Sports betting in the future: Would you believe video games and drone racing?

As state's first bet is placed today, Monmouth Park’s Drazin already is thinking of creative options for tomorrow (and the next generation)

By Anjalee Khemlani
Oceanport | Jun 14, 2018 at 5:15 am

Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to place the first (legal) sports bet in state history Thursday morning, amid much fanfare at Monmouth Park.

But the racetrack’s CEO, Dennis Drazin, is already imagining the next draw for the next generation of gamblers: video games and drone races.

Drazen, who built William Hill Race & Sports Bar in 2013, said the state’s long-delayed entry into sports betting allowed him time to explore other creative wagering products.

“I recognize we’ve come a long way in sports betting, but, over the years, I’ve been looking at other types of methods to attract millennials to come here, and different generations,” Drazin told ROI-NJ. “I’ve been looking at iGaming and esports and video gaming.

“And one of the things people don’t appreciate, yet, is there are now college scholarships for people to play video games. There are probably 50 Division I colleges that have tournaments where these gamers can compete.”

The business idea is one he has only just begun to explore.

“Most of the parents I know are focused on SAT prep courses and PSAT prep courses, and maybe some of them do music lessons and they try and develop different skills for their kids,” Drazin said. “Well, video games — that’s a skill kids are already doing.

“It’s the new way to get into college; you don’t have to focus on football or basketball. And there are plenty of kids who are not necessarily interested in athletics.”

It’s the wave of the future. And one that puts Drazin right back in Trenton.

“Part of our task now is to move forward and get that type of legislation authorized in the state of New Jersey,” he said.

He also has started to develop a plan for drone racing.

“We have a big facility,” he said. “So, suppose you took hoops and put it at different levels out on the infield rail, and you have people flying their drones and racing, and you have parimutuel wagering — they can bet on those things.”

Who gets to bet depends on what age limit is set by the New Jersey Division of Gaming.

And if that limit is out of reach for teenagers, Drazin already has thought of other financial rewards.

“You can offer scholarships for kids at school,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to tap into that market and get them used to — and once they’re here, and see the horse racing, maybe they develop an interest in horse racing also and, when they grow up and have disposable income … once in a while they bet a horse race.

“One needs to be imaginative. I’m sure that 10 years from now, visionaries will figure a way to attract people to their facilities doing this.”

Drazin said he’s been doing that since the idea of sports betting first went to court in 2011.

In those seven years, Drazin said he had to stay creative to help the racetrack stay afloat. And do so while continuing to invest in improvements.

“We spent $1.5 million on this room (William Hill Race & Sports Bar) and another $1.5 million out(side),” he said. “We took food and beverage in-house, which certainly added some costs, which we’ll pay off. Our non-gaming revenue will grow, but I think what we’ve done is put ourselves in a position to succeed.”

Drazin said he has lots of ideas.

“We are going to be creative in terms of trying to cross-market racing and sports betting,” he said. “So, in addition to all these odds boards, we’ll be doing things like pick-fours, pick-fives and pick-sixes that include horse racing and sports betting — and trying to get people used to it.”

And he feels once people see Monmouth Park as a place to regularly visit, the company can do even more — which is why winning sports betting was so imperative.

“The goal was so (the racetrack) is here for your children and your grandchildren, and the generations that follow, and now we’ve accomplished that, so it’s a good feeling,” he said.

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Anjalee Khemlani | akhemlani@roi-nj.com | AnjKhem