The New York Racing Association is doing its best to position itself for a world where horse racing is fully integrated with the modern American sportsbook.
With the announcement Thursday that it will partner with Caesars on an online advance-deposit wagering platform to launch in the spring, NYRA now has two “white label” agreements to operate its ADW, NYRA Bets. NYRA reached a similar deal with BetMGM in May, and BetMGM’s online racebook is now operational in Florida, Louisiana, and Ohio. NYRA also entered a marketing partnership with Caesars in January.
White labels, which essentially allow for other brands to use a betting operator’s system and infrastructure under a different name, have been around in the horse racing world for some time. The Daily Racing Form has run a white label ADW through XpressBet since 2011. TwinSpires’ ADW also has white labels with Keeneland Select in Kentucky and Oaklawn Anywhere in Arkansas.
But what makes NYRA’s recent partnerships unique is that they aren’t with racing companies (although Caesars does operate racetracks, including the newly rebranded Horseshoe Indianapolis). They’re with prominent national sportsbooks, with an eye on the future.
“If you stand back from a company like NYRA, primarily we’re a content producer,” said NYRA President and CEO David O’Rourke. “In terms of the sport, we view this as a big opportunity in the distribution of our content, to grow the sport and increase our fan base. With the explosion of sports betting, the amount of customers they touch dwarfs ADWs, and as a business, we’ve made the decision that this is one way to broaden our customer base.”
Sportsbook crossover is coming
But at the moment, the crossover from a sportsbook to an ADW is not so easy. BetMGM now, and Caesars in the near future, will not have horse racing on its sportsbook app. Customers will have to download a separate ADW app, and the two platforms do not have a shared wallet, which O’Rourke calls the “holy grail.” A shared wallet with a major sportsbook would mean customers could effortlessly move from betting sports to horses to casino games to daily fantasy (if offered), all from the same pool of money in one account.
“The full value of combining horse racing ADW and sports betting is the shared wallet,” said Dan Shapiro, chief development officer of Caesars Digital. “Eventually we have to get to that seamless experience, and we’re getting there. There’s some work we have to do on the payments side, but that’s what is really going to drive value to the racing industry and really grow ADW. … Since we launched the [Caesars sportsbook] app, we’ve tried to get as much content as we can, and horse racing is great, 24/7 content.”
Industry sources have indicated that FanDuel, which is in the same corporate family as TVG, may be closest to a shared wallet from sportsbooks to an ADW (it already has a shared wallet with its fantasy and sportsbook platforms, as does DraftKings). But when that capability is realized industry-wide, O’Rourke feels NYRA will be positioned to capitalize. He makes an analogy, albeit somewhat antiquated, to retail shopping.
“Racing right now is offered in a strip mall on a side street,” O’Rourke said. “These guys are building mega malls. We just want a store in the mega mall.”
While NYRA isn’t in the “mega mall” yet, both sides of the partnership are preparing for that moment. Shapiro would not disclose the specific states in which Caesars is planning to launch its ADW, but acknowledged the states would be “where we have the sports betting app live or where we think sports betting is going to be legal or launched soon.” He called the ADW-sportsbook partnership, with a shared wallet, “an unprecedented opportunity to grow the [horse racing] industry.”
Not happening in New York … yet
The BetMGM and Caesars deals with NYRA only cover jurisdictions outside of New York, so if customers are looking to join in from the Empire State, they’re out of luck for now, although NYRA Bets and other ADWs are still available for horseplayers.
The reasoning is that NYRA Bets operates in New York through its racetrack licenses for NYRA tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga), while ADW business for out-of-state NYRA Bets customers goes through a license in Oregon, which is a “multijurisdictional hub.”
O’Rourke said he isn’t opposed to including sportsbook partners in the New York market in the future, but as of now, the deals with BetMGM and Caesars are limited to other jurisdictions that flow through the Oregon hub.
There also is no exclusivity in these deals, according to O’Rourke. NYRA is prepared and willing to partner with more sportsbooks.
“That’s the play,” O’Rourke said. “[The sports betting] market is 20 to 50 times larger, and we want to tag along and share in that revenue. … Very seldom do you have an inflection point, where you have partners that can expand your reach like this. We’re in the beginning stages.”
Photo: Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY