The Washington Post

Kentucky Derby is bigger than the Super Bowl — at least in gambling

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Place your bets (for entertainment purposes only), The Kentucky Derby kicks off its 140th ‘Run for the Roses’ on Saturday.

Two years ago the Derby set a record for wagering from all-sources, $187.0 million, an increase of 13.2 percent from the 2011 total of $165.2 million.

“We did our record last year, ” said Dale Rapson, vice president of racing operations of the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. “As far as handle it has been increasing every year the last three years. It’s a large field, 20 horses, so that all benefits your handle.”

The handle is total dollars wagered on races, and while there is not much public data available about the amount wagered on the Derby in recent years, but it has grown quite a bit over the last 13 years.

In comparison, a record $119.4 million was wagered on Super Bowl XLVIII featuring the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. That pales in comparison to the estimates for March Madness, which come in at $227 million. But more money wagered doesn’t mean a better turnout for casinos.

“It is not even close. Super Bowl is actually a slow or average day for us,” explains Rapson. “People stay home and watch the basketball games. [The Kentucky Derby] is by far, by far, the biggest day of the year for us.”

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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