Thursday, February 14, 2013

State Racing Commission Minutes, Assembly Bill Signal Positive Change for NJ-Based NHC Tour Players

Based on my review of public documents, two recent developments at the state level signal that New Jersey residents who belong to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Tour will soon gain greater access to online qualifying tournaments run by an outside account wagering (ADW) platform.

There's no need to go into a long recap of my disdain for, which may work well for the average horseplayer but, since its creation in 2004, lacks any value for an NHC Tour player like me.

In short, I (and all NJ residents) am prohibited by law from playing in contests run by out-of-state ADW operators like and that offer NHC berths.  I have long written for change.

NJ Horseplayer Reading
The Tea Leaves
The wheels appear to be in motion, however, for a seismic shift.

Starting from unsolicited and unfounded rumors from several friends in the blogosphere about U.K. Betfair-owned TVG taking the reins from, I did some digging and uncovered two pertinent documents.

The first is the minutes of the November 30, 2012 telephonic meeting (interesting choice of technology for a public meeting) of the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC).  Four references to TVG, which has its own ADW service and television network, pique my interest.

Try to Follow Along

Evidently, the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority's (NJSEA) turnover of the operations of Monmouth Park in 2012 to privately-held Darby Development LLC will now extend to the day-to-day management of 4NJBets and empower Darby to solicit bids from parties interested in operating NJ's ADW platform.

Two such parties named in the minutes were TVG and Sportech, the British gambling company that inherited the 4NJBets contract via its 2010 acquisition of Scientific Games.

Despite objections-turned-allegations by the attorney representing Sportech that Darby circumvented state laws governing public bids (starting at "Gil Brooks," pg. 10) , NJRC Executive Director Frank Zanzuckki confirmed the Commission's unanimous approval for the turnover of 4NJBets (and its employees) to Darby, with several seemingly easy-to-meet conditions.

Meanwhile, on February 4, 2013, New Jersey's Assembly voted unanimously on a measure (A-2914) to allow -- get this -- "state residents who are outside New Jersey to place wagers on horse races using the account wagering system."  

This approval came a week after Governor Christie signed a law letting bettors use their mobile devices to place wagers (but only at approved betting facilities).

On the surface, I failed to recognize the benefit of the mobile on-track betting law or A-2914 to either the horse's throughbred racing industry or horseplayers, but had an epiphany after reviewing them in the context of the NJRC meeting minutes: NJ residents may soon get to use an outside ADW, like a TVG.

This is merely speculative, but I am guessing that these measures, when taken together with the NJRC's decision, will clear the way for Darby to hire an outside operator like TVG or TwinSpires to either take over or entirely replace the 4NJBets architecture with its own proprietary wagering system.

In my view, this would mark significant progress for NHC Tour members living in New Jersey.  Current 4NJBets account holders may disagree, but that's not my concern.

Take an email this evening that I received from Michele Ravencraft, who oversees the NHC program for the NTRA, highlighting an event called the Keeneland Grade One Gamble

The Grade One Gamble, to be held during the spring meeting at Keeneland in April, is a big-money tournament limited to 55 entrants; 41 will pay $3,000 to enter, while the other 14 entrants will be reserved for TVG account holders through internal qualifying on TVG (see Rules).  The top five finishers at the Grade One Gamble will win spots to the 2014 NHC.

Normally, I would automatically trash such an email, since 4NJBets never offers that kind of NHC-based tournament access of other ADWs.  In light of recent developments in Trenton, however, I will save that one for future reference in the event that Darby picks TVG to offer wagering services.

I'll also keep my eye open for any new developments with NJRC or the NJ Legislature.

In the meantime, feel free to share any discoveries or observations in the comment field below.


  1. While I look forward to more NHC opportunities it must be stated that the average bettor will be starting out $240 per year in the hole. The following is taken from the TVG website:

    As a TVG subscriber, you will be required to select one (1) of the following two (2) plans to pay for TVG wagering account services;

    (1) Flat Rate Plan – A flat $19.95 monthly subscription fee that includes unlimited wagering transactions, video streaming and race replays at no additional cost will be charged to your selected payment option no later than five days after the end of the month in which the subscription fee was incurred.

