The Kentucky Derby's Confusing Gambling Options

Although some horse racing fans have a gambling problem that needs support, most fans only bet on horses once a year. In particular, they will attend a major race at a local horse track and bet $1 to $20. After all, they are not interested in making a regular habit of gambling and are only thinking about betting for recreational reasons.

In the meantime, betting on horse racing online has soared. For this reason, you would think that Churchill Downs has the perfect online betting system in place for the Kentucky Derby. Strangely, this is not the case due to local laws. However, if you cannot attend the Kentucky Derby in person this year, do not worry. Located on the ChurchillDowns.com website is a legal option.

Understanding parimutuel gambling

When you go to the KentuckyDerby.com website, it will indicate that the official online wagering site of the Kentucky Derby is Twin Spires. However, this is not the only place online that offers a bet on a Kentucky Derby race. Instead, all of the money from casinos, the racetrack, and the online websites is put into one money pool nationwide. This large number of gamblers putting all their bets together is why winners for the Kentucky Derby take home so much money.

This style of gambling for the Kentucky Derby is called parimutuel betting and it is currently legal by federal law. Legality loopholes, if there are any, are taken care of through user registration. In other words, if online gambling suddenly becomes illegal in your state, your internet service provider can block you so that you do not break the law. In 2003, the states that restricted Kentucky Derby gambling online were Utah, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Hawaii, Georgia, and Alaska.

Kentucky gambling laws are changing

In 2010, an article in the New York Times indicated the horse industry in the U.S. was in financial crisis. For this reason, the industry insisted that changes in gambling laws could save horse racing. In particular, they were lobbying for casinos in the racetracks.

In February 2012, Churchill Downs announced in the Louisville Courier Journal that they purchased a "poker fan website that could be a vehicle toward an entry into online poker if it is legalized." Less than a week later, Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky made an announcement that a big save for racetrack casino gambling could be on the way -- if the state committees allow KY Senate Bill 151 to pass.

Opponents to new gambling laws

It is the hope of many racetracks that there will be a major overhaul of gambling laws. Last year, several internet gambling websites were shut down because of the fine tooth comb the U.S. Federal Government used in defining illegal activities. As Churchill Downs says, they often make business deals "in the event there is a liberalization of state or federal laws with respect to internet poker in the United States."

In Kentucky, the hope for Senate Bill 151 has some opponents. In particular, Republican Alice Forgy Kerr of Lexington, Kent., said that expanded gambling will happen "over my dead body." This negativity is furthered by groups like The Family Foundation of Kentucky.

Arguments against the new gambling changes in Kentucky have little to do with the immorality of betting or addiction problems. Instead, the opponents do not like the language of the bill that restricts the number of Kentucky casinos to five racetracks and only allows for two additional casinos. Others find that changing the constitution of Kentucky is unsound logic.

Future Kentucky Derby gambling changes

With all of these big changes in progress, does this mean that it will affect the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 2012? According to the KYChamberBlog.com, if it passes the senate, KY SB 151 will be placed before voters in November 2012. If it is enacted, this will mean that Churchill Downs can open a casino in their racetrack. In the meantime, you can place your annual Derby bet online or at the betting clerk window at your local track.

Maryam Louise is a longtime resident of the Bluegrass State and has lived in the shadows of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky over the past two decades. In addition to being a fan of horse racing, she has also had a chance to get to know jockeys, horse groomers, and betting clerks as an ESL instructor. Currently, she writes for

KentuckyDerby.org and relies on her friends in the multiple facets of the equine industry for writing inspiration.