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California Approves Exchange Wagering

New form of race betting to begin in 2012

The California legislature last month approved a form of horse-race betting, exchange wagering, which allows bettors to set their own odds against each other, even during a race that is in progress.

The new form of betting, which was pioneered by Betfair in Great Britain, employs internet technology and is seen as a way of attracting younger players, and also will pump $30 million-$70 million annually into larger purses in the Golden State, which is losing lots of its horse breeders to other states that offer better purses.

The bill, which easily passed both chambers on the last day of the legislative session, will go to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is expected to sign it.

The bill was opposed by the owner of Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields and by the California Thoroughbred Trainers, although some opposition was tamped down by delaying the implementation of exchange wagering for nearly two years. That will give the California Horse Racing Board time to integrate the new system into the existing one.  

The new type of betting is not subject to traditional takeout rates—now reaching record highs in California—and the bill raises takeout rates for other forms of racing, such as so-called exotic wagers, such as exactas, trifectas and superfectas.

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