Is it legal to bet on the Kentucky Derby? How to bet on horse racing responsibly

May 1, 2024

One of the most prestigious horse racing events of the year is rapidly approaching. That’s the Kentucky Derby of course, which takes place in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the 150th edition of the race, but with the new age of sports betting, there are a lot of questions regarding gambling on the first leg of the Triple Crown. Let’s run through the details, along with some reminders on how to bet responsibly if you decide to wager on it. 

History of betting on horse racing legally

It all started in 1875 with the inaugural running of the Kentucky Derby. Even then, betting was allowed. The formal type of betting on the racetrack back then was auction pools, which involved bettors bidding on which horse they thought would win. However, gambling on the Kentucky Derby wasn’t always easy for some people since there was a $5 minimum bet by 1878, which is equivalent to about $150 today (Kentucky Derby).

Americans have been betting on horse races for over a century. It’s one of the oldest sports in this country and it continues to gain popularity. More recently, the sports gambling industry has boomed because the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. That gave states the power to legalize sports betting, but betting on horse racing had been happening long before PASPA was overturned.

There are plenty of states that have legalized betting on horse racing but have not legalized sports betting. That’s because there is an accepted view that betting on horse racing is inherently different from sports betting.

Is betting on horse racing a form of sports betting?

Yes, horse racing is a type of sports gambling by definition. However, the United States does not see wagering on horse racing as the same as betting on other sports. Horse racing was not included in the anti-gambling act in 2006 that prohibited people from wagering on sporting events (Past The Wire). Because of that, people were still able to gamble on horse racing. That act passed ruled that horse racing is not the same as sports betting, but it is still a type of gambling. 

Difference between parimutuel and fixed-odds wagering for horse racing?

There are two different types of wagers when it comes to horse racing. First, fixed-odds wagering is what you see with sportsbooks. For example, you might see 10/1 odds for a certain horse to win. Once you place a bet on that horse, you’re locked in at 10/1 odds. That’s fixed-odds wagering since your odds will not change no matter the circumstance.

Next, there’s pari-mutuel wagering, which is much more common historically for horse racing. Simply put, the main difference between the two is that with pari-mutuel wagering your odds can change from the time you place your bet to the time betting is closed. That’s because final odds cannot be calculated until all of the bets are in. If the horse you bet on wins, the pool of money from that horse is divided up among the winners at odds determined when the race starts, after a certain percentage is removed as a takeout, or “hold,” by the racetrack or betting operator. 

Where and how can I legally bet on the Kentucky Derby?

Location Considerations

While sports betting and horse racing are both a form of gambling, there are different regulations for each. For sports betting, it is legal in more than three-quarters of the country, and 30 states have mobile sports gambling available. As for horse racing, there are over 40 states that have legalized gambling on horse racing, including the Kentucky Derby. 

Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas (in-person only), Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Keep in mind that some states that have legalized online sports betting might not have legalized gambling on horse racing, and vice versa. 

Age Considerations

To legally gamble in the United States, most states require the person to be at least 21 years old. However, horse racing rules are slightly different. Generally, a person needs to be 18 years old to bet at the track or online at FanDuel Racing in some states, for example. With that said, some states are more strict and require the person to be at least 21 years old to bet on horse racing. Those states include Arizona, Iowa, Nevada, and Texas (Forbes).

Do sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings offer betting on the Kentucky Derby?

Yes, online sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings will offer odds for the Kentucky Derby. Each sportsbook will offer plenty of markets for the race, including betting on the outright winner or exotics. Just remember, you must be in a legal state to bet on the Kentucky Derby at an online sportsbook. 

The dangers of betting on horse racing

The most dangerous aspect of horse racing is the amount of races that happen on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. There are over 300 race tracks in the United States, and horse racing is offered daily at most locations. Plus, horse racing is incredibly popular overseas as well and is offered in Europe, Asia, Australia, and more. That means even when races aren’t being run in the United States, there are probably other races happening around the world, and many operators offer wagering options for those as well.

The volume of horse races can be dangerous because it provides near-constant betting opportunities. The ability to easily place wagers around the clock can cause some to develop a gambling addiction. Therefore, it’s critically important to set limits on yourself and only bet what you can afford to lose.

Problem Gambling treatment & resources if issues arise

Help is available if you or someone you know may be struggling with a gambling addiction. Birches Health is an online treatment provider that offers treatment options that fit your schedule. With tailored intake and personalized care plans, Birches is a reliable option for anyone dealing with a gambling problem. A team of trained professionals with years of experience is ready to help you, and many patients have $0 out-of-pocket costs.

Sources:

How Kentucky Derby betting traditions have changed over time since 1875 | News

Horse Racing Betting: Is it Legal in America? - Past The Wire

2024 Kentucky Derby Betting: Odds & Where to Bet Online

How Old Do You Have To Be To Gamble? – Forbes Betting

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