NASCAR Strikes Deal to Allow Betting on Races


The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing – better known as NASCAR – is joining other major US sports leagues in branching into the business of betting. The privately owned American company and world-famous auto racing circuit announced on Tuesday 11th August that they will sign a deal with New Jersey-based casino brand BetMGM to develop race betting options.

Horse racing, soccer, esports; it was maybe only a matter of time before NASCAR buckled to the trend of sports betting – a move that will open a world of new promotional opportunities, and an additional method through which to increase revenue. NASCAR confirmed that their partner, BetMGM, will take bets on the races at its own casinos, or else through its casino mobile app. 

This deal can be said to be a reflection of the times. It comes two years after the U.S. The Supreme Court legalized sports betting, and one year after North Carolina passed a law that permits sports betting in casinos on tribal lands (but more on that later). As gambling restrictions in general ease across many states, and secure casino mobile apps rise in popularity, NASCAR will be seizing upon the momentum.

That deal, of course, is not only a response to developments within the betting industry, but also with regards to the viewership performance of NASCAR’s own races and the demands placed on the sports league by fans. NASCAR attracts millions of viewers with each game, making the races one of America’s most watched sports. But while the races remain hugely popular all over the world, there are concerns that the sport is failing to digitialize fast enough to keep fans engaged. 

Six years ago, NASCAR vowed to explore new ways of reaching viewers, investing in live streams and social media as part of that effort. Viewership has grown since this successful strategy was adopted. The opportunity to bet on races can be regarded as a next step towards the goal of broadening the races’ appeal. While Americans will be the first to bet on races, there’s no reason NASCAR will seek to limit itself to offering bets within the borders of the US only.

It is speculated by some that the introduction of an official NASCAR betting channel should do something to reduce illegal betting around the races. However, much to the dismay of North Carolina NASCAR fans, all forms of sports betting remain off the table for the time being – primarily because the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s two casinos in North Carolina aren’t accepting sports wagers. Fans might have turned online – except online sports betting remains illegal in the state.

Instead, the first five states to bet on NASCAR races through the BetMGM app or casinos will be Nevada, Colorado, New Jersey, and West Virginia. BetMGM says more will be added to that list in the near future. The company intends to offer a variety of pre-race and in-race bets, such as top-finishing drivers, driver matchups, stage winners and bets tied to the number of the winning car. Whether there will be limitations on bets is not yet known, but usual sports betting regulation will have to be observed.

Many major sports leagues have struck similar deals in recent years. Major League Baseball, for example, has also partnered with BetMGM. With President Trump relaxed on gambling, and while popular online casino games like Texas Hold’Em and Rainbow Riches remain easily accessible and difficult to legislate around, there has been a discernible shift in attitudes towards gambling across many states.

The typical argument for legalizing gambling, in the form of sports betting or online casino games, tends to focus on the benefits of regulation. Revenue, meanwhile, can be poured back into regulatory bodies and into institutions that help those with addictions. At a time when preventing Americans from accessing unofficial betting avenues online becomes increasingly difficult, legalization is often purported as ‘the next best thing’. As to the exact date on which NASCAR betting will become possible is yet to be to be confirmed, but since the NASCAR Cup Series is already ongoing, BetMGM will have missed out on the biggest event this year.

Charlotte is home to annual NASCAR races and the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the latter of which honours exceptional drivers and attracts over 150,000 visitors each year. The first ever race was held in 1948, when founder Bill France saw the potential of a unified stock car auto racing organisation after noting its popularity in many parts of the country. Since then, the sport has found its iconic footing in popular culture and has inspired this year’s ‘Blink of an Eye’ documentary about the friendship between NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt and Michael Waltrip.