    (2) Pay As You Go Plan – A fee of $0.25 per wagering transaction (regardless of the dollar amount of each transaction), with a cap of $19.95 per month (or approximately 80 transactions) will be automatically deducted from your account each day. If your account does not have sufficient funds for the deduction of wagering transaction fees, such fees will be deducted immediately from the next deposit into your account.

    There are no contract terms with TVG plans. You can change your plan at any time; however plan updates are effective on the first day of the following month. Under either plan, your fees will be waived or refunded as the case may be on or before the fifth day following the end of such month if you wager $2,500 or more during a month.

  2. Bill, no plan or system is going to be perfect. I'd much prefer access to, since they offer WAY more NHC opportunities, but as only a weekend player (and primarily for contests), I think TVG's an upgrade over 4NJBets. I'm going to add more thoughts to the blog today, but the overarching theme is that this is the first step in a much bigger plan that's eventually going to tie in exchange wagering (approved in NJ last year) and sports betting -- both of which Betfair can provide, from what I can tell. To boot, the migration of 4NJBets to Darby/TVG satisfies Christie's mandate for NJ to rid itself of horse-racing involvement; NJSEA (unfortunately) will still maintain oversight, but no longer bankroll 4NJBets staff, etc.

    Anyway, I'd spend more than 25 cents driving over to Monmouth Park to make my "special occasion" bets anyway (i.e. Triple Crown races, Breeders Cup), so I don't see that as a problem; nothing's ever free.

    1. Bill, forget about the monthly fees, how are horse players in NJ going to deposit and withdraw from their accounts? I am not going to a drug store to buy some kind of a money card to send out to TVG etc...Will the tracks continue to allow deposits to be made? In the alternative, I will just shut my account down and go back to the track.

  3. I'm not sure, Anonymous. You mean you don't want to run out and buy TVG Green Dot money packs?! LOL...

    I read somewhere (I think on some harness blog or message board) that the current 4NJBets structure will remain intact, which from my brief experience means no fees, but otherwise I have no confirmation of anything. I'm sure we'll know more after Wednesday's NJRC scheduled meeting.

  4. Bill what's up this is Nick, (Beth's friend Erin's husband) we met in Vegas. This move sounds like it is good for you because of your interest in tournaments, but for people like me who bet $100-200/month it sucks. There is no way I am paying to bet. I would understand paying a fee to watch streams. According to my user profile (I had no problems logging in today), the grace period ends June 1.
    I didn't spend too much on the site, but the video quality is a little better. The information is more in depth however I have a trackmaster account so I don't really need all that. NJBets was perfect for casual bettors. I drive 5 minutes to Fav's hit a terminal and I am home in no time watching the races and betting. Now I'll have to go to a window and wait on line until they implement their system. Can't figure out what your average harness handicappers have to gain by this move. Come June 1, I will be using my friend's Racing Day account to watch video and bet through a bookie. Won't be able to play pick 4s, supers and triples but that's better than starting the year in a $312 hole (the video is an extra 6/month if you don't wager $200 for the month)

  5. Hey, Nick, glad to hear from you...and glad you somehow found my blog!

    I understand your sentiments, but honestly can't address the system implementation stuff you're talking about, since that's not my specialty. Otherwise, I can see your beef about the video angle; I hadn't seen that TVG would be charging for video replays if you do not wager X amount per month. The only thing I can suggest is to visit the track sites directly; many that I follow on the thoroughbred circuit offer that up for nothing --, Tampa, Gulfstream, Monmouth, Woodbine, etc. In terms of live video, I might be spoiled, since I have TVG and HRN through FiOS.

    Obviously, there are pros and cons to the whole arrangement; the obvious negative being the cost. On the other hand, my perspective is largely as a contest player, so I'm hoping the offshoot of having to pay a bit for wagers is a broader opportunity to qualify for the National Handicapping Championship in Vegas, assuming TVG continues to be involved on that front.