Oaklawn Opens Gate to Online Gambling

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jun. 2, 2014 12:00 am  

In addition, Cox said, the website is one of the largest expansions of gambling in Arkansas’ history.

But Ron Oliver, director of the State Racing Commission, said Oaklawn is not offering anything that Arkansans couldn’t already do through other websites. “There were a lot of people doing it,” Oliver said. “The difference is the state gets part of the money here.”

Jeff Platt, president of the Horseplayers Association of North America of Keswick, Virginia, said offering online horse racing will help the sport and the tracks that offer the online wagering. He said that some days it might not be convenient for people to travel to the track and bet. “People have jobs and lives,” Platt said. “Yet if you can bet remotely, you can stay very interested in it.”

It will also support the local racetrack, he said. Oaklawn’s Geiger said that Oaklawn evenly splits the revenue generated by its online betting site with the horsemen.

Changes to the Law

In 2000, an amendment to the federal Interstate Horseracing Act allowed online wagering if it’s legal in the state where the online horse racing takes place, said Joseph Kelly, a professor of business law at State University of New York at Buffalo and co-editor of Gaming Law Review & Economics.

“Now, for the longest time, the Justice Department did not permit interstate online horse racing,” Kelly said. “Nobody agreed with the Justice Department.”

But, he said, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that was passed in 2006 “seems to be a specific exemption for online horse racing.”

Geiger, with Oaklawn, said that in the past decade the law didn’t make it clear whether Oaklawn could even start a betting website. He said there wasn’t anything on the books that precluded Oaklawn from offering online wagering, “nor was there anything on the books that allowed it.”

But Geiger said Oaklawn wasn’t going to make a move unless it received an OK from the Legislature. “That’s just how we operate,” he said.

Meanwhile, firms such as XpressBet.com, a company related to the Stronach Group of Canada, and others allowed Arkansans to bet on simulcast racing and horse races at Oaklawn, Geiger said. “There was no teeth in the law that prevented out-of-state providers from coming in and signing up Arkansans,” he said.

Geiger said he noticed that instead of driving to Oaklawn to place their bets on the Kentucky Derby, Arkansans started signing up with these out-of-state providers to gamble.



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