The Indianapolis 500 and Kentucky Derby are two longstanding traditions on the sports landscape in May, both drawing huge crowd and displaying lots of pomp and circumstance.
If Mark Miles, has his way, the similarities between the world's biggest motor races and horse races wouldn’t cease once the event begins. Miles, chairman of Hulman and Co., which owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar series, supports live wagering on IndyCar's flagship event.
While the commissioners of North America’s big four professional sports leagues -- Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and the National Hockey League -- have often merely accepted the current surge in legal sports betting, Miles has long been an advocate.
He has shown his support by actively lobbying the Indiana legislature to pass a bill legalizing sports betting in the state, and even going before the Committee on Public Policy last week.
"The legislative proposals which we argued in support of are likely to be helpful to fans of the Indianapolis 500-mile race and IndyCar because they will facilitate deeper and broader fan engagement, simply," Miles said. "So that's primarily the reason that we're supportive."
Indiana is one of several states which have considered legislation to legalize sports betting since May 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia have since joined Nevada by opening operational sportsbooks in their states.
The bill under consideration by the Indiana legislature would let casinos offer sports betting via online platforms from anywhere in the state. A similar law was passed in New Jersey to great success, with the state in January becoming the first to surpass Nevada in monthly revenue generated through sports betting revenue.
Miles hopes Indiana lawmakers pass a bill legalizing sports betting before the 104th Indianapolis 500 in 2020. He estimates the chances as "much better than 50/50."
Similar to many within the sports industry, Miles believes legal sports betting can generate both increased fan interest and engagement, though he acknowledges there is no specific independent research to validate his assertion.
Miles said IndyCar it's pivotal for IndyCar to license its official data for oddsmakers to develop in-race bets. MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL have already signed separate deals with MGM Resorts International allowing the gaming company to access data for sports betting purposes.
"There's a lot of data to suggest what really drives interest, would be in our case to be able to bet on what happens on the next lap. And if that's true, then the question arises, well, where the data comes from, which will inform settlements of those bets and setting those odds, etc.," Miles said. "And our view is thinking about racing, sometimes you finish a lap and it takes us another lap to figure out what happened on that lap.
"It has to happen in race control and it's totally driven by the data that is available real-time in race control. So we wouldn't want to see a situation where different offers of bets -- in-race bets -- somehow came to different conclusions about what happens. We think it's important that there be an authentic provider of the information for settling bets and we don't see any way that the licensees offering bets could get that real time if they don't have our real-time data."