FROST: Where Does Racing Fit In With Sports Betting?

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Tim Frost

WILMETTE, Ill. — Sports betting continues to gain momentum. This month we examine the status of legalized gambling as it relates to motorsports and the outlook for the future.

The landscape for betting changed in May 2018 when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was abolished. Established in the early 1990s, the act outlawed sports betting nationwide, except for a few states.

The Supreme Court decision overturned the ban allowing Congress to regulate sports gambling directly, or states could act on their own. They could offer betting options similar to sports books, including professional and collegiate sports, horse racing, golf and non-American events.

Initially, the largest sports leagues were hesitant about the expansion of the sports-gaming business. However, they succumbed to the inevitable and worked with states to pass legislation that would protect the integrity of their sports. The deciding factor was the ability to generate profits along with generating new partnerships and business opportunities.

NASCAR signed an integrity partnership with Sportradar. The sports data firm developed a comprehensive sports-gambling policy and launched its fraud detection system to monitor the global betting markets for nefarious activities related to the top-tier racing series.

Genius Sports also began working with NASCAR to build a live-betting product for sports books. This would utilize the official data feed to provide transparency, accuracy and cooperation in monitoring and safeguarding events. The result was a real-time gaming platform that generates up-to-the minute odds, the range of traditional wagers and prop bets.

Where does racing fit into the sports-betting ecosystem?

Betting on motorsports is very small compared to the other sports leagues. The betting lines available are not as expansive and racing is still considered a niche market.

The first race that offered on-premise betting was a NASCAR event at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway with betting through a tented sports book operated by William Hill Sports Book. The track is located adjacent to the Dover Downs Casino.

Currently, there are approximately 20 states that offer legalized, regulated sports betting. Additional states have legislation on the books.

There is a transition period from when the laws are passed and when gambling begins. There is a difference between where and how betting can take place. Some allow for betting at physical sports books and others allow mobile sports wagering.

Daily fantasy sports sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings have existed for many years. They have evolved into legalized, regulated gambling in several states. The established platform and built-in customer base made them a logical choice for mobile betting.

NASCAR’s Fantasy Live is integrated into the sanctioning body’s mobile app platform.

International Speedway Corp. has an established relationship with Penn National Gaming. In 2009, they entered into a joint venture to develop the $380 million Hollywood Casino and Hotel at Kansas Speedway.

Each year, ISC receives approximately $20 million from its 50 percent ownership interest, along with making debt and tax repayments to local government and school entities. Over the past 10 years, the casino has also sponsored several races at the track.

Last month, Penn National Gaming entered into a three-year deal to become NASCAR’s first authorized sports-betting provider. Part of this agreement includes a new free-to-play mobile game called “NASCAR Finish Line,” which offers users a chance to win a $50,000 jackpot for each NASCAR race.

Penn National is the presenting sponsor of the game and has the non-exclusive right to use NASCAR marks at its sports books and on its betting app.

Sports-content provider Barstool Sports sold a 36-percent interest to Penn National Gaming for $163 million. The partnership will expand the use of Barstool Sports content  into all of Penn’s online and retail sports betting and casino products. Barstool, with its original and sometimes offensive content, has an avid following among the valuable younger segment of the betting population.

International Speedway Corp. offered a Daytona 500 package for the Barstool Sports fan. David Portnoy, aka “El Presidente,” held a fan fest and interviewed many leading drivers and celebrities.

The media value from the social media content was substantial. NASCAR also renewed its advertising deal with Barstool Sports to reach new and younger consumers in an effort to convert them into fans of stock car racing.

Early indications are that sports betting is fueling fan enthusiasm and generating positive economic returns.