What would widespread sports betting mean for horse racing?

Updated December 7, 2017 - 5:37 pm

What would widespread legal sports betting mean to the sport of horse racing?

That’s a question many in the industry are asking as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case that could broadly expand betting on athletic contests. If the court rules in favor of New Jersey, which is seeking to join Nevada in offering full-blown sports wagering, that could open the floodgates for other states to get in on the action.

“It remains to be seen,” Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said this week when asked about the impact if the court overturns the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

The justices seemed skeptical about parts of the 1992 law, which prohibits betting on sports in all but four states, including Nevada, during oral arguments Monday. That has many observers predicting the court will decide the case in New Jersey’s favor when it rules sometime next year.

The legal case is complicated, but much would depend on whether the court overturns PASPA or rules more narrowly on the particulars of New Jersey’s case. The former would likely prompt many states to authorize sports betting, while the latter might only spread it to a few new states, Waldrop said.

As far as racing is concerned, the new competition for betting dollars would hardly be a good thing. But the expansion and broader acceptance of gambling on sports would likely have some beneficial aspects as well.

Monmouth Park, which has been pressing the state’s case, is especially well-positioned to cash in. It has built a $1 million William Hill Sports Bar on track that could be quickly converted into a sports wagering facility if the decision goes its way. And, as noted in this column in September, it already offers a type of horse racing betting known as exchange wagering that is attracting new, younger fans and could appeal to sports bettors.

But other states with legal horse racing could decide to cut tracks out of the sports betting revenue stream. That would almost certainly cause the racing industries in those states to decline.

Stay tuned, as the court’s ruling will undoubtedly have a major impact on horse racing no matter which way it goes.

Late scratches

— Jose Ortiz Jr., who appears likely to end Javier Castellano’s four-year reign as Eclipse Award-winning jockey, underwent knee surgery on Tuesday and will be out of action until early January. The surgery was to repair an injury to his left knee suffered in a spill at Belmont Park on Sept. 20, which initially sidelined him for a week.

— McKinzie, the Bob Baffert-trained 2-year-old colt that received a surprising amount of attention in the first round of Kentucky Derby futures betting, will make his final appearance of 2017 on Saturday in the $300,000 Cash Call Futurity at Los Alamitos. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith keeps the mount.

#RJhorseracing feature races

This week the torrid #RJhorseracing handicapping corps (five straight winners!) takes on a pair of challenging puzzles at Golden Gate Fields.

The contests in question are Saturday’s 6th race, a 1 1/16-mile starter allowance race on the turf for 3-year-olds and up, and the 7th, a $75,000 stakes sprint for fillies and mares over the Tapeta main track.

In the 6th, our crowd ‘cappers made 7-5 morning line favorite Excavate a heavy choice over Gabo’s Macondo (3-1). We had a three-way tie for third between Lil’ Chieftain (20-1), Post Rock (6-1) and My Last Shot (15-1).

The Bear Fan Stakes, however, was too close to call for our crew, who made Princess Ashlyn (7-2) and Fast and Foxy (6-1) co-choices over Spring Heat (20-1).

Reader Mark Wayman gets the last word this week and he says it’s Princess Ashlyn’s race to win: “If you throw out (her) last race, she wins.”

We’d love to have you join us next week. Simply email me to get on the mail list to get free past performances, a breakdown of how our handicappers assess our featured races and, best of all, a chance to win Review-Journal breath mints.

Contact Mike Brunker at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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