In Expanded Deal With Racing Association, FOX Sports Acquires Stake in NYRA Bets

Written By Martin Harris on March 30, 2021

In a move further signaling the increased overlapping of sports media and sports betting, FOX Sports and the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced last week an expansion of their relationship.

The new deal involves both an extension of FOX Sports’ media rights with the NYRA and an equity stake in the association’s gambling platform.

Broadcast rights through 2030, share of NYRA Bets

The deal extends FOX Sports’ broadcast deal with the NYRA through 2030. According to Sportico, FOX plans to air around 700 hours of coverage from the NYRA-operated Belmont Park in Elmont and the Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs.

The NYRA additionally conducts horse racing at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The agreement with FOX Sports does not include the Belmont Stakes. Coverage of that event is part of a separate Triple Crown media deal with NBC Sports.

More significant, however, is FOX Sports having acquired a 25% stake in the NYRA’s gambling platform. NYRA Bets is the company’s advance deposit wagering platform that enables viewers to bet on races online. FOX Sports also has an option to increase its stake in the gambling platform to 49.9% in the coming years.

NYRA Bets seeing increased action of late

The deal represents the next step following FOX Sports’ already expanded coverage of NYRA races. Not coincidentally, one consequence of that expanded coverage has been an increase in New York horse betting enjoyed by NYRA Bets.

There was $7.2 million wagered on NYRA Bets in 2016, Sportico reported. Over the years since, that amount has increased dramatically, totaling $225 million in 2020.

In fact, negotiations to acquire equity in NYRA Bets were based on the gambling platform’s value from three years ago. That makes the deal even better for FOX.

FOX Sports evolving into a ‘content and gaming brand’

Michael Mulvihill, executive vice president and head of strategy and analytics at FOX Sports, underscored the evolution of his company.

“FOX Sports is really evolving from being a purely media content brand into a content and gaming brand,” Mulvihill said, as reported by Sportico.

Such a turn reflects a larger cultural shift affected by sports betting expansion, generally speaking. Mulvihill added how both FOX and other media companies are trying “to lever that TV exposure to drive wagers.”

Adding a stake in NYRA Bets means FOX Sports has now added horse racing to its catalog of gambling interests.

Those interests began when FOX Sports partnered with The Stars Group in 2019. Through that partnership, FOX has become involved in sports betting via FOX Bet as well as online casino games and online poker (via PokerStars).

Mulvihill shrugged off suggestions that the media company’s involvement in so many different gambling platforms could result in a kind of “cannibalizing” occurring between the different interests.

“I think right now they are complementary products,” Mulvihill said. He does note, however, that he believes going forward FOX Sports’ “approach to gaming could become more unified.”

Photo by AP / Julie Jacobson
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