Churchill Downs and FanDuel Sportsbooks Set Kentucky Derby Betting Records

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 8, 2024 08:00 PM
Churchill Downs and FanDuel Sportsbooks Set Kentucky Derby Betting Records

The 2024 Kentucky Derby will go down as a banner betting event for some of the top sportsbooks in the United States.

This year’s race marked the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill. It was also the first since general sports betting in Kentucky went live. And though it’s been mere days since Mystik Dan took home the pole position—this year’s race took place on May 4—officials have already confirmed the 150th Kentucky Derby will go down in the record books.

Churchill Downs Reports That Betting on the 2024 Kentucky Derby Nearly Reached One-Quarter of a Billion Dollars

Churchill Downs released an in-depth statement explaining how betting on the Kentucky Derby turned out this year. The results may shock you, because they sure as heck surprised many veterans of the industry as well as officials in the Bluegrass State. 

Here are the full details, courtesy of Churchill Downs’ press release:

“Wagering from all sources on the Kentucky Derby Day program set a new record of $320.5 million, beating last year’s record of $288.7 million. All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Derby race was a new record of $210.7 million, beating the previous record of $188.7 million set in 2023. All-sources handle for Derby Week rose to a new record of $446.6 million, beating last year’s record of $412.0 million. TwinSpires, the official betting partner of the Kentucky Derby, handled a new record of $92.1 million in wagering on Churchill Downs races for the Kentucky Derby Day program, compared to last year’s record of $75.5 million, including all settled future wagers and affiliate wagering. TwinSpires’ handle on the Kentucky Derby race was a new record of $60.9 million, beating last year’s record of $48.9 million, including all settled future wagers and affiliate wagering.”

Experts no doubt expected 2024 to reset records established in 2023. But the degree to which Kentucky Derby sports betting increased is a genuine shock. Looking at the main event alone, the sports gambling handle rose by $22 million year-over-year. That’s equivalent to an 11.7 percent increase—which, when you’re dealing with such huge figures, is absolutely massive.

FanDuel and DraftKings Sportsbooks Report Record-Setting Action in Kentucky 

TwinSpires and Churchill Downs weren’t the only ones who enjoyed a banner weekend. (It’s worth noting that the Derby’s attendance surged to nearly 157,000 as well.) Both FanDuel and DraftKings are reporting some staggering figures themselves, according to Legal Sports Report’s James Gazzale:

“FanDuel also had its most significant day of horse betting. According to a spokesperson, the FanDuel Group had more than 700,000 customers bet on the Derby. That total was up from 500,000 last year…DraftKings and its DK Horse app were also pleased with its Kentucky Derby betting results. ‘We had an outstanding week of horse racing and wagering leading into the 150th Kentucky Derby, which did not disappoint,’ Johnny Avello, DraftKings director of race and sportsbook operations, said. “We were thrilled with the engagement we saw on Saturday with horse racing fans downloading and using the DK Horse app, which topped off the awesome weekend.’”

The uptick in FanDuel customers, in particular, is noteworthy. We are talking about one of the two most popular onlines sportsbooks in the USA. You don’t typically see year-over-year increases of 200,000 clients on a singular event. Especially when you consider this amounts to a 40 percent rise in customer action

This, of course, raises an interesting topic. It’s one thing if the Derby set more betting records. That’s not entirely new. It happened in 2023. But why did the 2024 Kentucky Derby result in so much more action than usual? 

Legal Sports Betting in Kentucky No Doubt Played a Role in Derby’s Betting Increase

Many have overlooked the role that the legalization of Kentucky sports betting played in this surge of Derby business. Sure, betting on horse races in Kentucky has been allowed for quite a while. In theory, adding other sports to the catalog shouldn’t shift the core interest in this race.

That’s true—to some degree. The legalization of online sports betting throughout Kentucky probably didn’t affect Derby diehards. However, it most definitely led to an increase in casual observers dipping their toes into the waters.

For starters, we cannot overstate the significance of online sports betting in the United States right now. Frankly, it would not surprise us if over 90 percent of legal wagers placed in 2024 wind up getting processed through a mobile betting site. The accessibility of gambling remotely is something that appeals to everyone. So even if Kentucky Derby fans inside the Bluegrass State could always bet on the race, many probably never wanted to travel specifically to a location to place their wager. Online sportsbooks afforded them newfound convenience this year.

On top of all that, we cannot downplay the possibility that brick-and-mortar sportsbooks also played a part. If you’re not a horse racing bettor, you would never travel to a sportsbook to bet on an event that doesn’t register as a primary interest. But what if you go to the sportsbook to, say, bet on the NBA playoffs during the weekend of the Kentucky Derby? You might decide to try your hand at betting on horse races, if only because you’re already there and want to partake in a landmark event.

This combination of factors likely laid the groundwork for an unprecedented amount of betting on the Derby. As a result, it will be interesting to see whether this pace sustains for the 2025 Kentucky Derby or if this is a one-year spike buoyed by the launch of general online sports betting in the Bluegrass State.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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