NYRA Receives Permission to Offer Internet Wagering

The New York Racing Association will become the first racing entity in New York to offer internet wagering. State regulators April 26 approved a NYRA application to permit the potentially lucrative form of gambling, beginning as soon as NYRA can start the venture.

NYRA officials said they hope to have the new internet betting system running on its web site next week for the May 2 start of the Belmont meet. Bettors will be able to wager on NYRA tracks and 22 other tracks in the United States and Canada that have so far agreed to the new program.

“We’re all very excited about this. We think this is going to be a breakthrough for the industry,’’ said John Ryan, NYRA’s chief administrative officer.

Ryan said NYRA, hoping to attract tens of thousands of customers, conservatively estimates that about $30 million will be wagering on its internet site in the first year.

The Legislature last year approved a law allowing NYRA and wagering outlets in the state to offer internet wagering to bettors who already hold telephone account wagering. NYRA became the first, and so far only, racing entity in the state to apply to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for the internet wagering rights, which the board granted April 26; no off track betting corporation in New York has yet to apply to begin internet wagering.

NYRA is battling with three other groups for the rights to the franchise it now holds to operate racing at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga tracks. Gov. Eliot Spitzer is soon expected to make his choice known, though it is unclear if he and legislators can agree on a new franchise holder before the Legislature ends its session in late June.

The program will allow bets to be made on both NYRA races as well as race cards from elsewhere that NYRA offers to its account wagering customers; Ryan said that as a professional courtesy NYRA is asking for permission from other tracks – 22 have committed so far – before letting NYRA internet bettors place wagers on races at those other facilities.

The program will be eligible to customers of NYRA Rewards telephone wagering program. For new customers, who must also sign up with Rewards, the program will only be eligible to residents of New York and Connecticut; Ryan said a NYRA broadcast  contract with TVG prevents residents from other states from participating in the new internet program.

“This certainly makes the ability to make pari-mutuel wagering more accessible for a whole range of the population,’’ Ryan said. NYRA believes it will also be able to reach a new customer base, in the 25 to 50 age range who are internet savvy but have not taken interest in the traditional form of horse wagering.

The racing board in January adopted a series of provisions governing how the internet wagering systems can work and the kinds of record-keeping and privacy rights that must be included.

“NYRA has become the first racing operator in the State to institute these new rules that provide for account holders to take advantage of state-of-the-art communication equipment knowing full well the appropriate safeguards are in place,” said racing board chairman Daniel D. Hogan said. “NYRA, along with any other racetrack operator or off-track operation that intend to implement internet account wagering, will be expected to follow a strict set of guidelines that are designed to preserve the integrity of pari-mutuel wagering throughout the state.”

NYRA must require proof that its internet account holders are at least 18 years of age and that accounts have sufficient funds to cover bets.