by Paul Post
New York Racing Association and the state’s five remaining off-track betting organizations have agreed in principle to let NYRA videostream races live on its website.
NYRA has been seeking such steps for years, but the action is considered critical now following last week’s closure of New York City Off Track Betting Corp., which is costing NYRA $14-million in lost operating revenue and another $18-million for purses.
Until now, under a 2006 Internet wagering law interpretation, NYRA could not show its own races live without approval from the regional OTBs, but could only show them on a delayed basis, a hindrance for the betting public.
“We’re throwing money out the window,” said Rick Violette, a NYRA board member and New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association president.
Many bettors have instead turned to out-of-state outlets such as TVG and HRTV to watch races live. NYRA gets some revenue from these channels, but not as much as if people watched and bet with NYRA itself.
“It’s a customer service issue,” Violette said. “Why would you put people through that? Convenience is everything. Complicating customers’ lives is not the way to survive in business today.”
The change requires approval from the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, whose interpretation of the 2006 law has kept NYRA from videostreaming races live. At present, the board has no formal plans to address the issue, although it may be brought up in early 2011.
NYRA President and Chief Executive Officer Charles Hayward said the organization hopes to get 35% to 40% of that business by streaming races live, which would nearly offset the losses sustained from OTB’s closure.
Under the proposed agreement, harness tracks would be allowed to videostream their races live, too.