Fixed-Odds Horse Betting Proposal Taking Shape In Colorado

Written By Ken Pomponio on 02/11/2022
Colorado fixed-odds horse racing proposal

Colorado fixed-odds horse racing on Friday moved a step closer to becoming reality.

And, if all goes as planned, that reality could arrive as soon as May.

The Colorado Division of Gaming hosted a stakeholder rule-making workshop on Friday via a Webex video conference.

Several stakeholders asked questions about and requested clarifications on the Division of Gaming’s proposed Rule 5.4, Fixed Odds or Price on Horse and Greyhound Wagering. 

That rule draft was put forth during a Colorado Department of Revenue meeting on Nov. 17 after a series of stakeholder meetings.

The proposal has received a green light so far from the Colorado DOR. And on Friday, stakeholders had one of their final chances to review the document before it heads to the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (CLGCC) for final approval.

In short, it looks like changes are coming to Colorado horse betting.

State horse organizations’ consent the key component

Five stakeholders had queries and/or asked for clarifications during Friday’s meeting.

Dan Hartman, the director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, addressed each of them. And, in doing so, Hartman repeatedly stressed the key component found throughout the proposal.

That is those entities looking to offer fixed-odds wagering must first gain contractual consent from the state’s established horse organizations: The governor-appointed Colorado Racing Commission and the independent Colorado Horse Racing Association.

A number of existing Colorado online sportsbooks very likely will be included among those entities.

Bally’s-owned Arapahoe Park, located just outside of the city of Aurora, would also need to grant approval. 

Arapahoe Park, established in 1984, is the Centennial State’s lone current racetrack. Bally’s also also runs 10 state off-track betting parlors where wagering is accepted on worldwide horse races.

“Consent is specific for the operator that is asking for it,” Hartman said Friday in response to a stakeholder question. “It’s not available to all folks unless they’ve gone out and received those consents or (a) contract with the horsemen and horse tracks that are providing the content here in Colorado.”

Hartman added that all racing content providers will need to be licensed in the state. Tracks outside of state using licensed content providers would not need to get licensed themselves, he explained.

Fixed-odds horse betting a US rarity

If Colorado were to approve fixed-odds wagering on horse racing, it would become only the second US state to do so.

New Jersey offers fixed-odds betting, but it’s a hybrid model that’s still undergoing some tweaks and alterations.

Instead of the fixed-odds system, pari-mutuel wagering is utilized in the rest of the states where horse race betting is permitted. 

With pari-mutuel wagering, all of the bets on a particular race are considered part of a universal pool. 

From that pool, the track hosting the race takes a percentage. And then, with the remaining amount in that pool, the bets on the winning horses are paid off.

The tricky part for an individual pari-mutuel bettor, though, is that the odds they originally received on their particular horse can shift — up or down — prior to the start of the race. Those odds changes are driven by the percentage of pool bets and money that horse receives.

What is fixed-odds betting?

That isn’t the case with fixed-odds wagering.

The odds the bettor receives at the time of his or her wager are the odds they are locked into for the race. 

In other words, it’s the same, fixed-odds system currently in place for US sports betting.

In the US thoroughbred horse racing world, though, it’s a rarity. 

And Hartman is preparing for a wait-and-watch, learning-on-the-fly-experience if Colorado adopts fixed-odds horse racing.

“Sure, fixed odds are being looked at by every racing group out there,” Hartman said Friday. “As states and tracks roll it out, we anticipate that some folks and some groups will sit on the sideline for a while and see how it’s working. Certainly, you can’t force anyone to (get involved) if they don’t want to. And you can’t force any horsemen (to give approval) if they’re leery on how it’s going to work. 

“Hopefully we’ve put together an offering that will allow folks to give it a try.”

Fixed-odds wagering on a fast track

The Rule 5.4 proposal looks to be on a relatively fast track.

Hartman said he and the Colorado Division of Gaming board will weigh the stakeholder input from Friday’s meeting. They will then use that to “clean up” and publish a final draft of the fixed-odds rules.

That proposal, Hartman anticipates, should be in front of the CLGCC for its monthly March meeting. Those meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month, meaning next month’s falls on March 17.

Once approved by CLGCC, fixed-odds horse racing will be entered into the official CDOR Events and Wagers catalog.

“Depending on which rules are approved by the commission, hopefully we have operating rules in place (sometime in) May,” Hartman said.

Photo by AP / Jae C. Hong
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Ken Pomponio

Ken is a fourth-generation Coloradan and career sports journalist with more than 30 years covering the gamut from the preps to the pros. A lifelong Front Range resident and son of 1960s Denver Broncos season-ticket holders, he is a long-time sports betting enthusiast whose insight and passion shine through in his coverage at PlayColorado.

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