With the ever diminishing popularity of horse racing today, some horse tracks are turning to an easier solution. Horse track owners are hoping to team up with some of the largest online gambling sites in order to save a dying sport.

While online casinos and horse tracks belong to different worlds, track owners are sure that customers would return to the sport, if only they can do it from their own home.

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“Over the 25 years I’ve been in this industry, not one day has gone by when I haven’t heard people complain that our customer base is getting older and we can’t attract young people,” said chief executive officer of The Maryland Jockey Club, Joseph A. De Francis. “And this gives us the opportunity to expand into the youth market unlike any we’ve ever had before.”

When a race is run this Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, most of that method will be make through advanced deposit wagering, ADW. The larger percentage of this ADW comes from online betting forms, and the rest from players placing their bets over the telephone.

Just last year ADW handle accounted for almost 8% of the racing totals at two major horse tracks, this is $39 million. Throughout the United States $14.6 billion was wagered on horse races in 2005, and out of these almost 88% came from off track betting. For the same year the ADW handle in the USA was almost $1.16 billion.

Horse racing officials are hoping that racing will follow in the footsteps of poker. The online poker playing phenomena hit the World Wide Web and television in recent years. Now nearly all of the largest online gambling sites are either poker rooms, or contain poker games.

“If you find a shoe that fits- steal it,” said Chuck Champion, the CEO of one online gambling site. This publicly traded California based company handles nearly $395 million in wagers last year. “Our sport is harder to understand than poker,” Champion continued, referring to the handicapping nuance of horse racing.

The overseer of one online gaming industry site, De Francis, agrees that many players are intimidated by the track, and often won’t go because they don’t know what to do. The same problem occurred with poker online games before the advent of online poker rooms. At an online room players can practice and learn all the rules of the game before heading out to a brick and mortar casino. Now the racing industry is hoping that when players learn the rules of the game, they will break out of the online base and move to the tracks.

“I’ve seen people come to the track- you’ll see them at the Preakness next Saturday- and these are smart people, but they’re not regulars, and they don’t know what to do. They don’t know what an ‘exacta’ is, what ‘across the board’ means, what a ‘furlong’ is- and they don’t want to look foolish,” said De Francis. “If they learn about these things online in their home, then we many have new fans.