All-sources handle dropped nearly 2% on the May 3 card of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), a result a Churchill Downs official blamed on the fallout from an ongoing dispute with horsemen over signal distribution.
Total wagers placed on the 12-race card fell 1.99% to $164,688,176 from the $168,018,982 recorded in 2007, and 5.97% from the record $175,129,090 tallied in 2006.
The track is mired in a well-documented stalemate with Kentucky horsemen over revenue-sharing from wagers placed through advance deposit wagering companies, which process bets for its customers via telephone and Internet platforms. Among the entities that could not carry the bulk of the Derby card were the multiple platforms of Twinspires.com, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., and XpressBet.com, which is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp.
The Churchill handle was likely also affected by an impasse on negotiations between horsemen and Calder Race Course, which is also owned by CDI. In addition to ADW restrictions, Calder was not allowed to import the Churchill Downs signal for simulcasting purposes.
“It is unfortunate that horsemen in Kentucky and Florida prevented so many fans from enjoying a full day of wagering on Churchill Downs’ races,” Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton said in a news release. “Had more ADW and Florida customers been given an opportunity to participate, we could have seen a record day. Despite these challenges, the Churchill Downs team put on an exceptional day.”
A previous agreement made with Kentucky horsemen allowed Twinspires.com and XpressBet.com to take wagers on the Derby itself, as well as the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT). It has been reported on Internet forums that some of the Twinspires.com platforms crashed for a period leading up to the Derby.
Twinspire.com president Vernon Niven said in a statement that some customers may have had difficulty logging in and wagering during the 45 minutes leading up to the Derby.
“We are looking into what caused those problems and hope to have a definitive answer very soon,” Niven said. "We deeply apologize for what we consider to be an unacceptable occurrence on the biggest racing day of the year. Our players deserve the very best, and we are working to make sure whatever issues caused them to have difficulties on Derby day never happen again.”
Two of the nation's largest ADWs, TVG and Youbet.com, also did not carry the Derby card, but were shut out last year as well. Several of what are described by those in the negotiations as regional ADWs were able to take bets on the Derby card, as well as some offshore rebate outlets.
There were also rumors that wagering through the Las Vegas Dissemination Co. hub in Nevada was shut out for an extended period on Derby day, but a company executive told The Blood-Horse the issues were minor, were not present in all outlets, and corrected in the early morning.
“It was not a tote issue, it was a terminal issue related to the loading of race cards,” said Vincent Magliulo, vice president of marketing and corporate development for LVDC. “It took a little extra time to load data, but it was early in the day, and between efforts of our staff and our hardware companies, everyone was able to participate and get their Derby wagering in.”
LVDC processes wagers for 89 Nevada casinos, according to the company’s Web-site, as well as six non-Nevada outlets, including the prominent offshore rebate wagering shop, Elite Turf Club, which is located in the Netherland Antilles island of Curacao.
Magliulo said LVDC doesn’t release handle figures, but said the company was pleased with the May 3 handle totals.
Total off-track handle on the Derby card, including inter-track and ADW wagering, was down 2.47% to $140,392,312, and 6.82% from 2006’s record total of $150,665,163.
In a positive development, on-track wagering on the day's program was up slightly, bolstered by a crowd of 157,770, the second-highest in Derby day history. Total handle was up 0.88% to $24,275,864, including $12,118,527 wagered on the Derby alone.
“The strength of this year’s Kentucky Derby Day racing program was evident in our on-track results with increases in both on-track wagering and attendance,” Sexton said.
The attendance mark trails only the crowd of 163,628 that witnessed Cannonade win the centennial Derby in 1974. It is the seventh time in 10 years that Kentucky Derby Day attendance has topped 150,000.