To The Trained Eye, NV Betting On The Kentucky Derby Will Look Different

Written By Marc Meltzer on April 26, 2021

The Kentucky Derby returns to its normal “First Saturday In May” position on the calendar this weekend. Like many sporting events last year, the Run For The Roses was postponed to September as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kentucky Derby was close to not being a part of the sports betting calendar for the second year in a row. The battle between Churchill Downs and the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association (NPMA) continues to rage on after nearly 18 months.

Have no fear, like in 2020, the race will go on in Nevada casinos. Most people won’t know the difference. However, pari-mutuel bettors will know that things aren’t quite the same as betting on a horse race inside of a casino every other day in the week.

Nevada Gaming Commission steps in

The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby will be available to watch and wager on in Nevada sportsbooks on Saturday, May 1. Once again, the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) had to step in and approve alternative measures during its April 22 meeting.

The amendment to Regulation 22 means that sportsbooks will be allowed to base race results and calculate payouts based on the televised race. Typically, Regulation 22 requires that a sportsbook will determine the winners and payouts on wagers on horse races with information it receives from a licensed source.

Nevada horse race bettors currently can’t watch or wager on races at Churchill Downs tracks. The NGC amendment will allow sportsbooks to reconcile the Kentucky Derby, specifically, because it will be on a TV broadcast. An exception was made for the Kentucky Oaks as well.

Most horse races aren’t on free TV. The Kentucky Derby isn’t most horse races. This race is so much more popular than most horse races that it has to be available to watch or wager on inside of a casino. The pageantry at the actual event takes place in casinos throughout Nevada.

The negotiations between the NPMA and Churchill Downs will continue more than 18 months after a deal between the parties dissolved. This amendment could be better or worse for a sportsbook operator in Nevada. While the companies will keep more money from the race, they will also have to do more work.

Betting on the Kentucky Derby

Betting on the Kentucky Derby won’t be the same at all Nevada sportsbooks. Some sportsbook operators like Circa Sports only offer futures and prop bets for bigger horse races. This operator doesn’t take typical win-place-show pari-mutuel wagers on horse races.

The betting menu will be different at racebooks that will offer pari-mutuel betting. Bets like a Daily Double or Pick 4 won’t be allowed because they involve multiple races that won’t be on free TV. Sportsbooks will be limited to what wagering events they can offer for the Kentucky Derby.

There can also be confusion within different sportsbook operator locations from the same operator. For example, Willian Hill has some locations that offer pari-mutuel betting. The company also has sportsbooks throughout the state that do not take pari-mutuel wagers.

William Hill has signs that denote whether or not the location takes pari-mutuel bets. That doesn’t mean the customers will always see the warning. In 2019, a bettor in northern Nevada was denied a large payday from William Hill because he didn’t notice the sign that said the location does not take pari-mutuel bets.

Lastly, sportsbooks could put limits on payouts for exotic wagers. If a bettor doesn’t see this there could be confusion. For example, a sportsbook could limit wins to $10,000. If a few longshots hook up to finish first, second and third, a Nevada bettor may not receive the full value of a win that might be larger than $10,000. Unfortunately, the bettor might see the actual value on TV and get upset they’re not being paid the full amount.

The bottom line for betting the Kentucky Derby in Nevada is that everyone should read the rules inside the sportsbook. If nothing else, ask the ticket writer if there’s anything new about betting on the Run for the Roses.

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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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