Does Fixed-Odds Horse Race Betting Have Potential in Vermont? 

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Vermont has approved mobile sports wagering procedures that leave room for a rare type of US betting: fixed-odds horse race wagering.

The Vermont Board of Liquor and Lottery did not explicitly prohibit fixed-odds horse race betting when it approved the procedures in a mid-July vote. And, although no fixed-odds horse race betting is expected to be live in Vermont when the state launches sports betting on or before Jan. 1, the potential exists.

Fixed-odds horse race betting is similar to sports betting with defined odds as soon as a bet is placed. In pari-mutuel betting, the odds a bettor gets change depending on how much is wagered on each entry.

Under the state’s 2023 sports betting law signed by Gov. Phil Scott on June 14, “sports event” means “an event at which two or more persons participate in a sports or athletic event. ‘Sports event’ also means horse racing and equestrian events.” Only pari-mutuel wagering on horse (or dog) races is specifically mentioned in the state’s sports betting procedures – approved last month – as prohibited horse race betting.

But nothing on the fixed-odds front is final here. Vermont sports betting law gives regulators at the Department of Liquor and Lottery the final say on which types of sports events and wagers will make it into the state’s sports wagering catalog. That catalog has not yet been made public.

FanDuel’s Interest in Fixed Odds In Vermont

Allowing fixed-odds horse race betting would mark a significant shift for Vermont, which doesn’t allow pari-mutuel betting outside of online advance-deposit wagering platforms like FanDuel Racing and partner app TVG.

Monmouth Park in New Jersey is the only track in the US that offers the betting option. Fixed-odds horse racing is allowed in Colorado but not offered by any operators in the state.

Fixed-odds horse racing is being discussed among Vermont sports betting stakeholders.
(photo by gabriel12)

FanDuel brought up the possibility of fixed-odds horse race betting in Vermont in its written comments prior to the adoption of the DLL’s sports betting procedures on July 19. In a July 7 letter, FanDuel Director of Government Affairs Andrew Winchell asked the Board of Liquor and Lottery if Vermont intends to allow fixed-odds horse race betting based on two provisions:

  • Inclusion of horse racing and equestrian events in the legal definition of “sports event,” and
  • Prohibition on “any pari-mutuel wagering on dog or horse races” in the sports wagering procedures as approved.

“Is it to be understood from the language of these sections that the Board intends to authorize fixed odds wagering on horse racing in Vermont?” Winchell wrote. “If so, will there be any additional regulations forthcoming on fixed odds wagering on horse racing?”

Winchell also asked that the sports betting procedures clarify that ADW won’t fall under the state’s prohibition on pari-mutuel wagering. FanDuel is one of a growing number of sports betting operators with integrated sports betting and ADW platforms in the US.

“We suggest the Board clarify that this would not prohibit sports wagering operators who are authorized to conduct ADW on horse racing in Vermont from enabling access points to their ADW platforms in their online sports wagering platforms to improve ease of access for customers in Vermont,” he wrote.

The approved sports betting procedures do not appear to mention advance deposit wagering or ADW per se, at least not for now.

Chances of Fixed-Odds Horse Race Betting Appear Slim for Now

Comments made at the Board of Liquor and Lottery’s meeting by DLL Commissioner Wendy Knight make fixed-odds horse race betting seem unlikely in the near term.

When asked by Board Counsel Wesley Lawrence about a potential response to FanDuel’s letter, Knight did not say if a decision will be made on fixed-odds horse race betting in the future.

“In testimony during the (2023) legislative session I testified that it was not the intent of the Department to allow fixed-odds horse racing,” she said. “What I can tell you right now is pari-mutuel is not currently legal and the types of wagers that we will accept will be determined when we get the program up and running. It’s not determined in the procedures that the board approves.”

Wesley – whose bio on his law firm’s website defines him as an “avid horse racing fan” who “attends the Kentucky Derby each year and owns interest in several thoroughbred racehorses” – said fixed-odds betting wouldn’t violate any of Vermont’s sports betting regulations.

“It’s generally permitted if the procedures allow for it,” he told Knight. “I think a lot of these potential bidders are looking to offer that. I think it’s an issue that will come up later. Probably not immediately, but it certainly looked like there was concern about that.”

Bids for Vermont Sportsbooks Due Aug. 28

Bids for Vermont mobile sports betting operators are due Aug. 28, Knight told Gaming Today in a phone interview last month.

The DLL expects to select winning bids no later than Sept. 22.

“At that point, the operators that are selected will be notified and basically in the state of Vermont, what we do is we notify them of our intent to contract with them,” she said. “They are invited into a contract negotiation with the state.”

A minimum of two and no more than six mobile apps are expected to launch in the state when Vermont sports betting goes live statewide no later than Jan. 1, 2024.

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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