Gambling markets in everything?

by on January 29, 2007 at 7:49 am in Economics | Permalink

Colonial Downs, which offers betting on horse races at 10 sites across
Virginia, is pushing for changes in state law so that it can offer a
new form of gambling, called historical racing, on which people wager
on horse races that have already taken place
[emphasis added].

Sounds stupid, no?  On closer examination, the bets have the logical structure of otherwise-illegal slot machines:

In historical gambling, which is also called instant gaming,
customers would put as little as a nickel and as much as $5 into a
video terminal that resembles a slot machine.  The terminal randomly
selects a race from an archive of at least 10,000 previous horses races
from tracks around the country.  Customers review a graphic showing the
odds and statistics for each horse before deciding which one to bet on.

The
race appears on the monitor.  If the chosen horse wins, the patron will
receive a payout based on the odds, how much was bet and that day’s
purse.

James Grimmelmann January 29, 2007 at 8:56 am

Manual trackback: The Laboratorium: Sucker Arbitrage

Actually, based on this description, there’s something much more wrong with historical racing. The obvious attack on any bet on anything that has already happened (instead of has yet to happen) is simply for a gambler to find out what the result was, said result now being a sure bet. This trick is the basis for a number of common cons; I arrange to get the results early or to delay your receipt of the results, and convince you to place a too-good-to-be-true bet in the interim.

Presumably, selecting from a large database of races and showing only horse odds and stats (rather than day-and-time and horse names) is to foil this form of attack. But that level of obfuscation, while it turns the game into a game of chance against the ignorant, doesn’t seem sufficient to foil the dedicated. I just need to compile a large database of odds, statistics, and results from historical races. Then, when the machine shows me the details of the randomly-chosen race, I punch enough of them into a handheld computing device with the database loaded on it. In a 10,000-race database, it should be pretty easy to zero in on the actual race. Armed with that information, I place a can’t-lose bet.

Since I don’t usually think of casinos, racetracks, and other professional gambling institutions as being that dumb, my assumption is that there’s some further angle. That angle, if it exists, is unlikely to increase the role of skill in the game. And if said angle doesn’t exist, I predict that historical racing will have a short and ignominious life.

Big John January 29, 2007 at 9:44 am

James, the angle is simple. No casino on the planet is going to let you just sit at this machine holding your cell or PDA. I know the casinos I visit in Michigan (Detroit’s and others) jump you hard if you’re on the phone for more than a couple seconds, especially if you’re at a table or slot.

Meredith January 29, 2007 at 12:41 pm

This type of gambling does seem somewhat ridiculous. It seems a good bit more logical than your average slot machine though. Gambling with a slot machine, you are working blind. You have no odds and statistics to work with. Though a lot of people are against gambling, this “historical gambling” makes much more sense than previous, flat-out “chance” games of the past. If I were a gambler, however, I would find much more thrill in betting on something that has not happened yet.

Alex R January 29, 2007 at 3:30 pm

Hmmm, betting “on horse races that have already taken place”… Where have I seen this before?

BL January 29, 2007 at 11:59 pm

I think after reading this it seems like a good idea because at least you would know ur odds yet not known which horse won that particular race. It would be more interesting than sitting at a slop machince or a table not know your odds.

Cade Roux January 30, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Well, what do you know, apparently still alive and well in England: http://www.race-nights.co.uk/ and http://www.accolade-corporate-events.com/a-safe-bet.htm

Zillina November 8, 2010 at 11:52 am

Gambling can be transformed into a metaphor and analyzed when it comes to our normal lives, but I really don’t want to imagine my life as a casino where God plays dice… Fallsview Casino

Matthew January 19, 2011 at 11:55 am

I preffer to bet on the races which are going on live.I also recommend betting once in a while because gambling may turn out pretty addictive.go wild

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