Nevada Casinos Allowed To Take Bets On The Kentucky Derby

Written By Marc Meltzer on August 31, 2020 - Last Updated on September 22, 2020

The Kentucky Derby will take place this Saturday, Sept. 6 instead of its normal “first Saturday in May” date. Believe it or not, there was a possibility that Nevada sportsbooks wouldn’t be able to take pari-mutuel wagers on the 145th Run For The Roses.

In other words, casinos might not have been able to offer exactas, trifectas, and other traditional horse racing wagers.

Late last week, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) made sure that Nevada sportsbooks would be able to offer wagers on the big race. A ruling on Friday afternoon will allow Nevada race and sportsbooks to take bets on the Kentucky Derby.

A lot has changed this year, but horse race bettors will be able to wager like normal this weekend.

Churchill Downs dispute

The possibility that the race wouldn’t be available for betting stems from a contract dispute between the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association and Churchill Downs. Downs is the company that operates the racetrack where the Kentucky Derby takes place.

Churchill Downs wants to charge Nevada race and sportsbooks for taking wagers on races at its tracks. The state doesn’t want to set a precedent that it will pay fees for this right.

This dispute actually started at the end of October last year. Race and sportsbook guests might have noticed that a handful of tracks that are normally on the TVs haven’t been, as of late.

Churchill Downs, the corporation, is much more than just an individual horse track operator. The company also operates racetracks and casinos around the country.

The dispute between the two parties is ongoing and almost got in the way of allowing Nevada bettors to wager on the Kentucky Derby. Have no fear horse racing fans, the NGCB is here to save the day!

NGCB steps in to allow casinos to take pari-mutuel wagers

The ruling by the NGCB will allow Nevada casinos to book their own bets and exotic wagers on the Kentucky Oaks on Friday and Derby on Saturday. The decision doesn’t guarantee that all sportsbooks will take pari-mutuel wagers on the big horse races, but it’s available to those who want to.

This ruling simply allows sportsbooks to apply for permission to pay winning wagers for horse races. The race must be broadcast nationally and must be shown at the casino racetrack and sportsbook.

The Kentucky Derby fits both criteria for most Nevada casinos.

Each race and sportsbook operator will be able to set its own limits since they bear responsibility for paying out the wagers.

The casinos are usually the middleman between the racetrack pools and the bettors. Maximum wagers or payouts could be limited this year because of the rules change. Make sure to check with the sportsbooks for limits.

Additionally, Nevada sportsbook apps that usually offer horse racing won’t be taking mobile bets on the Kentucky Derby this year. Bettors will have to visit a casino to bet on the race.

Get ready for the Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs opens for the season on Tuesday. There will be racing all week, but only the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby will be broadcast nationally. Most casino race and sportsbooks will show those races and take wagers.

The post position draw for the Kentucky Derby will take place at 8 a.m. PT on Tuesday. The draw will be streamed live on When complete, this draw will reveal which post position the horses will be placed at when the race begins on Saturday.

The post position usually plays a role for horses in the large field of the Kentucky Derby. While 24 horses are allowed to race in the event, it appears as if only 19 will participate this year.

There could be horses scratched during the week, so it’s possible even fewer horses will run.

Nevada casinos often have seminars and parties for the Kentucky Derby. Due to the delay and fewer tourists visiting during the week, some of the events have been canceled.

Rampart Casino in Summerlin is one of the few that will keep its Kentucky Derby Weekend plans intact. Rampart will offer a pre-race seminar on Friday, Sept. 4 along with specials and giveaways on race day.

Photo by Getty
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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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