- This year, NASCAR’s authorized gaming partners are BetMGM, WynnBET and Penn Entertainment.
- NASCAR doesn’t receive a percentage of all bets placed.
- Instead, NASCAR benefits from marketing deals and deals with data suppliers as does the NFL, NBA, MBL, NBA where the league supplies data to the sportsbooks.
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2018 that made the legalization of sports gambling a states’ rights issue, NASCAR viewed the decision as a way to grow its fan base and it appears to be working.
Joe Solosky, NASCAR’s managing director of sports betting, said betting on NASCAR was growing “faster than in any other sport.”
• Betting on this year’s Daytona 500 increased 73% over last year.
• In 2022, authorized gaming operators saw a 51.5% increase in the total amount of money wagered in NASCAR from the previous year.
• Last year, NASCAR television viewership grew 4%.
• There was an 11% increase in new fans attending races.
Solosky believes betting has increased because more people are becoming educated about the sport. Even though the majority of the bets placed are on Cup events, some are now betting on Xfinity and Craftsman Truck races. Last month during Speedweeks, about 85% of the bets placed were on the Daytona 500. The Xfinity season opener received about 10% and the Truck Series 5%.
Solosky believes NASCAR betting is growing faster than the other sports because it is a “very low volume bet sport.”
“Probably about 42% of all bets placed in the United States are placed on football,” Solosky explained. “For them to grow even 20% would be huge.
“We started at a relatively low volume. So, to have the increases that we’re having year over year, I guess it’s a little easier to do with a lower denominator. Prior to 2018, NASCAR was not something people really bet on illegally or offshore. We started more at ground zero in 2018 as opposed to the other leagues that people were already betting on.”
Prior to the 2018 Supreme Court ruling, NASCAR had always shied away from gambling. When the Teamsters asked Curtis Turner to unionize the drivers in exchange for more than $800,000 that Turner wanted to pay off Charlotte Motor Speedway’s creditors in 1961, the Federation of Professional Athletes intended to bring parimutuel betting to auto racing.
NASCAR founder and head Bill France Sr. was adamantly opposed to both—the union and parimutuel betting. In a prepared statement released in 1961 and published in the book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, The Superspeedway Boom 1959-1964 by Greg Fielden, France stated that “organized gambling would be bad for our sport – and would spill innocent blood on our race track—I’ll fight it to the end!”
France won that battle and legalized gambling in NASCAR remained basically a non-issue even before 1992 when the federal government passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. That legislation prohibited states from legalizing gambling on professional and college sports.
Then New Jersey Senator and former professional basketball star Bill Bradley maintained the federal law was needed to safeguard the integrity of sports. It confined legalized gambling to Nevada, but it didn’t stop the offshore betting operations and unlawful bookies. It wasn’t unusual for people to travel to Las Vegas in those days to wager on major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl or the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Solosky estimates that prior to 2018 when gambling was confined to Nevada that probably 1 to 2 percent of all bets placed were on NASCAR.
Then in May 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association that the federal law passed in 1992 was unconstitutional. In writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. stated that “a more direct affront to state sovereignty is not easy to imagine.” At that time, it was estimated that $150 billion in illegal wagers were made annually by Americans on professional and amateur sports. Today, each state regulates gambling.
“North Carolina is a state where the (Native American) tribes were granted the allowance for sports betting in the state,” Solosky said. “So, at the tribal casinos in North Carolina you can bet on sports only in the casino. In a state like Tennessee, you can only bet online. So, what sportsbooks have to do in a state like Tennessee and the 20 plus other states that allow online sports betting outside of casinos is they have to pay a licensing fee to the state. Then they have to have all of their technology go through … different certification levels.
“Some states cap it at 12 sportsbooks. Some states don’t cap it at all. Tennessee is a state that doesn’t cap the amount. So as long as you can pay the licensing fee and your technology clears the certification levels, then you can operate an online sportsbook that you can get through your computer, your smart phones or download their app and then bet on sports. A person betting online must provide their social security number and provide a picture of their driver’s license.”
The gambling landscape is constantly changing as state legislatures consider and or pass bills to govern it. Earlier this year, 23 states plus the District of Columbia permitted online betting, and five states limited gambling to in-person only sports betting. Four other states have pending legislation.
NASCAR joined the world of legalized sports gambling in September 2020 when it became the first league to partner with the American Gaming Association. This year, NASCAR’s authorized gaming partners are BetMGM, WynnBET and Penn Entertainment. NASCAR doesn’t receive a percentage of all bets placed. Instead, NASCAR has deals with data suppliers as does the NFL, NBA, MBL, NBA where the league supplies data to the sportsbooks.
