Legal sports betting is rapidly spreading across the United States.  Currently, 30 states have legalized sports betting and 18 allow online sports betting. 

Sports betting companies were aggressively advertising on the National Football League wildcard-game telecasts this past weekend.  Likewise, social media and email advertisements were prevalent.

I live in Ohio, which has recently legalized sports wagering but it won’t be up and running until sometime later in 2022.  So, until then, to make a legal bet, I must wager in a state where sports betting is operational.  Living close to both Pennsylvania and West Virginia, that is an easy drive.

To give a try to mobile wagering, I decided to open an account with the company I am most familiar with, TwinSpires (Pennsylvania), and place a bet on the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders NFL contest.  An Ohio resident can open an account in Pennsylvania, but must be physically present in Pennsylvania to actually make a bet.

TwinSpires is offering a variety of promotions to entice people to open an account, promotions that are virtually identical to a host of other companies such as BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel.  The sports-bet offer I selected was as follows:  Bet an amount up to $1,000 and if the bet fails, TwinSpires gives the bettor a credit of that exact amount to wager within seven days.

Assume a bettor wagers $1,000.   If the bettor wins, he or she collects $930, with a 7% takeout.  On the other hand, if the bettor loses, he or she has a week to place another bet using the $1,000 credit from TwinSpires.  The bettor can cash out the winnings on the second bet ($930) but not the $1,000 that TwinSpires provided. 

I attempted to make a bet from Ohio, but, as expected, could not because the TwinSpires app tracked my location.  Once I drove about 50 miles and crossed the Pennsylvania line, I stopped at a gas station and made the bet after the app ascertained that I was actually in Pennsylvania.

Driving to Pennsylvania or West Virginia will not be necessary later this year when Ohio joins the sports-betting states.  It will be as convenient as account wagering on horse racing. 

What effect sports betting, particularly via mobile, will have on pari-mutuel handle is to be seen.  A major concern is a relatively low takeout rate on sports betting that puts horse racing at a huge competitive disadvantage.  It may not matter to casual bettors, or to horse-racing aficionados, but it will to regular bettors of large amounts, who heretofore have had only account wagering to bet legally online.

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