The New Jersey Senate and General Assembly unanimously approved fixed-odds wagering for the state in June. For some reason, Gov. Philip Murphy waited until Aug. 5 to sign it into law. In early November, the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement created and issued temporary regulations in early November.
So what is the holdup in its implementation?
The focus now in New Jersey is fine-tuning the details, say those involved in the initiative. They are confident that bettors will be able to wager on the new-to-the-U.S. platform by the end of the year.
“We're good to go except for the fact that, right now from Monmouth's perspective, our live meet is over,” Dennis Drazin, chairman and CEO of Monmouth Park operator Darby Development LLC, told Horse Racing Nation this week. “We do intend through BetMakers to begin offering fixed-odds wagering at some point before the end of the year.
"But the (regulations) require you, as the legislation did, to obtain the necessary consents through the Interstate Horse Racing Act. So if we offer signals, they'll be somebody else's signals, not ours, until our live meet opens again.”
BetMakers is an Australian company that has a 10-year agreement to manage fixed-odds wagering in New Jersey.
Fixed-odds wagering can be conducted under the temporary regulations for as long as 18 months, when permanent regulations will be implemented.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement is “happy to do a permanent (regulation) sooner, but they want us to launch and see what issues arise, because this is the first jurisdiction in the country that's going to do this,” said Bill Pascrell, outside counsel and lobbyist for BetMakers, New Jersey racetracks and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
“There's a lot of overlap” between sports betting and race betting, he added, and that is what is being sorted out now.
“Let me give you an example. (Anti-money-laundering) requirements for sports are far different than requirements for horse racing. The Division of Gaming Enforcement is open to making sure we at least have a good, robust (anti-money laundering) compliance package,” said Pascrell, who is a partner with Princeton Public Affairs Group.
Here is another matter the regulations will have to clarify:
“You can bet on the horses at 18 (years old) in America and in New Jersey,” Pascrell said. “You can't bet on sports until you're 21. So they may take a customer in that does a sports bet and then wants to move to a horse bet – that’s fine. But if you take your customer in that's 18 to do a horse bet and they want to move over to a sports bet, you’d better have good age-verification software.”
Pascrell said “the DGE has already approved the technology, the integration's already rolling out and being integrated, and also the requirements for the license holders.”
One of the next steps is for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to appoint a manager for fixed-odds wagering, a move Pascrell expects to happen in the next week to 10 days.
“That manager will be responsible for getting the three (New Jersey) tracks licensed, answering questions, dealing with enforcement measures and turning them over to either the Racing Commission or the DGE.”
Licensing for Monmouth Park, the Meadowlands and Freehold will be “easy” Pascrell said, because they already are licensed for both sports betting and racing.
“And then the operators who are already licensed, they will be doing deals – many of them have – with BetMakers to deal with the Monmouth Park signal, to deal with Thoroughbred racing. We'll be off and running soon thereafter.”
Once the New Jersey tracks are licensed, “then we put the foot down with integrating the bookmakers,” said Dallas Baker, head of BetMaker’s international operation. “That gets the bookmakers ready to be able to accept the bets. And once once they start accepting the bets, then all the other content – not just those tracks from the U.S., but all the other tracks from around the world – start rolling into it. That'll be that'll be a gradual process. We'll have a lot more a lot more content in 12 months’ time than we do in the first 12 days. But that's all part of the intentional buildup.”
Expect the first bet to be made in person to be greeted with plenty of fanfare.
“Dennis Drazin and Monmouth have been our close partner throughout,” Baker said, “so it's only natural we'd like to be striking the first bet at Monmouth Park. That's always been the plan, to open it up at Monmouth Park, and then roll out the online bookmakers following that.”