Kentucky Derby Betting Handle cut by half

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby 2020 betting handle has fallen by more than half compared to 2019

One of the most important days on the sports betting calendar, the Kentucky Derby, usually produces enormous numbers. However, as with seemingly everything in this crazy year, the numbers posted in 2020 fell well below expectations as the industry continues to face an uphill struggle. The amount of money wagered on the famous horse race, which took place this past weekend, was $126 million, which is just half of what was recorded a year ago.

Various sportsbooks across the US offered betting options on 14 different races that occurred at Churchill Downs over the weekend, with the Kentucky Derby seeing most of the action. There was close to $80 million in total bets placed on the Triple Crown’s first leg.

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The Kentucky Derby traditionally takes place on the first Saturday in May; however, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the race was put back to Labor Day weekend. Churchill Downs initially hoped to allow around 23,000 fans in the stands; however, it was decided that this would be too risky in mid-August due to a rise in cases in the local area. Fans who had purchased tickets for the iconic race were provided with full refunds.

The primary reason the betting numbers were low is that there were no fans in attendance. Only horsemen, sections of the media, and select guests were allowed into the grounds. Consequently, there was not as much hype and excitement around the event as there would be in a typical year, which was reflected in the betting numbers. It is not the only large event that normally draws in the betting crowd. The Indy 500 saw a big decrease in betting activity as well.

Bettors can usually place a wager at the racetrack during ‘normal’ times; however, that was not permitted this year. It was no surprise to discover that online sportsbooks brought in the majority of the betting handle. There was a concerted effort among sportsbooks to encourage more betting with various promotions and bonuses.

Huge Drop in Numbers

The betting total for Saturday was the lowest since 2002. In 2019, almost $251 million was wagered on the races at Churchill Downs, with over $21 million of that total coming from people at the racetrack.

Another significant factor in the low handle was that Churchill Downs Inc failed to deal with sportsbooks in Nevada. Those sportsbooks were limited in their options and could only offer betting on the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks.

Vegas Sportsbooks offered fixed odds on the main event, and the general consensus is they performed well and are happy with the outcome. As the race winner was an underdog, most sportsbooks around the world will have been delighted.

Massive Upset in Kentucky Derby

The race itself saw a huge upset. Tiz the Law entered as an overwhelming favorite and was yet to lose a race this season. However, Authentic lead from the front and took the victory. In claiming the win, Authentic ended the hopes of Tiz the Law winning the Triple Crown as the horse won the Belmont Stakes earlier this year.

There was a reduced field at the Kentucky Derby this year, with just 15 horses competing, which was the lowest figure since 1988. Three horses were scratched, including one that was scratched early Saturday morning.

For more sports news and legal sports betting in Indiana, check out more stories on our blog.

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