Friday, February 15, 2013

TVG Reportedly Taking Over

Harness Racing Update, published by racing extraordinaire Bill Finley and confirming recent speculation, reports that Television Games (TVG), operated by U.K. gambling concern Betfair, will officially take over online wagering in New Jersey as of March 1, pending regulatory approvals.

New Jersey horseplayers, by law, have been subjected to as their online wagering platform but will presumably migrate to TVG next month.

I am not a daily bettor but had dabbled with 4NJBets over a year ago just to kick the tires, and found the system antiquated in terms of signup (took nearly 2 weeks and involved mailing photocopies of several documents) and the lack of customer rewards and certain other services offered by other platforms such as TVG, and that offer additional appeal.

In addition, there was no access to NHC Tour events -- my selfish interest and the reason I endorse Friday's announcement.

Granted, TVG does not seem to offer nearly as much NHC contest access as or, but perhaps that will change.

Detractors to a 4NJBets takeover will point to monthly ($19.95) or per-use fees ($0.25 per wager, up to a $19.95 monthly cap) charged by TVG as a drawback to 4NJBets, which from what I recall does not charge these sorts of fees, but for me the trade-off is negligible, since I'm only an occasional bettor.

When I do make the random bet (i.e. Triple Crown races, Breeders Cup) outside of contests, at $3+ per gallon of gas I'm spending that much anyway to drive to Monmouth Park, so to me it's a wash.  Nothing is every free.

From a bigger-picture perspective, however, to me today's announcement goes far beyond horse racing.

Exchange Wagering 

Recall that Governor Christie in January 2011 signed a law clearing the way for so-called Exchange Wagering, a concept pioneered by Betfair.  TVG recently aired a show about this concept, which lacks appeal to me but seems closer to fruition with TVG's reported takeover of 4NJBets and that California (TVG's base) is moving in the same direction.  The synergies seem to make sense.

Sports Betting

I probably do not need to go into much detail about this angle for anyone who lives in New Jersey and has read numerous headlines about plans to legalize sports betting in the state, but Betfair's entry to online horse wagering (via 4NJBets) signals, in my opinion, that the state has already found its partner to roll out a sports-betting platform once the dust settles in its legal battle with pro sports leagues and the federal government.  U.K. wagering companies dominate the sports betting market and Betfair's entry to the New Jersey market puts the handwriting on the wall as to a potential future operator.

NJSEA's Exit - Perceived Political Benefits

First the turnover of 4NJBets management to Monmouth Park operator Darby Development, and now the introduction of TVG-Betfair as the operator of NJ's online horse wagering platform, satisfies another mandate of Governor Christie to extricate Trenton from the racing industry, as I see it.

Based on the discoveries I blogged in the wee hours of Thursday morning, NJSEA will strictly maintain oversight of the operations of Monmouth Park and 4NJBets, but Darby Development LLC (and now TVG) will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the state's thoroughbred racing program and online wagering platform, respectively.

Feel free to sarcastically comment below about NJSEA as a patronage pit, but on the surface the removal of Monmouth Park and 4NJBets employees, for instance, from NJSEA's rolls (albeit simply handed off to Darby and/or TVG-Betfair) is something that politicians can brag about to satisfy their constituents.

The question will become whether NJSEA or Darby or whomever worked out an agreement with Betfair that does not gouge longstanding 4NJBets customers and prospective TVG users in New Jersey.

Perhaps a lot to absorb, but selfishly speaking, I like the prospect of becoming a TVG customer, if for nothing else to participate in the random NHC-focused handicapping contest.  TwinSpires would be way better in that regard, but at first glance TVG looks like a big upgrade for contest-focused horseplayers in the Garden State.


  1. More of a question: If the state of NJ is no longer involved, can we get a DRF account now? I was under the assumption the state law was the reason we could only get NJBets. With the state out of the picture, why are we stuck with TVG? Thanks.

  2. Good question, Anonymous. The short answer, in my opinion, is a resounding "no," as I could find nothing in public records to suggest NJ is now an open ADW market.

    Click through the link on the NJRC's meeting minutes from November (which I cited last week) and I think you'll get a clearer picture of the factors at play. First, the state is still VERY much involved. From what I can tell, NJSEA will continue to oversee Darby's operations of Monmouth Park and the ADW. All financial account of track operations, however, will in essence be "off the state's balance sheet", so to speak (i.e. 4NJBets employees will now be employees of another entity, rather than an offshoot of state government). So, is the state (i.e. NJSEA) "out of the racing game," as Christie would argue? No, not at all, though I suppose maintaining oversight vis-a-vis the legislature is prudent. It's just that, now, taxpayers and AC casinos will not subsidize the state's racing industry, as Christie had wished.

    You would think this would usher in a free market for ADW competition, right? Wrong, as I see it. NJRC meeting minutes express clear objections of 4NJBet's current operator, Sportech, about the bidding process. Reading between the lines, it seems Darby took bids only from TVG and Sportech (the latter probably obligatory) but wanted TVG all along. Now, I have no clue what went on behind the scenes, but remember that TVG was 1 of the 8 bidders to run MP 2 years ago, so maybe the wheels for the recent award started turning back then (I don't recall Churchill Downs, owner of, ever being involved).

