With the launch of Caesars Racebook in California, the sportsbook’s horse betting app gains access to one of the leading markets for horseplayers across the nation.
Last week, Caesars announced its debut in the Golden State on a busy week when the app also went live in Colorado and Pennsylvania. Caesars Racebook is available on desktop for California customers and is available for download on Android & iOS throughout the state, according to the company.
California is home to Santa Anita Park and Del Mar Racetrack, two tracks that have hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a combined nine times since 2007. The state also boasts one of the country’s top Kentucky Derby preps in the Santa Anita Derby.
Over the last 15 years, five entrants from the Grade I prep have crossed the wire first in the Kentucky Derby, including 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. The Breeders’ Cup returns to Santa Anita in November, before moving back to Del Mar in 2024.
Caesars Racebook launched last June when Caesars Sportsbook and NYRA Bets LLC rolled out the new app in Ohio and Florida. Since then, Caesars Racebook has expanded to 14 additional states, including Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, and Indiana. Caesars Racebook utilizes NYRA Bets’ advance deposit wagering (ADW) platform to offer online horse betting on dozens of tracks around the world.
The California launch underscores a push by leading online sports wagering companies to broaden their horse racing offerings.
A common wallet at Caesars?
As with Florida, Caesars customers located within California’s borders will not be able to bet on sports through the app. California and Florida, two of the three most populous states in the nation, do not allow operators to accept online sports wagers.
Caesars has not said whether it has plans to roll out a common wallet that would allow customers to make racing and sports wagers from the same platform, something only FanDuel has done in the U.S. A Caesars spokesman did not respond to a request from US Bets for comment.
— CaesarsRacebook (@CaesarsRacebook) May 26, 2023
As of Wednesday, just two sportsbooks, FanDuel and Caesars, were offering horse racing wagers to California customers through approved ADWs, according to a California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) spokesman. NYRA Bets had a white label agreement with Caesars approved at the CHRB’s April meeting, the spokesman told US Bets.
Below is a list of approved ADWs in California:
Declining track attendance
Caesars’ launch comes amid declining attendance at California’s leading tracks. Santa Anita is currently in the midst of its spring meet, which runs through June 18. During the 2021-2022 winter meet, Santa Anita drew an on-track attendance of 445,611 over 76 race days, an average of 5,863 attendees per day.
By comparison, Santa Anita recorded on-track attendance of 595,982 in 2011-12 during a 72-day meet, averaging 8,278 live spectators. On-track attendance hit 1.04 million in the 1998-99 meet, the last season the figure eclipsed a million, and peaked at 2.49 million during the 1987-88 winter season.
Del Mar recorded attendance of 278,005 in 2022, an increase of 15.8% from the previous summer. Still, the figure fell far below pre-pandemic attendance of 405,504 in 2019. Del Mar, which hosts one of the largest summer meets in the nation, will open for racing on July 21.
In January, Fitch Ratings affirmed Del Mar Race Track Authority’s $35.7 million series 2015 revenue bonds with a rating of ‘BB-.’ Fitch also downgraded the rating outlook from “stable to negative.” Fitch cited exposure to equine deaths as a factor for reduced attendance, despite “recent improvements coming out of the pandemic.”
HISA holds emergency summit on horse deaths
In the wake of the 12th horse death at Churchill Downs since March 30, a new agency charged with implementing uniform federal standards in horse racing held an emergency summit Tuesday to examine the high rate of fatalities at the track.
Organized by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), the summit brought together veterinary teams from HISA, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC), and Churchill to better understand the factors leading to the rash of fatalities in recent weeks. In addition, HISA enlisted former Santa Anita track superintendent Dennis Moore to provide an independent analysis of Churchill Downs’ racing and training surfaces.
Moore, a renowned track consultant, oversaw surface changes at Santa Anita several years ago after a spate of horse fatalities at the track. During the fall 2020 meet, the track went without a single fatality. Santa Anita came under intense scrutiny a year earlier after recording 37 fatalities during the track’s winter-summer meeting.
“HISA’s highest priority is the safety and well-being of the horses and riders competing under its jurisdiction. We remain deeply concerned by the unusually high number of equine fatalities at Churchill Downs over the last several weeks,” the agency wrote in a statement. “We continue to seek answers, and we are working diligently with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to mitigate any additional risk.”
— Joe Drape (@joedrape) May 30, 2023
While HISA does not have the authority to shut down racing at Churchill, it can prohibit the company from simulcasting its races to other tracks and ADWs, the New York Times reported.
HISA expects to have recommendations from the review by the end of the day on Wednesday, said Lisa Lazarus, who serves as CEO of the agency.
Kentucky hearing officer upholds Baffert suspension
A Kentucky hearing officer last Friday upheld a stewards’ disqualification of 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. The decision, issued by the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet, also upheld a 90-day suspension of Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert, which has already been served.
Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a medication that is prohibited on race days in Kentucky. Baffert and Zedan Racing Stables, the owner of Medina Spirit, can file an exception to the recommended order if they believe the hearing officer made an improper legal conclusion. From there, the case will be referred to the KHRC to issue a final order. Either party will then have 30 days to appeal the final order to a Kentucky circuit court.
If the ruling is upheld, Medina Spirit’s owners will be stripped of a $1.86 million share for winning the Kentucky Derby. Baffert, a six-time Kentucky Derby winner, will also owe a fine of $7,500. Preakness winner National Treasure, a Baffert trainee, breezed half a mile in in 50.62 seconds Tuesday in preparation for the Belmont Stakes.
The Belmont, the third leg of the Triple Crown, will be held on June 10.
Photo: Keith Birmingham/Getty Images