IndyCar Chairman Full-Throttle on Indiana Betting Bill
Mark Miles can see it clearly already. Several hundred thousand race fans on a sun-soaked Memorial Day Sunday, peering down from the cavernous grey bleachers of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 33-car Indianapolis 500 field spooling toward green flag speed.
Smart phones are raised to document the commencement of this annual Indiana ritual. Photographs are snapped. And then the faithful gaze down to swipe onto their wagering app. Time for a new May tradition, in-race betting on the most important motor race in North America.
While the heads of other major professional sports leagues have either come to accept the spread of legal sports betting begrudgingly or slowly, Miles, chairman of Hulman and Co., which owns IMS and the IndyCar series, has become an active lobbyist for a bill that has worked its way through the Indiana Legislature.
Miles has advocated proactively, including before the Committee on Public Policy in Indianapolis last week, and five days before the series commences the 2019 season at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.), told Gambling.com he believes "that it's much better than 50/50 that something along the lines of what came out of the Senate will be passed and become law” before the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2020.
“The legislative proposals which we argued in support of are likely to be helpful to fans of the Indianapolis 500-mile race and IndyCar because they will facilitate deeper and broader fan engagement, simply” he said. “So that's primarily the reason that were supportive.”
Enhanced Engagement Entices IndyCar, Too
Though Miles said he had no independent research to support the theory that access to betting would increase attendance or viewership, his assertion correlates with various studies and comes less than a week after National Football League chief operating officer Maryann Turcke made the same claim at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
The Indiana bill under consideration would allow current casino licensees to offer sports betting through mobile platforms from anywhere in the state, which has been a boon to the lucrative market in New Jersey. Key in IndyCar’s support, Miles said, would be the licensing of official data from the series to oddsmakers for the purpose of developing in-race bets.
“Presumably,” he said, “we would be able to charge some kind of licensing fee to those who want to offer this bet.”
Last September, Formula 1 announced a sponsorship and data rights accord with Interregional Sports Group to facilitate in-play wagering for the most popular form of motorsports globally. The deal came with the right to “sub-licence betting partnership rights to select betting brands around the world, subject to regulations," F1 said in a statement after the announcement.
Formula 1 Also Covets In-Play Market
Liberty Media has proposed sports wagering as a potential revenue source since purchasing the series in 2016.
“There's a lot of data to suggest what really drives interest, would be in our case to be able to bet on what happens on the next lap. And if that's true, then the question arises, well, where the data comes from, which will inform settlements of those bets and setting those odds, etc.,” Miles said. “And our view is thinking about racing, sometimes you finish a lap and it takes us another lap to figure out what happened on that lap.
“It has to happen in race control and it's totally driven by the data that is available real-time in race control. So we wouldn't want to see a situation where different offers of bets - in-race bets - somehow came to different conclusions about what happens. We think it's important that there be an authentic provider of the information for settling bets and we don't see any way that the licensees offering bets could get that real time if they don't have our real-time data.”
Miles said IndyCar collects upwards of 50 million data points from the track during a typical two-hour race. That, he said, would make a data-sharing partnership similar to those Sportradar has forged with the the top pro leagues in North America a logical next step. IndyCar odds are sparse currently except for futures markets for an Indianapolis 500 win by former F1 driver Fernando Alonso.
“The 500, we take 80 million data records off the track, all real-time,” Miles said. “So that's just not usable to the casino that wants to offer in-race betting. That has to be massaged so that it is usable and it's quick. We think there will be an opportunity to manage our data and provide it in a way that helps facilitate casinos who want to offer this."
Miles said he senses a “wide-spread support” for an inclusion of legal sports betting within the series because there is a belief if “deepens engagement.” The proposed bill would allow IndyCar to petition the Indiana Gaming Commission to deactivate in-play bets the series deems “overly risky,” Miles said.
IndyCar Will Review, Fortify Integrity Regulations
Miles said the series is current reviewing its rules regarding betting, which already forbid anyone issued a full-season credential – called a “hard card” - from betting on IndyCar events.
“But I think that that's, that's inadequate,” Miles added. “And so we will soon be communicating with stakeholders and then promulgating enhancements to the existing rules.”
Josef Newgarden of Team Penske, the 2017 series champion, said he had “no problem with [sports betting]” and thinks it could benefit the series by potentially enticing sponsors, although that has yet to occur in NASCAR.
“Without a doubt,” Newgarden told Gambling.com. “If it’s a growing industry that people use to connect to a sport, then I think we want to be involved. I would absolutely say that. Why not?
“It’s like any other sport. It’s like the NFL now, whether it’s fantasy or it’s real, people like being able to interact with a sport and that’s another way someone can interact with the sport and learn and more about it. You have to almost be more educated on it. You need to be more educated to bet correctly, so I think it’s a good window people could have. And 100 percent, I think it would help the sport from a growth standpoint. I don’t see how it couldn’t.”
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