    The key point of the commentary surrounding Sportech, in my view, is that Darby (as a private entity) is not held to the same bid standards as if, say, NJSEA, put the 4NJBets contract up for bids. In essence, Darby could select whomever it chose without running up against state law (the same laws that mandate whom horseplayers much bet through online). If that's accurate, then maybe other ADW operators -- i.e. (Churchill Downs) and DRFBets (run by Xpressbet and affiliated with the Stronach Group, whom you may recall was one of the original bidders for Monmouth Park back in 2011) -- would have thrown their hats in the ring were it a public bid, but we'll never know, at least not for now.

    In my view, whether it's TVG, TwinSpires, DRFBets...whomever...operating the horse racing platform is merely the conduit to bigger issues, namely sports betting, which I think has a MUCH better shot at approval than casino wagering at the tracks. First, you have to accept that horse racing is in decline. Sports betting, on the other hand, has HUGE potential to prop up the state's coffers in NJ (and is maybe Atlantic City's last and only hope for growth), and TVG's parent Betfair is a huge player there. Hiring TVG sets up NJ to get sportsbooks up and running if we win our court case vs. the 4 major pro sports and the NCAA.

    Secondly, I think casino wagering at the tracks -- although it makes total sense at the Meadowlands -- is still a pipe dream, namely because of the presence of Greenwood Racing (part-owned by Penn National and the owner of both Freehold Raceway and Atlantic City Race Course). If the state broadly approves casino wagering at the tracks, you'd have the potential for ACRC to cannibalize Atlantic City's boardwalk business. The way I see it, Greenwood owns ACRC (and runs the 6-day spring meet strictly to keep its license active) solely as a play on casino eventual approval at the NJ tracks. I can only speculate the Atlantic City lobby does not want that to happen. Were casinos any closer to reality, I suspect Darby would have maybe sought the services of TwinSpires, since Churchill has become a huge player in the domestic casino market (think competitor to the current Atlantic City boardwalk casino operators).

    1. In sum, anonymous, it's one big mess.

      But, circling back to your questions, I think the only shot you have at access to an open ADW market (i.e. ability to pick from TVG, TwinSpires, DRF, etc) is to contact your legislators. The state's FAR from "out of the picture" in that regard.

  3. I think as pointed out on Derbylist , thata Hal Handel at TVG most likely had his fingers in this pie. As a former NJ racing honcho who was hired by TVg last year for Strategic iniatives and developing business. Really wish we had a choice in choosing which ADW we wanted to do business with instead of a state mandate. So much for the land of the free and free market economy. This will only drive more bettors off shore to get rebates . Its a shame. Anonymous 2

  4. Still haven't heard anything. Haven't gotten any notification in the mail either. I think I'll go to Favs today or tomorrow and ask around. You would think by law they would have to tell account holders, no? Oh well. Thanks for your info!


  5. Letters went out today Wednesday February 27th.
    So much for giving 4NJBETS customers a chance to close their accounts or take their money out before Friday

  6. Thanks for the heads up, Anonymous. Work prevented me from trying to call in to listen, but I take your word for it. You got a letter, I take it?

  7. I wasn't sure how to play this fiasco. Didn't want to close my acct. and not be able to get another one, so I left $2.00 in it! Hope it works out, my mail doesn't come until 5. Thanks for the heads up.


  8. njbets website has a little box saying friday starts 4njbets powered by tvg. so i guess that means that our accounts will merely just switch over with a tvg interface

    1. Question is ,how does one get the $125 signup money ? If you already have an account they want you to just switch over , the llink explaining how to get the signup $$ doesnot work Looks like i will pursue other options

  9. Sold out again by the powers that be. Not only do I have a monthly fee but now it cost me to make a bet plus a 6% surcharge on my winnings. This is an outrage to the people who have supported 4njbets for years. I personally will go to the track before I give these greedy politicians another dime of my money.

  10. I agree! I think this is future bet weekend, too. I hope they lose money. I'll go to PARX or DP when the spirit moves me. I wouldn't give this state another penny. I can't wait to get out.


  11. I went to TVG FAQ. Ha! Anyway, I called to cancel my acct before they charged me. Had to call twice because of the time difference. Waited on hold about 10 minutes. Took about 20 seconds for my state,my name, njbets acct #. CANCELLED! I guess I wasn't the first one. The lady was very nice but was done in no time! Such a shame but people like me can't afford these added costs. Oh well. It is was it is!

  12. There's no charges until June 1.

    My last post on this...I'm no shill for TVG. I have no stake whatsoever whether they succeed or flop. I understand the positives and negatives to all of peoples' arguments.

    Christie made clear he wants NJ out of subsidizing horse racing, whether you like it or not. That's why he found operators for Monmouth and the Meadowlands, and why now ADW subscribers are going to pay for ADW services. Not my call at all. The reality is that subscribers long had a free ride for wagering services, but that's going away. If you don't want to pay for using an ADW after June 1, then go to the track. Not my fault, not my problem. I, too, may ditch my TVG account once fees are implemented, or wager FAR less.

    Otherwise, this discussion is getting tiring.

  13. I don't understand this.... How can Dennis Drazin, who owns DARBY, be running Monmouth Park or allowed to run the online wagering? As former racing commissioner, he is restricted from doing this. He got dispensation to act as an adviser but he is now running Darby, Momnouth and now these 4NJ accounts. Can someone say investigation?

  14. Can anyone from TVG confirm what the exact monthly fee will be starting in June for 4NJBETS-TVG? We're talking the average balance $400/mo. In the summer we are at the track & no need for the account. Can we open and close without penalty to avoid fees 2 times a year?

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