(This is from a blog I wrote on the Today's Racing Digest website)
Most slot machines are considered a game of chance, but AmTote and
RaceTech developed a machine that is based on skill called Instant
Racing. These Instant Racing machines look like slot machines, but they
are pari-mutuel just like horse racing and the player has to use their
“skill” to select winners from past videotaped races. The names of the
horses have been changed and there are data charts the player can use to
“handicap” each race (spin).
As you can see above, the reels spin like a slot machine while the
race is shown in the upper right corner in the yellow box. The player
selects three numbers/horses for each spin/race and they can win by
selecting the first three finishers in order (Trifecta), the first three
finishers in any order (Trifecta box), the first two finishers (Exacta)
or any two of the first three finishers (Show Quinella). Each spin is
pooled just like in pari-mutuel wagering and the player who hits first
receives the highest payout.
These Instant Racing machines were first installed at Oaklawn Park in
2000 and they have helped more than double their purses which were
about $400,000 a day in 2013. In 2012, both Kentucky Downs and Ellis
Park (both located in Kentucky) were able to install Instant Racing at
their tracks. On May 23, 2013 a bill was approved by the Senate in
Oregon for Portland Meadows to install Instant Racing, but it still has
to be signed by the Governor for final approval.
On average, a typical slot machine makes about $300 a day while
Instant Racing machines have ranged from 14-57% lower per day. Still,
it is income for the tracks whether they are racing or not and at all
hours of the day and night. While racinos such as Belmont Park or
Woodbine still have an advantage, Instant Racing has helped smaller
tracks to help boost purses which attracts better horses.
With the recent closing of Bay Meadows and now Hollywood Park at the
end of this year, will California racing push to have Instant Racing
machines installed at their race tracks? There was a push for them in
2006, but it appears that it is no longer a priority. A bill for online
poker in the state last year hasn’t made any ground. This year, a bill
was sent to allow sports betting at race tracks, but it has been
stalled on the Assembly floor.
Competition for the gambling dollar keeps expanding as there are now
over 50 Native American Casinos in California. There is also the state
lottery, church bingo and card casinos. Online wagering at race tracks
in the state has increased, but the tracks also receive a lower cut of
the wagering dollar as a piece now goes to the online wagering
Race tracks continue to try their best to attract people to attend
live racing by using hat giveaways, mystery mutuel vouchers, food truck
festivals, concerts, family fun days. etc. Maybe there needs to be
another push for Instant Racing machines which would at least get more
people to the track. Of course, it is difficult to transfer slot
players to become horseplayers, but it certainly couldn’t hurt could it?