Betting slips and copies of the Daily Racing Form may not be the only things that horseracing fans are holding in the future.
Gov. Chris Christie signed into law Monday legislation that allows New Jersey racetrack customers to place bets using their mobile devices, such as smartphones and iPads.
Mobile gambling should help to boost the tracks by attracting a new generation of younger, tech-savvy patrons to horseracing, said one of the bill’s chief sponsors.
“It’s technology allowing the racing industry to reshape itself by drawing younger customers,” said state Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland.
Burzichelli said older racing customers may not be excited about mobile gambling, but the technology “moves our horse-wagering industry into the 21st century.”
The New Jersey Racing Commission will develop regulations to oversee mobile wagering, including safeguards to protect against underage gambling or cheating. Racing fans would set up accounts to place bets while they are on racetrack property. Outside the tracks, the mobile gambling devices would be inoperable.
There are four horseracing tracks in New Jersey — the Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, Freehold and Atlantic City Race Course. Monmouth Park in Oceanport, Monmouth County, already has said it intends to have mobile gambling ready for the start of its live racing season May 12.
Atlantic City Race Course, in Mays Landing, is studying the proposal. Atlantic City operates mainly as a simulcast parlor, meaning it allows its customers to bet on races broadcast from tracks across the country. It offers live racing only six days per year. Track lobbyist Barbara DeMarco said Atlantic City probably will not launch mobile gambling unless the track increases the number of live racing dates in the future.
“Mobile gaming is the ultimate convenience,” DeMarco said.
She noted that wireless hand-held devices would save customers from having to trudge to the betting windows each time they want to place a bet.
Mobile gambling by itself would not revitalize New Jersey’s horseracing industry, but it would be a powerful attraction if combined with sports betting, DeMarco said. Although New Jersey has legalized sports betting for the state’s racetracks and Atlantic City casinos, the law has been delayed by opposition and a legal challenge from the NCAA and the professional sports leagues.
“I think mobile gaming is a tool for sports betting,” DeMarco said. “It adds so many ways to bet. You’ve taken a person who would normally make 10 or 20 bets and given them a device to make 1,000 bets.”
Mobile gambling will allow racetrack customers to bet on live or simulcast racing while they are on track property, including the restaurants and outdoor areas, such as the paddock.
The track legislation follows New Jersey’s approval last summer of mobile gambling at the Atlantic City casinos. Although mobile gambling regulations are in place, no casinos have begun to offer it yet.
The regulations permit casino customers to use hand-held devices to bet on the slot machines and table games without having to be on the casino floor. They could wager while lounging at the pool, having dinner at casino restaurants or while relaxing in the privacy of their hotel rooms.
However, there is concern that there may not be enough mobile gamblers to make it worth the casino industry’s investment. Now, the horseracing industry is faced with the same decision.
Burzichelli argued that mobile gambling is a key piece of efforts to modernize New Jersey’s tracks, allowing them to keep pace with their competitors in other states.
“If our horseracing industry is going to remain attractive to visitors and competitive with neighboring states, it’s important that it keep up with the latest innovations and trends,” he said.
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