Horse Racing

Panel Discusses Evolution of Computer-Assisted Betting

Day 2 of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program Global Symposium on Racing wrapped up Dec. 5 by examining the impact of computer-assisted wagering. The panel agreed that CAWs are an expanding part of the betting scene but that more can be done to give everyday horseplayers confidence in pari-mutuel wagering.

“We really tried to embrace a lot of different technology over the years. I think we can agree we should all be embracing technology. … We’ve had a lot of data in horse racing, and we’re continuing to get more as we move with GPS and biometrics. And it’s taking that information and learning how we can use it for a variety of reasons,” said New York Racing Association content management systems general manager Joe Longo at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz. 

Longo added that a key element for NYRA is putting guardrails in place to ensure it is a fairer playing field. He said in addition to betting restrictions, NYRA is hoping to provide retail customers different tools, but there is always the question of adoption of those tools. 

Quantitative Trading chief executive and consultant Don Johnson said that the CAW “part of the market will expand,” but tracks need to figure out what works best for them.

“How do the tracks or how does the industry handle the pricing for the CW player? It really needs to go through some sort of an optimization exercise that is on a track-by-track basis,” he said. 

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The sometimes wild swings in the odds are too much to keep casual and semi-casual bettors interested. 

“When they see 10 to three, that hurts customers, that hurts mass market customers and it makes our product unattractive and we as a greater business should not be doing things that a wide number of customers find unattractive,” said National Thoroughbred Alliance executive director Pat Cummings.

But it was also cautioned that even though CAW players have the same data available to them as retail and casual players but can leverage the technology, CAW players still have to pick the winners. 

Monarch content management president Scott Daruty, pointing to the panel title, “The Good, The Bad, and The Future,” said, “I think we need to focus on what the future is, and how can we brighten that future for everybody. And that’s the top computer player down to the recreational player.”

Johnson noted how the technology is moving along but not yet comparable to Wall Street traders.

“Not unlike the stock market, where they do real high-frequency trading. If you were to go to some of these big houses of trade on Wall Street, and they looked at the frequency that you can put three bets per second; 500 bets per second wouldn’t be that fast. I mean, they’re really trading in real time. We’re not there yet. I think we’re getting there. The tote systems are way better than they used to be. But we’re not quite there yet,” he said. 

Cummings said there are alternatives.

“Someone recently came up to me and said, ‘What? Fixed odds isn’t necessarily the answer.’ And I’ve been a big advocate for fixed odds in the American space. And I said, ‘All right, I agree. Fixed odds might not be the answer. But if fixed odds isn’t the answer, then fix the pari-mutuel space, make it better.’ And until we do that, then alternatives do get a little more attractive. There are alternatives that are fraught with issues, too. It’s not perfection.”



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