INDIANAPOLIS — Though sports gambling will become legal for Hoosiers 21-years-old or older on Sept. 1, do not expect to see truckloads of betting kiosks unloaded at Indianapolis Motor Speedway any time soon.
Under the new legislation recently passed by Indiana lawmakers, only licensed casinos, racinos and off-track betting facilities are permitted to open a sports book and accept bets.
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So while legislation allows Hoosiers to bet on racing, the NFL, NBA and Division I sports — among other things — IMS, Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse or any other facility where legal gambling doesn’t already take place, won’t suddenly be allowed take wagers.
That was never going to happen said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co, which owns IMS and IndyCar.
Simon Pagenaud (22) of Team Penske crosses the finish line to win the 103rd running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2019. (Photo: Jenna Watson/IndyStar)
“The law that passed, and it was obvious from the very beginning of the legislative process,” said Miles, also a registered lobbyist who campaigned for the legalization of sports gambling, “there was no interest in expanding gambling in the sense of having operators beyond those who didn’t already have a license to operate gambling in Indiana.”
So if IMS won’t host sports gambling, what does the legalization of it mean for it and for IndyCar?
In the broadest sense, Miles told IndyStar on Wednesday, the opportunity fans have to bet on IndyCar is simply a new avenue for the sport and series to engage those who follow the series — and perhaps even attract more of those who don’t.
Miles hearkens back to the age-old tradition of the Indianapolis 500 lottery: Hoosiers cutting out the names/pictures of the 33 car-field from the morning newspaper, putting them in a hat and drawing.
“Whatever the stakes your family finds appropriate, everyone’s jazzed for the race,” he said. “Whether it’s first (car) out or winner or second, or third or whatever your family chooses to be the game, it clearly focuses the attention and deepens the partisanship for racing.”
From a financial perspective, while the legalization of sports gambling might be a windfall for some, Miles was careful to point out that he does not anticipate that being the case for IMS or IndyCar.
Just as the Colts don’t profit from wagers placed on their games, IMS and IndyCar will not benefit from wagers placed on races. That said, Miles envisions two primary sources of “reasonable commercial” revenue that could result from the legalization of sports gambling.
The first is obvious: sponsorship. Just like its existing partners, gambling operators will have an opportunity to secure naming rights, run commercials during races and place their names and logos on speedway signage, the program, video boards and cars.
“We’re hoping that any number of the legal operators — a large number of them — will want to offer IndyCar racing, including the Indy 500,” Miles said. “And when that happens, we believe there will be a need for them to promote the fact that they are offering a sports book on their premises or particularly if they have a mobile app so that people know to go there. And you can easily imagine how appealing that might be in front of 300,000 people on race day at the track.
“We think there’s an opportunity for what most will consider sponsorship, but some kind of joint-promotional program to help one or more of them who want to pay for us the opportunity to make themselves known to our fans.”
The other potentially profitable avenue for IndyCar to explore is slightly more complicated: the licensing of its proprietary data.
In order for a sports book to support live or real-time betting, an increasing popular form of sports gambling, IndyCar would likely have to provide real-time information only available to the series.
For example, say someone wanted to place a “prop bet” that on Lap 123 of the Indianapolis 500, Alexander Rossi would pass three cars. Or that James Hinchcliffe’s third pit stop will take less than six seconds.
Unless those drivers are being shown on TV at those exact instances, only IndyCar would be privy to that precise information in real time.
“Race control has all this real time data and information, and they’re looking at every camera angle, and they’re looking at positioning data that comes off the cars, the telemetry off the cars. … There are lots of examples where to get in-race betting for IndyCar — and not to have two or three different operators of sports betting with two or three different conclusions — the use of our data, I believe, will end up being compelling.”
In order to broker a deal like that, Miles said, IndyCar will have to do extensive research, alongside potential partners, to see what tyoe of information can and needs to be provided to sports books so that they can offer the appropriate bets to Hoosiers.
Furthermore, a third party intermediary will likely have to be included to translate the data sent by timing and scoring and package it into useful information (i.e. prop bets) for the sports book.
IndyCar, Miles said, has already taken initial steps into gauging the appetite for this information and in IndyCar as a whole. Most operators have prioritized the NFL, NBA and March Madness, he added, but motorsports remains
“For more than a year, we’ve had conversations with a large number of companies, from casino operators to those who will package and manage data for casinos, and it’s still not knowable what they want to do and what the market is in Indiana,” said Miles, who says he’s familiar with the ins and outs of legal sports gambling from his days as CEO of the ATP. “It’s early days.”
Though sports gambling will be allowed as soon as Sept. 1, Miles concurred with Indiana state officials who recently called it a “very aggressive deadline.”
While it’s possible some brick and mortar sports books will be open and ready to take bets on the IndyCar race at Portland that Sunday or for the following weekend’s Brickyard 400, he does not anticipate Hoosiers will be able to download any legal mobile apps and start placing wagers.
While that may be the case, IndyCar is wasting little time in making sure it is prepared for the Sept. 1 deadline by re-examining its own rulebook. When Hoosiers are legally allowed to bet on IndyCar races, Miles needs them to know they can do so with the utmost faith in the integrity of the sport and series.
In recent months, the series has worked to strengthen and broaden its own gambling rules. While the details are still being sorted out, the primary principals behind the enhancement are to ensure that the rules apply to more people around the sport and to increase the penalty for violations.
“We’re at the stage where (IndyCar President) Jay (Frye) is beginning to get feedback on the drafts from stakeholders,” Miles said. “The draft isn’t entirely identical to but isn’t very different from NASCAR’s rules. We think it encompasses best practices and things we’ve learn from other sports and we expect we will enact an improved rule before very long.”
Throughout the interview, Miles reiterated that the state legislature and gaming commission is still in the early stages of sorting out what the sports gambling will look like in Indiana.
Official rules around gambling won’t be adopted for another month.
“There’s a lot for the industry to work out,” Miles said. “But our hope is that in Indiana, as we work closely with the gaming commission as it figures out all the details, we hope that it’s easy for Hoosiers in the state to download an app and for them to have lots of options for wagering on IndyCar racing. That vision goes beyond who won the race. It’s for wagering during the race. We want that to happen, we want to protect the integrity of the sport in the process and we want all to work well, technologically. That’s what we hope the future to be.”
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