Betting on the Future
So we’re on to the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway this weekend, a race sponsored by the casino located at the track. From what I’ve read, though, there won’t be sports betting on the race at the casino. I could be wrong about that, but unlike Dover, which had a sports betting kiosk from its casino in the track fan zone area, there’s nothing I’ve seen publicized about this at Kansas. State gambling regulations might be part of that story.
Kansas Speedway with the Hollywood Casino in the foreground
Oh, well… not this year, but you know it’s coming. Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway is owned by Penn National Gaming, which is all but a neighbor of mine. Its original casino, Hollywood/Penn National, is located just east of Harrisburg (and north of Hershey, if you’re planning a chocolate vacation anytime soon), and it also owns Hollywood Casino/Charles Town, just southwest of us in West Virginia. Both are located at horse racing tracks.
Penn National had a car racing track, too, for a number of years. Back then the ponies weren’t allowed to run on Sundays, so that’s when the cars ran. When the law changed, the cars went away, and after sitting sadly for years, the track was demolished when the casino was built.
Modified legend Billy Pauch at the old Penn National Speedway
Penn National is a class outfit, the nation’s largest operator of regional casinos – and it just acquired a major rival. It also owns the famous Tropicana and another casino in Las Vegas. There’s a billboard not far from me advertising sports book betting at Charles Town. It is coming to Kansas, it will come to Las Vegas (duh!), and it likely will come elsewhere. There’s too much money involved for any other outcome.
I am not going to discuss any of the moral issues surrounding gambling/gaming, nor the challenges to a sport’s integrity possible when all that green is around. I’m just saying this is happening, so let’s discuss where it might lead.
First off, let’s look at what tracks have been up to lately. All those new “fan zone” amenities are designed to get more folks in the gate, but they’re also designed to get you to part with more of your money once you’re there. Most of the new stuff isn’t free. For those of us who used to complain about program prices, it’s far from free. Betting on the races will fall into this category, too.
Betting at a NASCAR track won’t look like this
Here’s my scenario (and if you take this idea and put it into practice anywhere, I’ll find the best lawyers in the USA to pay you a visit):
When you come through the gate at the track, there’s a large tent or building off to one side for “FanGames” (might spell it with a “z” instead of an “s” to make it more memorable). Show your ID there and make a refundable deposit with your credit card, and you’re given what looks like a tablet computer. You can use it to place concession orders that, for a modest fee, will be delivered to your seat, and you can use it, for a modest fee, to access various fan enhancements like telecasts of the race, driver/team radio communication, in-car cameras, etc. For a modest fee, you can also go online.
What the tablet is meant to do, however, is connect you to GamesCentral, which enables you to place wagers on various aspects of the race, something like this:
Yeah, you’ll probably be able to play slots on the tablet, too, but it will be meant for you to bet on elements of the race
n Up until 30 seconds before the green flag, you can wager on who leads the first lap, then on who leads lap 10. More periodic leader wagers will be offered throughout. (NASCAR may have given up on stages by then.)
n In the spirit of horse racing, exacta-type bets will be offered – pick the top three at a given interval, or pick the leaders at multiple intervals (like the daily double) – if you’re right on who leads laps 100, 200 and 300, that pays off nicely.
n Other types of wagers could be offered to spice up dull periods (not that a NASCAR race has any of those). Before the race, take bets on what rating an instant poll will give the National Anthem performer; during the race, bet on the fastest time for a four-tire pit stop between laps 100 and 200; after the race, bet on how many hot dogs were served in the concession stands between green and checkered flags.
I’m not the world’s most creative guy, so I’ve only scratched the service, but you get the general idea here. Every few minutes, an Alexa-type voice offers you something else to bet on. Because we’re on the side of personal responsibility here, she also updates you on your winnings/losings regularly, and her voice starts to get really stern when your negative balance starts to approach the value of your house. (No, that’s cruel, you get that warning when your losings start to approach your paycheck.)
This could be the future. I’ve noted before that gambling saved horse racing from oblivion when horses ceased to be necessities in our lives, and now that cars – or at least driving them – may be headed the same way, this could be the ticket for motorsports.
Your alternative might be races between self-driving cars
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
Colleague and friend David Nance brought to our attention last week the story that NASCAR is creating a new end-of-the-season racing series that would involve drivers/teams in ARCA and both K&N East and West Series. If it happens, that could be kind of interesting, although it seems to be taking away a lot of schedule time for each series to run its own races.
Do you think, though, that this could a trial balloon for bigger things? If it works, might we see a playoff series that would involve Cup, Xfinity and Camping World/Gander together? I might pay to see that happen at least once, if enough was done to level the playing field for all three vehicles and teams.
How about an eight race series, with two events each on superspeedways, paved short tracks, dirt tracks and road courses? At least qualifying might be worth watching again.
This isn’t quite what I had in mind with both cars and trucks on the track, but you get the idea (and I’d kind of liked to have seen this actually take place)
Long-time writer, announcer and publicist Ernie Saxton mentioned in his Area Auto Racing News column the discussion of Kyle Busch’s possibly soon-to-come 200th victory in NASCAR’s top three touring series as a “passing” of Richard Petty’s 200-win total in Grand National/Cup racing alone.
I’m among those who thinks this is all nonsense. The two achievements are both tremendously impressive, but they have absolutely nothing to do with each other:
n Petty’s were all in one series, while Busch’s wins have been in three, which are very different in competition levels.
n Petty’s victories came in a generally much less competitive top series than Busch’s, and most came when many more GN/Cup races were run each year.
n If we’re going to add Xfinity and Truck wins to someone’s totals today, why not add modified and sportsman wins to drivers of the ‘50s and ‘60s, when those were the second- and third-tier series?
n Why stop with NASCAR? How about USAC or ARCA wins? Guys like Dick Trickle, Red Farmer, my own childhood hero Ray Hendrick and others won hundreds of races.
Of course, those who promote this “competition” know just how silly it is, but if it keeps people – like me – involved, it’s successful.
Let Richard and Kyle each have his own record, just don’t force false comparisons between the two