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The Kentucky Derby: A Catalyst for Online Sports Betting

April 25, 2023

The most-exciting two minutes in sports is just under two weeks away.

And Louisville is buzzing.

The city is teeming with pre-derby activities, from thundering air shows to hot air balloon festivals. You can’t even step into your neighborhood Kroger without tripping over mint julep glasses, fresh flowers, and ornate hats for the occasion!

While we’re certainly enjoying the pregame, if you will, we’re also excited for the main event.

The racing. The classic attire. The bourbon. And especially, the betting.

According to LikeFolio data, its not just us.

Consumer mentions of betting on horse racing or planning to bet on a horse race are already off to a strong start this Spring.

This coincides with growing momentum for online sports betting, which is currently trending for the highest organic level LikeFolio has ever recorded, and +17% higher vs. last year.

The next two weeks stand to be an enormous catalyst for the industry at large, and a powerful barometer for measuring consumer engagement and adoption.

Why?

After two years of COVID-related obstacles, the iconic race is finally back to normal, with a full crowd, and an even bigger betting pool.

In 2022, the Kentucky Derby took in a record-breaking $179 million in wagers, with a staggering +17% increase over the previous year and a +9% increase vs. the last “normal” derby event in 2019 (and the previous wagering record). Despite being an 80-1 underdog, Rich Strike shocked everyone and became the biggest upset in the race since 1913.

Overall, the $391.8 million in wagering for Derby week was a record, a 25% increase compared to 2021 and a 14% rise over the prior high in 2019.

This suggests that if sports betting macro trends prove predictive, 2023 could be the largest wagering event in Derby history.

With more money up for grabs than ever before, here are the names we’re watching:

DraftKings (DKNG)

DraftKings demand continues to rise, though growth has slowed down vs. prior levels.

We’ll be tracking a new product under DraftKings’ belt into derby week.

DraftKings has launched its first-ever horse racing product called DK Horse in twelve states, with plans to expand to additional states by the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6, 2023.

The standalone, DK Horse-branded app gives customers the ability to handicap races, wager, and stream video of races all within their DK Horse account.

The partnership between DraftKings and Churchill Downs Incorporated's subsidiary, TwinSpires, aims to deliver an innovative, mobile customer experience, said Jason Robins, CEO and Chairman of the Board of DraftKings.

DK Horse will initially require customers to register and deposit funds into new accounts separately from their DraftKings Sportsbook, Casino, and daily fantasy sports apps.

We’ll be monitoring for elevated levels of consumer engagement and potential crossover into the DraftKings platform directly.

FanDuel (PDYPF)

FanDuel has also inked a multi-year agreement with Churchill Downs Inc, which allows FanDuel Sportsbook customers to place pari-mutuel horse racing bets through the app using Churchill’s horse racing technology.

FanDuel is also sponsoring Churchill Downs’ Starting Gate Rooftop Garden, an exclusive seventh-floor venue overlooking the track.

The garden, which offers access to upscale bars and food offerings, is an ideal vantage point for bettors to watch the horse race. The partnership will provide FanDuel with branding opportunities and access to upper-class clientele, as tickets to the rooftop venue are likely to be among the most expensive available.

FanDuel is currently leading the sports-betting pack when it comes to demand growth: +26% YoY.

Playing it from here:

  • FanDuel and DraftKings are recording near-term Bullish momentum in their stock prices, though both are trading below levels from 2 years ago and.
  • PDYDF has a near-term edge, in line with LikeFolio data.
  • DraftKings may prove tantalizing for long-term investors if it can continue to garner momentum

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