Did you ever bet on dead horse? I don’t mean a runner that was so slow he or she was referred to as dead by the betting public, I mean really dead, as in no heart beat, history, a horse that is long gone. Well now you can and you can even win, providing the horses your dead horse beats are also dead.
This is no joke, it’s called instant racing and it is done from a betting terminal. Many states have racinos where slot machines are available at the race tracks. Revenue from the slots is used to give sagging pari-mutuel revenue a boost and to hopefully keep horse racing alive. States like Kentucky, where slot machines are illegal and therefore cannot be used to help horse racing, have the alternative of offering a horse racing game, which is what is offered on the instant racing terminal.
Players are given racing forms and datos hipicos americanas graphs to use to handicap races between great horses from the past. Virtual races are then run and the player’s bets, based on the top three finishers of the race, are paid out. Revenue from the instant racing games is divided between horsemen, the state, and the race track. Does this sound like a good thing?
At Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, where instant racing was debuted in 2000 to overcome a sharp decline of 40% in racing revenue, it has helped to bring in much needed money to keep live racing alive. The problem is how many real racing fans are being added to the sports followers and how many of those potential fans are becoming video racing fans? Is this actually good for racing in the long run?
Will someone who plays the races on a machine want to walk outside the grandstand to watch a live race? When simulcasting was introduced it was going to be the salvation of racing and since it could offer the ability of patrons to watch racing just about anywhere, it was thought that many more people would become racing fans and bettors. It didn’t happen.
How long will it be before casinos and instant racing become so popular that there will be a good enough argument to close the actual live racing down and to use the revenue from these other gambling venues to feed the budget needs of hungry states? This is one of the questions that is being asked while other groups, such as The Family Foundation in Kentucky who opposed the legalization of the instant racing games.
The legal argument seems to hinge on whether or not the instant racing game is a game of skill or chance. Games of chance are considered gambling while games of skill are considered sport since the player does have the ability to increase his or her odds of winning.
Since handicapping skill is required to win instant games, or at least that is the premise, it may in the end create a whole new crop of handicappers who honed their skills on virtual terminals and races featuring some of the greatest thoroughbreds of all times, even if they were dead when the virtual races were run.