I’m not a horse racing guy but I am a betting guy. Even if you don’t think you are because you don’t bet using your real money online or with a bookmaker, there are all types of bets you are making in life and don’t even know it. You bet on or against yourself hundreds of times each week and don’t even realize it: If you don’t leave your house in the next 5 minutes, you’ll be late to work 75% of the time. Odds of getting to work on time? 3-1 or +300. You leave in 6 minutes and bet ON yourself to get to work on time.
You bet on or against a friend, family member or colleague hundreds of times each month and don’t even realize it: Your pal Jim from work tells you to go ahead and he’ll meet you at the corner bar in 30 minutes for a drink after he wraps up his proposal. You’ve worked with Jim for about 16 months now, and he’s fairly reliable. But you know when it comes to proposals he’s rarely on time and always underestimates how long it will take him to finish. You’ve seen it before – he wants to meet for a drink and then never shows up because he’s cranking away on his deadline. This time, you decide you’ll go down to get a drink, but there’s only about a 40% chance he actually shows up in 30 minutes like he said. In your experience, if he doesn’t show up within 45 minutes, 9 times out of 10 he’s not coming at all. So you wait 45 minutes, have a few drinks and some causal conversation with a neighbor, and then leave after 45 minutes.
You’ve effectively laid odds of Jim showing up in 30 minutes at 3/2 or +150, and odds of Jim showing up in 45 minutes of 9/1 or +900, and you bet against Jim.
Horse racing is no different. You can bet ON a horse at certain odds to win a race, based on implied probability, or you can bet AGAINST a horse, by taking the field. In today’s case, you could also have taken the “NO” to a “Triple Crown” if you wanted to bet against I’ll Have Another. You can also bet matchups: Horse A vs. Horse B, who will finish first. And then there are the exotic bets: Exacta, Trifecta or Superfecta. Each progressively harder to win, with increasing payouts.
You can do the same for all major sports: Football, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey. Team A vs. Team B. Or, change the odds by introducing a “line” in which your team must exceed to win, whether a point spread, run line or puck line.
There is absolutely no difference between betting on odds for a horse to win and betting on odds for a team to win. Except one tiny “quirk”:
It IS perfectly legal to discuss odds for horse racing on National TV and place wagers at the track, but it’s NOT legal in any other sport unless you are in Nevada (currently).
So because it’s a horse, it’s legal. Forget about the fact that you have a human riding the horse. Forget about the fact that you have humans “caring” for the horse (and sometimes “caring for” is the exact opposite). Forget about the fact that you have humans feeding the horse what they want, to produce a certain result, including performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) or lasix. Forget about the fact that you have people owning the horse, who stand to gain a lot of money with each win.
All of these people closely involved in the outcome of the horse race could bet ON their horse… or AGAINST their horse, if they so desired. Fixed Horse Races. You never heard of them? You’ve never heard of a jockey steering his horse or standing up early to lose a race? You’ve never heard of a jockey shocking his horse to gain an edge? You’ve never heard of a header pointing the horse toward an immediate disadvantage? You’ve never heard of a trainer loading a horse down before a race? You’ve never heard of a horse being “sponged”, making their breathing labored? You didn’t hear about the 5 jockeys and 2 owners facing currently facing charges colluding by “deliberately not riding their horses to to obtain the best possible placing for personal reward or knowing it has been laid to lose”? Some states even allow superfecta betting (the most odds, predicting the first 4 horses) in 7 horse fields, making fixed horse races even more likely.
These aren’t wild horses, wrangled into a corral before the race, and let go, leaving the outcome completely up to the horses. Humans are involved in every step of the process, from owning to breeding to training to loading to riding. And money is involved in each step too. And where humans and money are mixed with opportunity, time and greed, inevitably bad things can happen. So while there may not be exactly the same amount of human involvement in horse racing as there is in a NBA game, there is plenty of human involvement in horse racing.
Today, at the Belmont Stakes, NBC WILL tell us the odds on the various horses over and over again. The US Government can’t say anything about it.
But I’ll lay HEAVY odds that just a couple of hours later, NBC WILL NOT tell us that the Kings are laying -111 and slight favorites over the Devils in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup.
So today, here’s a quick guide for you (since it makes absolutely no sense without one) on what you can and can’t bet today:
You CAN bet Dullahan at +200 (2/1) to win the Belmont but you CAN’T bet Houston to upset the Chi. White Sox at almost the same odds.
You CAN bet Union Rags at +225 (9/4) to win the Belmont but you CAN’T bet Djokovic to upset Nadal tomorrow at almost the same odds.
You CAN bet Paynter at +400 (4/1) to win the Belmont but you CAN’T bet Bradley to upset Pacquiao or the Celtics to upset the Heat at almost the same odds.
You CAN bet Street Life at +850 (17/2) to win the Belmont but you CAN’T bet the Devils to come back and win games 5-7 to take the Cup at almost the same odds.
You CAN bet Optimizer at +1700 (17/1) to win the Belmont but you CAN’T bet the Ravens to win the Super Bowl at almost the same odds.
You CAN bet Atigun at +2500 (25/1) to win the Belmont but you CAN’T bet the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl at almost the same odds.
You CAN bet on PEOPLE riding animals but you CAN’T bet on PEOPLE playing sports
Hopefully that makes perfect sense to you on this beautiful Belmont Saturday, because it makes zero sense to me. Which is why New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is looking to bring sports betting to his state, as is the state of California. Horse racing is nearly a $2 billion industry for NY, according to the NY Racing Association. Eventually, its highly likely that the NY sports betting revenue will dwarf the revenue the state brings in from horse racing.
It’s not just horse racing, it’s lotteries too. You have a 1 in 75 chance of winning $2 on a $1 Mega Millions lottery ticket. You’re actually more likely to see the Oakland Raiders win the Super Bowl this season than you are to win $2 from your $1 investment. But 42 states + DC participate. And it’s perfectly legal to discuss the lottery, even though overall odds are significantly worse than the vast majority of most sporting events.
Legalizing sports betting would be a win-win for both the state and the majority of the public who are smart enough to see the complete hypocrisy that its legal to bet on people riding animals but not on people playing sports.