if it is passed into law.

Fixed Odds

Another hurdle for this legislation, in New York specifically, is the state’s policy of enforcing pari-mutuel betting on horse racing.

Pari-mutuel bets hide the odds on each competitor until after all the bets are made and the event starts. However, bets are paid out on the top three winners as a percentage of the overall bet pool.

Although familiar to horse racing fans, simpler fixed-odds bets are generally far more popular among American sportsbook bettors.

The old-school betting style of pari-mutuels could put off other sports gamblers from using betting terminals at racecourses. Especially when they can already bet online from anywhere.

One of the biggest proponents of legal gambling in New York, state Senator Joseph Addabo (D-15) tried to fix this issue in 2022 by legalizing fixed-odds bets on horse races. But the bill failed to gain enough traction to be written into law.

Despite market forces potentially limiting uptake of the new idea for sports betting terminals at racetracks, sources suggest there is limited opposition to the proposal in the state Senate.

This latest news from New York is part of a general trend in expansion of sports betting options in legal gambling states across the US. For example, this week in neighboring Pennsylvania, lawmakers tabled a bill aiming to legalize betting on esports, or competitive video gaming.

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