During its fall NASCAR tripleheader weekend on October 5-7, Dover International Speedway became the first NASCAR facility to offer sports betting, opening up a world of possibilities for the industry.
Full-scale sports betting, including auto racing wagers, was implemented at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, along with Delaware’s other casinos, on June 5, following a May Supreme Court ruling overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Since 2009, Delaware had offered parlay betting on professional football only, but October marked the first race weekend that wagering on all sports was permitted.
“We knew that sports betting becoming legal would have a huge impact on the NASCAR races at the track,” said Gary Camp, the assistant vice president of marketing and communications at Dover. “For the track side of things, we saw it as a real opportunity to tout the addition of sports betting to our race fans who had never experienced it before but wanted the opportunity to wager.”
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Just what could they wager on? Anything from the stage winner, to overall race winner or finishing position of their favorite driver.
“To wager on the stages, the outcome of the race, and even manufacturer winner is a unique opportunity for our fans,” Camp said. “We saw it as an opportunity to make the races even more exciting than they already are. A good percentage of our fans took advantage of the opportunity.”
On the Dover property, there are two publicly traded companies – Dover Motorsports Inc., which owns Dover International Speedway, and Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment, which operates Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. John Hensley, the general manager and senior director of horse racing and sports betting at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, knew just how important the recent Supreme Court ruling was for Dover.
“In Delaware, there are three casinos, and we are all agents of the Delaware Lottery,” said Hensley. “Being an agent of the Delaware Lottery is what allows us to have the sports betting games. We sell sports betting tickets on whatever they allow us to sell.”
The speedway’s partnership with the Delaware Lottery allowed it to develop a unique display area during its October NASCAR weekend with a popup tent on speedway grounds to take bets. The track also pushed heavy social engagement, press releases, emails to fans and even a paid social media campaign to drum up interest and excitement.
Safe to say, it worked.
“At times there were 50-100 people in line making bets,” Hensley said. “We did not look at it as a revenue generator, but rather as a gaming company to have a presence and add that as addition and enhancement for the NASCAR fans. Now, they could bet at the track, not just the casino. It’s a great addition for the NASCAR fans to do and a way for us to help our sister company.”
Camp said the speedway kept NASCAR updated on its plans for promotions and activity around sports betting before the green flag dropped on weekend activities.
“We tried to be forthcoming with the folks at NASCAR in terms of our plans and the buzz in and around Delaware about the Supreme Court ruling,” Camp said. “For the track, it’s a point of differentiation that the fans can bet here on property, but not at any other track. I know some other facilities have it near the track, but not at it. We did our best to promote it, and it paid off.”
For the future, Hensley plans for more outlets to be available, while Camp said the track will have more time to promote it.
“From a gaming standpoint, we were conservative in our setup, but were pleasantly surprised at the reaction this year,” said Hensley. “We plan to have an additional machine and some more staff. I’m impressed with the knowledge of the race fan. The learning curve was smaller with this group of people when educating what spreads, props and over/under mean. They were knowledgeable.”
Camp said the addition of betting at the track just added more excitement to an already thrilling experience.
“We enjoyed it,” said Camp. “The buzz around the race track was incredible, and it provided another storyline for our weekend. Some fans bet on (race winner) Chase Elliott. It was fun to see them so excited and able to bet on the drivers and racing action.”