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Betfair to bid for leading US racetrack Monmouth Park

News surfaced late last week that the state of New Jersey wish to sell off Monmouth Park thoroughbred track and Meadowlands harness track to help fix the state's ailing finances. One of the names mentioned as a potential bidder has been Betfair.

Betfair interested in purchasing Monmouth Park

Betfair, a popular exchange wagering company in England who also owns Television Games Network, is reportedly interested in purchasing Monmouth Park.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said three weeks ago that state officials would request proposals for the sale of Monmouth, along with rights to operating off-track betting.



It's an interesting scenario. New Jersey is one of the two (along with California) states that have passed legislation to allow exchange betting in the near future, but there are still numerous battles to fight before that goes ahead - namely the legitimacy/morality of laying and the return to the horsemen's groups (i.e. prizemoney)... and that's before they fight the battle of teaching Americans how to set odds and take bets, rather than just bet blindly into a pool or take fixed-odds futures bets at ridiculous margins.

If you want to read what the rank-and-file and mostly clueless think, read the comments from Ray Paulick's article. No different to the Betfair forum really :)

Take a step back and think about it. Betfair have an adaptable business model now - they offer tote betting, SP betting, fixed-odds betting (sportsbook to Italy), multiples betting and pure exchange betting because in their most popular regions, they face stiff competition. In the US, they don't. If they are granted an exchange betting licence, all they have to compete with are totes, and the govts and racing bodies will want a piece of the pie, no matter how small it usually is.

BUT - Betfair don't have to run an exchange if they acquire Monmouth Park. There's far more money in tote betting if they can get it to work. There's no competition with bookies or rival totes, just a monopoly. Find the balance between the healthy margin and an attractive offer for bettors. And US horse bettors are getting stiffed with very fat margins giving a cut to everyone but the bettor who ultimately funds the industry.

In Tasmania, they led their bid for an exchange with a massive lump of cash to guarantee the state's racing wasn't decimated. A similar offer here could see them continue with pari-mutuel betting, but at much more punter-friendly rates. Win-place-show takeouts of 17% could be slashed to something more suited to smaller US fields, 9 or 10%, in order to generate substantially higher turnover. The winning bidder would control the off-track betting in New Jersey and be able to reinvigorate it. Betfair & TVG's marketing budget could boost the purses of the big races and bring in stronger fields, strengthening New Jersey racing while other states continue to suffer from their lack of creativity.

Then two options remain - (1) New Jersey decides it loves Betfair and grants Betfair exclusive rights to online sports betting in the state, or (2) Betfair decides the margin it is making on Monmouth Park pari-mutuel betting is so healthy that they want to buy other tracks.

US racing could do a lot worse than have Betfair take over Monmouth Park. So many tracks are now on life support, with plenty only surviving via the cancerous slot machines. Continue down the slide to oblivion, or try something different which might just turn it around?

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