A year from now you will be able to bet on the Indianapolis 500 – legally – from your seat at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway using your cell phone.
As a matter of fact, if you live anywhere in Indiana you’ll be able to download an app and wager on almost anything in the race, like how many cars Alexander Rossi will pass, will Marco Andretti lead a lap, will Josef Newgarden start in the front row, will Ed Carpenter finish in the top five, or how many cars will finish on the lead lap.
“The legislators that were leaders decided to put all this sports wagering in a big bill, from racinos having table games, to moving casinos off water to a location off an interstate, moving another one to Terre Haute, so we were the flea on the dog,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company who was instrumental in pushing for Indy 500 wagering.
“It passed easily in the General Assembly, and I think it will be very widely accepted. I also think it’s going to help raise our profile.”
Now, this won’t be like going to Churchill Downs and walking up to a betting window, because that will never be allowed.
“The new state law state law allows current licensed operators of casinos and horse racing racinos to offer sports wagering,” continued Miles. “You can’t bet on something like high school sports, but you can bet on motorsports – on-line and on mobile phones.
“We’re going to have prop bets, pre-race wagers and in-race wagering just like they do in the NFL so I think it’s going to be popular.”
The immediate question is how does IMS and IndyCar go about scoring a wager like: how many cars will Graham Rahal pass on the restart?
“The technology has to work with absolute accuracy,” asks Miles. “The law would require that in-race betting can only be scored by using our official statistics. Let’s say there’s a bet on who is going to be first at the end of the second lap, and we stack up eight cars in the first turn. Kyle (Novak, race steward) and his people don’t stop the race, but they’ll be gathering data from loops on the track to position the cars in the right order.
“In order to make in-race bets practical, you’ve got to have the right answer – instantaneously – and then get ready for the next restart, where people can bet again.”
The next question? What’s in it for the Speedway and IndyCar, since all the races in the NTT series will be eligible for wagering in Indiana.
“It’s largely about fan engagement, not fan revenue,” Miles replied. “Whether you’re in Gary or the east stands of Pagoda, you’re more engaged with something at stake. The law did not provide that any sport gets piece of action. So what’s our revenue source?
“There will be sponsor opportunities. Let’s say nine places offer bets around the state, and Caesar’s wants to publicize Indy like the Derby, so they would come to us and become promotional partners.
“The other way to make money is data. We want official data to settle bets – how do they get the information? They come to us, they pay us a licensing fee or a flat amount, plus a percent of what we determine the take is.”
Of course IndyCar isn’t offered in most sports books in Las Vegas and only NASCAR gets any kind of weekly action, but it’s minimal compared to stick and ball sports and horse racing.
“Motorsports hasn’t been big in Vegas, but this gives us a chance to engage the casual fan, and somebody like NBC is sorting out its position on gambling,” Miles continued. “Do they want to offer bets on the screen? I mean, the possibilities could be endless.”
As it stands today, it’s unknown whether IndyCar fans in California, Texas, Wisconsin or Ohio will be allowed to wager legally, because every state is going to have its own laws.
But one thing is for sure: there will be lots of new reasons to attend or watch the Indy 500 in 2020.
“We’ll know by September if it’s possible to have arrangements in place for the Brickyard,” said Miles. “Probably not, but we certainly should be next May.”