Sports fans are currently diving into areas of fandom they never thought they’d jump into.
While major sports are likely still postponed into June – outside of the NFL Draft this weekend – there are still some niche offerings in the market available to bet on. Many of those offerings are made up of simulations being run on Twitch, including the DraftKings sponsored MLB Dream Bracket. But there are still live sports happening every day that bettors all around the country can legally bet on online.
One that has caught a major increase in interest is horse racing.
Horse racing boom
Typically just popping up for casual interest in Triple Crown races, horse racing has been able to continue mostly unaffected by the pandemic due to the ability to produce races and broadcast them while maintaining social distancing guidelines. For these small races that would usually only garner the interest from diehard horse racing fans, FOX Sports is now seeing a 206% increase in viewership according to Stephen Whyno from the Associated Press. The New York Racing Association produces “America’s Day at the Races” for FOX Sports.
“Horse racing has been a welcome substitute for other events that are currently unavailable,” FOX Sports executive vice president Mike Mulvihill told the AP. “Viewing of horse racing has tripled over last year. Online sign-ups for new bettors are up. Betting handle at the tracks we present is up. It’s been a nice bit of normalcy when the rest of the sports world is anything but.”
Belmont Park still up and running
Belmont Park on Long Island is one of the tracks still producing races. NYRA director of TV operations Eric Donovan told the AP he oversees a third of his usual staff spread out all over Belmont Park to still provide an excellent viewing experience for bettors following their slip. TVG’s crew of 45-50 is down to less than 10, which is spread out across the world. While the NYRA is based and built on New York horse racing, it is broadcasting from all over the country during this horse racing boom – including Tampa Bay Downs, Arkansas’ Oaklawn Park, Oklahoma’s Remington Park and Nebraska’s Fonner Park. The NYRA is a nonprofit and chief revenue officer Tony Allevato said their goal is to broadcast races to take care of their employees and help the industry at large.
“We’re keeping them employed, and we’re keeping food on the table for these people, “Allevato told AP. “We are in horse racing for the long haul, and our goal is to see New York horse racing thrive, and for horse racing to be successful in New York, it needs to be successful across the country and there’s a massive ecosystem that’s involved here with tens and tens of thousands of jobs.”
TVG is one of the most popular horse racing sites, and it’s available to bet on legally in 33 US states, including New York. Bettors can find a race, bet on it, and instantly watch the race live through the TVG site. Part of their Wednesday offerings included races in Florida at Tampa Bay Downs, Oklahoma at Will Rogers Downs, Nebraska at Fonner Park and then Australia at multiple tracks well into the early morning hours. It provides an experience many dedicated sports gamblers are used to – having a wide selection of sports available to bet on at all hours with the option to follow their bet live on TV.
New horse racing fans welcome
CEO Kip Levin said different kind of viewers are watching the broadcasts compared to the usual dedicated horse racing fan, and they made sure to change the presentation of their broadcasts to welcome those fans.
“Hats off to our production and talent team,” Levin told the AP. “Literally within days they had shifted from talking to the fan that knew a lot about the sport to talking to and really educating the audience in ways in which we don’t normally do.”
TVG has partnered with NBC Sports for a dozen hours of coverage each week, according to the AP.