Monmouth Park, Horse Racing, Fantasy Sports Network Gamble on Daily Fantasy Sports
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Will Daily Fantasy Sports Pay Off for Monmouth Park, Horse Racing, And Fantasy Sports Network?

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Monmouth Park Racetrack and the Fantasy Sports Network are poised to launch daily fantasy sports contests as soon as next month, in what represents a new angle for the DFS industry.

The basics

The DFS contests being offered will be called the  Monmouth Park Daily Fantasy Game. Monmouth won’t be reinventing the wheel, according to Bill Knauf, vice president of Business Operations at Monmouth Park.

“Our [daily fantasy sports contests] will have a similar look to those other sites but with our Monmouth Park branding,” said Knauf, referencing industry leaders FanDuel and DraftKings. We would like to offer the same types of professional sports football, baseball, basketball, etc. currently offered on most fantasy sites.”

The game will be online only — accessible via the Monmouth Park website — and will be available in the same jurisdictions that are currently legal for fantasy sports, Knauf said.

Monmouth and FNTSY hope to have the game up and running by Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season, or shortly thereafter, according to Knauf. Entry fees for the contests are likely to range from $1 to $100.

Louis Maione, Chief Strategy Officer of Anthem Media Group Inc. (the parent company of FNTSY), told ODFReport that they are still deciding on a vendor to provide the interface for the contests.

“We would love to set our games apart from the norm, but that will depend on the flexibility the vendor provides us,” Maione said.

Horse Track + Fantasy Sports = ?

The announcement from Monmouth and FSN doesn’t appear to be terribly groundbreaking on the surface — the two companies are basically partnering to launch DFS contests like one might at any one of a variety of sites. It’s the “how” and the “why” behind the endeavor that is interesting.

While they may not appear to be closely linked, daily fantasy sports and horse racing actually share several characteristics:

  • They are two of the most common ways of using money to try to win more money in the United States (we are avoiding the use of the term “wagering,” as fantasy sports sites consider themselves a skill-based game, not gambling, despite more and more pushback on the issue). Real-money daily fantasy sports are available in 45 states, while more than half of the 50 states have a horse track where you can place wagers.
  • Both are mentioned and exempted by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The UIGEA excludes “fantasy sports” and says that “‘unlawful Internet gambling’ shall not include any activity that is allowed under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978.”
  • Both provide nearly instant gratification for players. Daily fantasy players find out the results of their contests in the course of a night, and can check on the status of their contests minute-by-minute. And horse racing bettors find out whether they won or lost in the time it takes to run a race, usually less than two minutes.

It’s not the first foray into fantasy for Monmouth. The racetrack already offers the free, seasonlong racing game Survival at the Shore, as well as the free, one-day game based on the races held the day of The Haskell, a Grade I race held at Monmouth annually with a purse of $1 million. According to Monmouth, both games attracted over 6,500 participants last year.

“We feel that Monmouth Park has a strong, respected reputation for horse race wagering across the country and it is a natural to introduce those patrons to our fantasy game,” Knauf said. “It could be played on-track, but the focus will be the interaction with those fans outside the racetrack in the offseason. We want to stay connected to our fans, and this will provide a good opportunity to do that.”

Monmouth is obviously hoping for more participation when it opens up real-money contests over a variety of sports this year.

“We will promote it on-track, and offer assistance on how to sign up and play,” Knauf added. “We look forward to promoting it to the 600,000 fans that attend the racetrack during the summertime.”

Help for horse racing?

It’s certainly not a secret that the horse racing industry has been in a long-term decline, in terms of revenue and popularity. Outside of The Triple Crown races and The Breeders Cup, horse racing has had trouble staying in the mainstream consciousness, at least in the United States. New Jersey witnessed firsthand the fallout this year, as the Atlantic City Race Course closed its doors.

That has led tracks around the country to find ways to innovate and to look for new revenue streams. Monmouth has been at the center of the sports betting legal morass in New Jersey, as the track was prepared to take legal sports bets before a restraining order halted the action. The sports betting battle between New Jersey and the major North American sports leagues continued this week in the courts.

Short of that, daily fantasy sports seems to be the next-best avenue for Monmouth to pursue.

Of course, there’s some question of whether horse racing and fantasy sports really mesh. The central question seems to be: Can horse racing bettors be converted into fantasy players? Monmouth and FNTSY seem to believe so.

“We believe that these folks (racing bettors and DFS players) are like minded and enjoy researching these games of skill, so we should see a fair amount of crossover,” Maione said.

Knauf agreed.

“We feel horse racing has a strong crossover to fantasy sports,” Knauf said. “It takes time in each game to handicap and select the players and horses, and then there is instant gratification for both: horse racing pays out immediately if you win the race, and fantasy sports rewards you with points to for your team. It’s a natural for MonmouthPark to offer both.”

Symbiotic relationship

Another trend we’ve started seeing in DFS is cross-promotion, and the Monmouth-FNTSY relationship is an example of that. Just this week, Fantasy Aces, a DFS provider, and Fantasy Alarm, a DFS media site, inked a deal.

“We are excited to play such an important role in the pioneering process of bringing fantasy sports to such a historic New Jersey destination,” Maione said. “Already on the cutting edge of Thoroughbred racing, Monmouth Park is now expanding into one of the most exciting areas of sports entertainment and interactivity, one that is experiencing continued exponential growth. Adding our fantasy expertise and distribution will allow Monmouth Park to take off with this endeavor, catering to fantasy enthusiasts in both local and remote locations.”

Clearly, FNTSY is hopeful that tying itself to Monmouth’s fantasy game  — and in turn an actual DFS site — will help its television network and web traffic as well.

Will this foray by a racetrack and a media network add up to success in the DFS market? Only time will tell.

Photo by TheBluZebra used under license CC BY 3.0.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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