“The sportsbooks relationships with leagues are typically marketing and sponsorship relationships,” said Solosky, who noted the fee typically was determined annually. “So, the sportsbook will pay NASCAR a … fixed fee to be able to advertise in their arena, to be able to have marketing assets on their website, to be able to put out messages on social media. Basically, the allowance to promote their sportsbook on the sports property platform.”
Solosky described it as a “partnership” where NASCAR promotes the sportsbook and in turn, the sportsbook brand promotes NASCAR. At the end of each month, NASCAR receives a spreadsheet from its sportsbooks partners at the end of each month detailing the amount bet on the events.
Parimutuel betting doesn’t exist in NACAR, only fixed odds, and there are no in-person betting windows or kiosks at race tracks like those found in horse racing. However, it is possible for a person to bet online via their phone from a NASCAR track. Bets are no longer accepted once the green flag waves at the start of a race.
With each passing year, the number of ways in which a person can place a bet on a NASCAR event is becoming more diversified. Currently, more than half the bets placed on NASCAR focus on the race winner. During the last 18 months, the different ways bets are being place include whether a driver will finish in the top three, the top five or top 10, and whether the winning car number will be an even or odd number. A person can also bet an over-or-under on the number of laps led in a race. Some sportsbooks allow betting on a Trifecta or a Quinella.
Even though sports betting is now legal in many states, NASCAR knows it must constantly work to ensure the sport’s integrity. NASCAR drivers are independent contractors, and the crew members are employed by each team; however, the sanctioning body addresses gambling by competitors in its rule book as well as the penalty. Anyone violating NASCAR’s Sports Gambling Policy can be fined and/or face indefinite suspension, or membership revocation.
Solosky conducts seminars to educate the drivers to the fact they can’t gamble on their sport and if they do, it can harm their reputation. One such seminar was conducted prior to last month’s Busch Light Clash by Sportradar Integrity Services. NASCAR employees also have received instructions not to bet on the sport. Last December, Solosky talked with all of the team owners about NASCAR’s gambling policy.
“We have online tutorial that any NASCAR member has to take,” Solosky said. “So, that includes pit crew members, and anyone involved on the team. That includes the policy as well. So, we kind of hit (that message to them) in multiple ways.”
Making Sure Everything Is On the Up and Up
NASCAR drivers are well aware of the sanctioning body’s stance on sports gambling. It’s earned its own section in the NASCAR Rule Book:
NASCAR Members shall not engage, nor attempt to engage, in any legal or illegal gambling activity (as defined below) relating to any Event:
•In which NASCAR is involved, including but not limited to, the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and/or eNASCAR esports.
•That in the judgement of NASCAR could represent the potential for a conflict of interest, unsportsmanlike conduct, or other action(s) detrimental to stock car auto racing or NASCAR.
This Rule applies to all gambling activities, including without limitation, those available in any gaming facility, casino, lottery gaming facility, racetrack gaming facility, on the internet or electronically, or in all other establishments and locations. Gambling activity, for purposes of the above, is defined as placing anything of value at risk, financial or otherwise, in connection with a bet, wager, or Game of Chance.
NASCAR Members shall not instruct, cause, or enable other individual(s) to engage or attempt to engage, in any legal or illegal gambling activity on an Event, as defined above, nor should they accept any money or other thing of value stemming from another individual’s legal or illegal gambling activity on an Event.
NASCAR Members shall not engage, nor attempt to engage, in any legal or illegal gambling activity relating to any off-track or other occurrences, actions, or proceedings concerning or related to NASCAR or its business, including but not limited to, team/driver signings, Race locations, disciplinary matters, eNASCAR esports participation, or other proposition bets, nor should they accept any money or other thing of value stemming from another individual’s legal or illegal gambling activity on any off-track occurrences.
NASCAR Members shall not instruct, cause, or enable other individual(s) to engage or attempt to engage, in any legal or illegal gambling activity relating to any off-track or other occurrences, actions, or proceeding, as defined above.
And if you do …
NASCAR reserves the right to issue Penalties to any Member (regardless of license type) for violations of its Sports Gambling Policy under Section 4.4 NASCAR Member Code of Conduct Penalty Options and Guidelines via the procedure set forth in Section 10.1 General Procedure, should the conduct of such Member, in the judgment of NASCAR, represent the potential for a conflict of interest, unsportsmanlike conduct, or other action(s) detrimental to stock car auto racing or NASCAR.