Churchill Rolls Out New Website

Designed for new fans, it plays like a lottery but sends bets into pari-mutuel pools.

Churchill Downs Inc. hopes to improve returns for its already successful online segment while drawing new customers to pari-mutuel wagering with its new on-line wagering site

The site currently includes about 25 different games that may appeal to non-traditional pari-mutuel bettors. Players will have the opportunity to shoot baloons, spin wheels, and play favorite Zodiac signs all as a method toward selecting numbers for pari-mutuel wagers.

While the games look like an online lottery, the numbers selected for wagering are placed in live pari-mutuel horse racing pools to determine winnings. The race payoffs determine the game payoffs.

The games and minimum wagers match common bets in horse racing; a $2 single wager matches a win bet, three numbers at 50 cents for a trifecta, and four numbers for a dime toward a superfecta. If players are interested in seeing the race and horses selected that will determine the outcome, they have access to that information.

Ted Gay, president of Churchill Downs Interactive, said the company hopes to bring new players to online pari-mutuel wagering as compared with traditional advance-deposit wagering players.

"That’s the plan. Truthfully, this probably isn’t going to appeal to most horseplayers. That’s OK. For them we have TwinSpires," Gay said. "The objective is to bring people who aren’t currently in the pools into the pools. Theoretically it should be a net positive for everyone, the host tracks and us. It is something new."

Because the wagers go into actual pari-mutuel pools, the split is the same as a wager made at Churchill’s advance-deposit wagering site, Money is paid to the host track and horsemen’s purses.

Gay thinks of the site as the online version of night racing. Churchill Downs tracks have had success bringing out new players to special night cards.

"I’ve used the example of night racing when I’ve talked about it. You can play horses in a number of ways. Obviously the core player is deep in the Racing Form and studying past performances. But at night racing we’ve been able to attract other fans out there, more casual fans," Gay said. "They’re out there and they’re wagering but they aren’t spending as much time handicapping as some of the core players. Some of the inspiratioin for Luckity came from that experience."

Under U.S. law, horse racing has an execption to conduct pari-mutuel wagering on an interstate level on the Internet. Since the wagers go into pari-mutuel pools, Churchill spokesman Brett Hale said the company is confident the site will hold up to any legal challenge.

The site relies on live races to determine its winners, which means racing content will be important. Although the wagers go into pari-mutuel pools, Gay said Churchill is being transparent with tracks and horsemen, making sure agreements are in place before using their content.

Because there can be lulls as Luckity players await the outcome of their wagers, the site offers free games like bingo to entertain players as they wait. As more content is added though, those wait times would be shortened.

"It’s first and foremost advance depost pari-mutuel wagering on live horses racing. No different than TwinSprires. You come to the site, create and fund an accountthe same methodology as TwinSpires," Gay said. "The difference is when you play on TwinSpires you’re presented with handicapping tools and detailed information to allow you to drill down and really study the horses. On Luckity, it’s more about just fun number-picker games."

Gay noted that Churchill considers this a soft launch and more marketing of the site will follow. The current lineup of games will be studied and popular games will be emphasized. New games will be added to replace less popular games.

"We’ve been working on it for a while. We’re excited to be pushing it out," Gay said. "I want to convey that this is just the beginning."