Is “Instant Racing” Coming To NJ?

On December 9, the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee advanced S2935, a bill that would authorize “instant racing” to be offered at New Jersey racetracks, OTWs, and casino simulcast rooms.

Instant racing is a form of horse race wagering offered only at wagering terminals. The customer is offered a screen with horse numbers and past performance data, and the option to make traditional horse race bets. The race itself is a randomly selected, recorded race, often from many years ago. Because the track, date, and horse names are not identified, and the race is selected at random, it would be extremely difficult to identify the actual race so as to enable the customer to have the advantage of knowing the result.

Instant racing is viewed as a way to offer racetrack patrons another form of wagering during the relatively lengthy periods between races. Typically, at New Jersey’s racetracks, races take place approximately every 20-30 minutes. Moreover, the fact that instant racing uses a terminal that often looks similar to a slot machine might be more appealing to customers who prefer to use higher technology devices.

One important issue was discussed during the committee hearing on December 9 – namely, the constitutionality of instant racing. Currently, the New Jersey Constitution permits wagering only on live horse races and on simulcast horse races. Instant wagering is arguably neither of those, and in light of how the courts generally strictly construe New Jersey’s constitutional language and statutes authorizing gambling, instant wagering might be vulnerable to a challenge. The solution discussed by the committee was to place instant wagering under the auspices of the Atlantic City casinos through the intrastate internet wagering protocols currently in place, thus deeming all wagers placed in and through an Atlantic City casino, avoiding constitutional implications.

There are still a number of legislative steps for this bill to get through before becoming law, but it certainly appears that New Jersey continues to look for ways to be at the technological forefront in the gaming industry.