Monmouth, FOX Sports discuss opportunities with sports betting

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Aug. 16, 2019

More than a year into a successful sports betting operation, Monmouth Park is looking at ways to capitalize on both pari-mutuel and fixed-odds wagering.

Bill Knauf, Vice President of Business Operations for the New Jersey racetrack, provided a sports betting update and future plans at the Aug. 11 Jockey Club Round Table Conference. It followed a presentation at which a FOX Sports executive discussed the company’s strategy to get involved in sports betting.

Monmouth, Meadowlands and eight casinos in New Jersey currently offer sports betting, and each license includes three “skins”—online wagering licenses. William Hill, Monmouth’s partner for on-site operations, has one skin, and Play SugarHouse has the second one. The track also has a deal with In The Score to have the third.

From Jan. 1-June 1 of this year, Monmouth’s win from sports betting was $10.5 million—$7.4 million from mobile and $3.1 million for “retail,” or track-based wagering. Knauf said that overall in New Jersey, sports betting win is 80% mobile and 20% retail.

“We have done some research on our customers and our building already—horse and sports—and sports has markedly come up with a younger and more diverse audience,” Knauf said. “They are extremely mobile-savvy which I’m sure doesn’t surprise anyone but they are very engaged to make bets on their mobile devices.

“We still believe that retail plays a big part in growing sports just like it does with horses. We have always taken that philosophy, to make a (someone) a bettor, if you bring them out to Monmouth you’ll make a fan. With sports, we feel like it is a very social atmosphere and it lends itself to that as well.”

Knauf said retail sports bettting is fairly strong in the evening. In turn, wagering on simulcasts after 5 p.m. is up 16% this year, he said.

“That is purely because of sports betting,” Knauf said. “Sports bettors, obviously, come in at night, they watch the games, we put racing on next to those televisions and our video board, and we have seen an increase in those sports players gravitating to bet some of the nighttime simulcasts.”

Monmouth also hopes to create a player rewards card that handles both racing and sports betting; currently, Monmouth has one for racing and William Hill has one for sports. Knauf also said a FanDuel promotion offered to sports bettors who didn’t have a 4NJBets account for the Kentucky Derby generated a $500,000 increase in pari-mutuel handle that day.

As for fixed-odds betting, Knauf said Monmouth sees “the combination of fixed odds and horse racing as a potential new revenue stream, and we will in the next coming year try to push as much of a fixed-odds focus through the sportsbook for horse racing. Obviously we will start with our own product and then try to get other jurisdictions through our sportsbook and hopefully open up new revenue streams and engage those bettors.”

“The racetrack obviously has a lot of advantages in terms of legal, regulated gaming on the property, interior space, and comfortable environments, but all in all, the last line I have up here is to continue to cross-promote sports and horse racing. We truly believe in that, and we think there is a massive audience out there that bets sports that has never tried to bet horse racing. We want to engage that customer.”

During the Round Table presentation on the growth of Thoroughbred racing on television, Mike Mulvihill, Executive Vice President for Research, League Operations and Strategy for FOX Sports, discussed the upcoming launch of two apps—one a free-to-play app that would offer cash prizes for picking the results of games correctly, and the FOX Bet app in state’s with legalized sports betting.

“We’re obviously taking a long view of this market and we expect to be well-positioned as mobile wagering is adopted in many more states over the next decade,” Mulvihill said.

Mulvihill didn’t provide details on how or whether FOX Sports intends to be licensed as a bet-taker. He did, however, offer a vision for using sports betting to highlight horse racing.

“Following the overturn of (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) last year, which has created a roadmap through which the states could chart their own course in sports wagering, FOX Sports made a significant commitment to horse racing with an eye toward integrating our racing coverage into a broader sports gaming strategy,” Mulvihill said. “Our partnership with the New York Racing Association is delivering over 400 hours of live racing content to nearly 60 million homes on FOX Sports 2 this year. And next year that figure will expand to nearly 700 hours.

“The opportunity presented to us by legal sports wagering and iGaming is simply massive, and FOX Bet will be a trailblazer in utilizing the strength of a major media company to develop this enormous potential with digital-first products. Estimates are that by 2025 sports wagering in this country will be close to a seven billion-dollar market with an additional billion being spent on marketing and sponsorship. In time, the expansion of legal wagering will drive fan engagement, and in turn viewership, and will become an explosive growth category for sports advertising at both the local and national levels.”

(Monmouth Park photo by Tom LaMarra)