Mets’ Casino, Rise of NY Sports Betting & More Takeaways from Saratoga Racing & Gaming Conference

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Before the assembled New York gambling and horse racing power elite collectively retired to stately Saratoga Race Course for Day 25 of the summer meet, there was plenty to discuss at the annual Saratoga Racing and Gaming Conference.

Among the topics: A sport still grappling with its own relevance in a country where gambling options are ever-readily available still has a lot to work out.

Here are five takeaways (before I, too, hit the Festival Tent with my Daily Racing Form).

1. Mets Might Get a Casino

Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs Casino Resort and a New York real estate developer, was steadfast in asserting there will never be a casino in Manhattan because of likely local outcry. There will probably be one somewhere in New York City, though, and he predicted it will go near Citi Field in Queens, which will make Mets owner Steve Cohen beam.

Gural thinks the other two casino licenses earmarked for downstate will go to existing MGM and Genting properties.

2. Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act Remains Contentious and Confusing

A panel of New York regulators and horsemen expressed a lot of frustration with how the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act was constructed and implemented. Ultimately, trainer and veterinarian John Kimmel said, there needs to be greater communication and education within the paddock regarding this federal law.

He noted, delicately, that not all trainers are as educationally advanced as himself, and said there needs to be a simplified explanation, in particular, on medication procedures.

Lisa Lazarus, CEO of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, said there is so much misinformation within the industry that a distraught exercise rider contacted her upset because HISA forbids those with that job to weigh more than 160 pounds. There’s no such provision in HISA, she said. The rider had heard a rumor in the barn that his weight would put him out of work.

3. New York State of Blown Mind

Jessica Feil, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Compliance at OpenBet, said the industry has been “blown away” by the explosive growth of New York in becoming the nation’s sports betting leader in just eight months of mobile implementation.

The state question now, she pondered, “what is the sustainability?” once customers have blown through their promotions and the newness of the endeavor is gone. The nationally high 51% tax rate remained a detested factor for panelists on multiple panels.

4. Tom Rooney Wants Your Input

The president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association is no stranger to the sport of horse racing, although his surname is more widely associated with his family’s NFL ties. His grandfather, Art, Rooney noted during a keynote speech, used some of his sizeable winnings at the racetrack though to put him on the path of helping form the league and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now Rooney has come home, in charge of the sport’s national advocacy group. He seems highly invested in not letting something his family enjoys so much wither further into oblivion.

5. Micro-Betting is a Thing

Micro-betting, or the granular wagers on possible outcomes of plays within a game, continues to grow in favor with American gamblers and gambling companies, Dan Shapiro, Senior Vice President, Chief Development Officer, Caesars Digital said.

“We know the bettors like it, we know the leagues like it because it keeps fans more involved in the game,” he said, noting that latency — or the speed with which TV broadcasts reach viewers — remains a key factor.

If micro-betting does take off, it will be a uniquely American phenomenon. Mobile sports betting comprises about 90% of American sports wagering, higher than the 70-80% in Europe. There, though, micro-betting accounts for less than 1% of bets. There’s no data on the emerging trend in the US yet.

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Brant James is the lead writer for Gaming Today canvassing events and trends in the gambling industry. He has covered the American sports betting industry in the United States since before professional sports teams even knew what an official gaming partnership entailed. Before focusing on the gambling industry, James was a nationally acclaimed motorsports writer and a long-time member of the National Hockey League media corps, formerly writing for USA Today, ESPN, SI.com and the Tampa Bay Times.

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