Betting on the Kentucky Derby was down by more than half from 2019 as the race progressed without crowds in the stands and without Nevada bookmakers adding to the pari-mutuel draw.
lBetting operator Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) on Saturday’s 146th running of the Kentucky Derby reported betting handle of $79.4 m, about 52 percent of the record $165.5 m bet on last year’s event. Handle on the 14-race overall card fell nearly 49 percent to $128.3 m, the lowest amount since 2002.
CDI blamed the decline on the fact that COVID-19, which prevented the race from observing its traditional May timeline, also kept spectator-free stands at the Churchill Downs track, which wagered $21.3 m on-site at last year’s race. Betting also slowed because Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law was an overwhelming betting favourite, though rival Authentic ended up claiming 1.25 lengths for the crown.
The 2020s handle also suffered from the lack of bettors from Nevada adding their wagers to the pari-mutuel pool. EPSN announced on Thursday that Nevada sportsbooks baulked at CDI ‘s demands for a 5.5 percent fee on all wagers on its races, up from the previous 4.5 percent limit, while demanding a 10.25 percent take on Derby weekend action.
CDI did not include statistics on how much of the 2020 Derby handle was wagered online through its TwinSpires advance deposit wagering site but the percentage was probably significantly higher than in previous years due to ongoing capacity constraints on many racetracks and the closure of OTB facilities in several states.
TwinSpires got a slight boost Thursday after CDI and its local partner Northville Downs have been authorised by the Michigan Gaming Control Board to accept bets on live and simulcast pari-mutuel racing, including the Kentucky Derby. Prior to that, the track signed a similar agreement with the TVG race betting brand of Flutter Entertainment.
New figures released by the national race betting handle show Equibase totaled $1.15b in August, around 2 percent below the amount of August 2019. That spoiled the brief COVID revival of racing, which saw the handle of July rise to $1.1b by 17 percent year-on-year.