Instant racing or slots in disguise?

Instant racing’s been around since 2000, but it’s become a hot topic recently. With some states holding the line against slot machines, could these terminals allow tracks to become backdoor racinos? From the AP:

A bill in the state Legislature that would allow Ohio’s seven horse tracks to install machines that take bets on horse races that have already been run is key to saving the industry, supporters say.

Examples can be found in other states, one track owner in Arkansas said. Louis A. Cella’s family helped to build Oaklawn, a racetrack in Hot Springs, Ark., more than 100 years ago.

“In the 1990s, our business started tanking,” he said. “We had to come up with something or close. … It was that dire.”

So in 2000, he brought in instant racing terminals, which look like slot machines, and gamblers bet on races that already had been run. The track is making millions of dollars on them, track officials said.

Rob Walgate, vice president of the Ohio Roundtable, a conservative-leaning group that has opposed previous slots proposals, said instant racing is someone betting against a machine and that makes it an odds-based system that’s not allowed without amending the Ohio Constitution.

“Very little information is provided up front,” he said. “It’s not skill-based at all.”

The machines have a library of about 100,000 races, give gamblers the winning percentages of jockeys, trainers and horses. But the dates and sites of the races and the names of the horses remain hidden.

Players spend a quarter or $1, pick horses to win and then watch a video of the race. The amount won depends on the number of other bettors. It gives bettors something do between live races.

Backers of instant racing say it’s key to horse racing’s future

Is it a slot or isn’t it? On one hand, the player is getting paid out of a pool, not at fixed odds. I’d be interested in seeing just how much skill is involved with picking an instant racing winner as opposed to doing so with an actual horse race, either in perrson or via simulcast. Does keeping the jockeys and horses anonymous make it a total crapshoot? I’d tend to think not, but I haven’t seen this demonstrated.

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