Hoping to act as a “filler product” in between live races, which are being run less often during the week, virtual racing is now being offered at Silver Sevens and the Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas by the largest sports book operator in Nevada.
On Friday, United Kingdom-based William Hill plc (LSE: WMH), announced that after being approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission in early 2015 and working on the process for over a year, horse races that don’t happen in real life will be offered at the two casinos every five minutes and feature commentary from now retired famed announcer Tom Durkin. According to Michael Grodsky, a company spokesman, those wagering can win, place, show, exactas, and trifectas on races that range from eight to 12 horses, as reported by the Las Vegas Sun.
After the completion of a field trial at the two casinos and approval from the Gaming Control Board, the bookmaker, which was founded in Britain in 1934, hopes to open virtual racing at more books in the state. Grodsky told the news outlet, “We just want to see how it fits,” and, “If and when we receive the approval after the field trial, we will begin expanding virtual racing to other locations across the state.” He said that the goal is to provide wagering content in between live races during the week rather than to replace betting on them. Grodsky said it was ‘too early to tell” what the company’s Nevada books will earn from the new racing options. Eighteen percent of horse racing revenue is represented by virtual racing in the company’s U.K. betting shops.
Once among the most popular sports in America, interest in horse racing has declined significantly over the past decade. Results from a Harris Poll, one of the longest-running public opinion surveys in the U.S., held in January show that compared to 1985 when horse racing ranked 8th among popular American sports and 4 percent called it their favorite, it now ranks 13th and a mere 1 percent of Americans said it was their favorite, according to playinglegal.com.
According to the article, a 2011 Jockey Club commissioned study found that both the number of fans and bettors of horse racing were on the decline. The study found that in 2013 horse racing peaked at $15.2 billion only to fall to $10.6 billion in 2015. According to the Jockey Club, which is the breed registry for Thoroughbred horses in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, with all of the new options there are for entertainment and gambling, people are losing interest in the industry.