The fall of 2022 should provide the most accurate reading ever about the effects of expanded sports betting in the United States on pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing.  That is because sports betting is now available in so many states and has reached a critical mass…and the season for America’s favorite sport to watch and bet on, football, is about to begin.

Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting and have operations up and running.  Twenty-two states permit internet or mobile betting.

In addition, Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio have passed legislation legalizing sports betting but are not yet operational.  Ohio, for example, should be up and running by late 2022 or early 2023 in time for the NFL playoffs.

In seven states, either bills have been pre-filed in the legislature or there is a scheduled voter referendum to legalize sports betting.  They are Alaska, California, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Oklahoma.  Conspicuously absent is Kentucky, the center of Thoroughbred breeding, home to the most famous race, the Kentucky Derby, and occasional site of the Breeders’ Cup year-end championships.

Conceivably, in the near future 80 percent of U. S. states will have legal sports betting available.  Wagering on upcoming regular season NFL games and post-season contests in the 30 states plus the District of Columbia where it is operational now will present a stern test for horse-race betting.  By the time the Super Bowl is played in February 2023, and likely well before, we will know a lot more than we do now about the extent to which sports betting cannibalizes, fosters, or has little or no effect on pari-mutuel wagering.

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