NASCAR Going All In On Gaming
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There was a time when even mentioning the word ‘gambling’ would raise the eyebrows of NASCAR executives. At least when it came to having any sort of gambling sponsor in the sport. Gambling when it came to sponsorship was one of those areas that just wasn’t really talked about.
That all changed in 2019. Dover Motor Speedway, which was then known as Dover International Speedway, announced that it would be the first track to have a betting window at the track. It was an experiment of sorts for NASCAR and made sense in a way as Dover has a large, and successful casino on its property.
Later that same year, NASCAR announced a policy change for the 2020 season. The new policy prohibited drivers, owners, crew members, and officials from betting on NASCAR races and barred them from revealing any inside information for “their own gain, or for the gain of others.”
“All NASCAR members have an obligation to protect the integrity of the sport,” read the new policy, “Gambling on NASCAR Events by Members can pose a serious threat to the integrity of NASCAR, its stakeholders, and the industry as a whole.”
The new policy closed a loophole that had allowed former driver Brendan Gaughan, whose family owns casinos, to bet on himself prior to a race in 2004. That was perhaps the biggest ‘scandal’ in modern times for the sport. One that resulted in nothing more than a stern conversation with NASCAR executives for the driver.
The Dover news came just after NASCAR announced they would allow teams to sign gambling companies as sponsors. And the following year NASCAR became the first league to partner with the American Gaming Association. Richard Childress Racing became the first team to jump on board signing with BetMGM in 2021.
This season NASCAR’s authorized gaming partners are BetMGM, WynnBET and Penn Entertainment
Though not legally considered gambling, NASCAR Fantasy Leagues have also grown in popularity mirroring other professional sports. Especially since 2006 when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, or UIGEA, banned online gambling, but exempted fantasy leagues.
Fantasy leagues are considered a game of skill, though the argument can be made that since people are paying to play and the outcome does depend on elements of luck, it is a form of gambling. It’s also an industry valued at $24 billion in 2021, and one expected to reach $785 billion by 2030, a revenue stream few could pass up, including NASCAR.
Bottom line: NASCAR has seemingly gone all in on gambling and gaming. What was once almost a taboo subject is becoming more and more commonplace in the sport.
And given the recent moves made by NASCAR it makes perfect sense. The sports gambling landscape in America has changed, especially in the last few years. More and more states are allowing sports betting. All this gives NASCAR more opportunities to engage with fans, old and new. And fan engagement has been an even bigger priority in the last few years.
In February NASCAR announced a new partnership. In a press event at Daytona International Speedway, executives from the sport introduced Powerball as the “Official Lottery Game of NASCAR.”
Powerball tickets are sold for $2 in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Powerball says that more than half of all proceeds from the sale of a Powerball ticket remain in the jurisdiction where the ticket was sold.
After teasing a promotion during the February launch, last week NASCAR and Powerball revealed that the “NASCAR Powerball Playoff” will start at the state level and finish with four lottery players winning a VIP trip for two to NASCAR Championship Weekend in Phoenix, Nov. 3-5, and the chance to win $1 million during a special drawing televised live from the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race on Sunday, Nov. 5.
The promotion will have participating lotteries selecting entrants, by a method of their choosing, to form a national pool of semi-finalists. Sixteen semi-finalists will be drawn from the national pool, with no more than one semi-finalist per lottery advancing. The 16 semi-finalists will be announced during the NASCAR Cup event back at Daytona International Speedway on August 26. The semi-finalists will then go head-to-head in a series of drawings that coincide with the elimination rounds of the NASCAR Playoffs.
Those drawings will be at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 9 where 12 semi-finalists advance, followed by the Oct. 1 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway where 8 semi-finalists advance, then at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 11 where the four semi-finalists will be chosen.
The four semi-finalists still in the playoffs after the fourth drawing will win a VIP trip for two to NASCAR Championship Weekend in Phoenix, Nov. 3-5, and advance as finalists to the $1 million drawing. Cash prizes will be awarded to all 16 national semi-finalists based on their elimination position.
The Powerball promotion held during NASCAR’s most visible part of its season will put Powerball, and gambling on the biggest stage yet in NASCAR, a place that was once almost unheard of not that many years ago. It’s also a good example of how far outside its once normal boundaries NASCAR is willing to go to engage with its existing fans and attract new ones. It seems a pretty safe bet, one that could pay off handsomely as NASCAR increases its fanbase.