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Marketplace

The nest is full

Oct 11, 2019

Betting money on a dead horse: Seriously

Gigi Douban Mar 11, 2013
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There’s another lengthy filibuster going on. This one is in Nebraska over a horse racing initiative that could bring in as much as $18 million a year in additional wagering, which the state collects taxes on. The problem is, some of the horses in these races might not even be alive anymore.

Nebraska lawmakers want to install video screens that would play old races to boost the state’s gambling revenue. So the way it works is bettors know the horses’ odds, but that’s about it.

“When you go the machine you don’t know when or where it was run, you don’t know the names of the horses or anything like that, but you do have a form that you can look at,” says Nebraska Senator Russ Karpisek, a supporter of the bill. “As soon as you bet, you can start it and watch the race.

Opponents say betting on old races on a video screen seems pretty random — slot machine random. And Nebraska law prohibits slot machines.

Mark Nichols, economics professor at the University of Nevada in Reno, wonders how all that missing info about the race affects the odds.

“It is a little bit more guesswork, because to the extent that jockeys can have an influence on the outcome, which presumably they can, you don’t know that information,” Nichols says.

Why couldn’t the state just introduce off-track betting, where gamblers can watch televised live races? Well, the Nebraska legislature killed that bill three years ago.

But could you drink your mint julep at one of these video screens? Senator Karpisek says why not?

“Well I think you could,” he says,  “and I would. Or at least beer.”

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