On June 9 Nevada's state legislature passed a bill that would permit off-site pari-mutuel wagering on horse races.
SB3, drafted by state Sen. Dean Rhoades, became law June 11, but won't take effect until new regulations are drawn up. That should take about six months.
The change could repair Nevada's lagging horse wagering industry, which was once the largest among all U.S. states. A lot of its business has likely been lost to the 11 other states that have already passed off-site account wagering, including neighboring California, which passed a bill last year.
Tony Fontaine, an independent consultant in the interactive gaming business, said statistics for states that already allow off-site pari-mutuel wagering show growth in overall racing income, although the tracks in those states have experienced a loss in overall attendance.
Although accounts must still be set up in person at a booking agency, bettors will be able to wager by telephone or by Internet from any jurisdiction that allows off-site account wagering.
Fontaine says it is still early in the regulation process, but this news is huge for Nevada. Bookmakers, he said, will be able to greatly expand their services by offering loyalty and reward programs among many other things. Nevada, then, should reclaim a lot of lost business.
"Ten years ago, Nevada revolutionized the horse racing industry with the simulcasting and co-mingling of pools in one location," Fontaine explained. "It was one of the few places where a person could legally watch and wager on major horse tracks in America."
Since that time, however, race book handle in Nevada has been on the decline, while industry handle has increased. The new legislation aims to change that.
Fontaine added, "This legislation, combined with the marketing savvy of the casino giants, could return Las Vegas to a position of prominence in the off-track betting market."