Online wagering seen as key component to survival of the horse racing industry

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- As the Derby nears, many people will host Derby parties and some will place their bets online. Betting on horses is the only legal way to gamble on the internet. An industry expert says the future of the horse racing industry depends on how well tracks around the country develop that side of their business.

You don't have to show up at the track to hit a winner on the race card.

$1 out of every $5 bet on horse racing now gets wagered through online accounts. It is called Advance Deposit Wagering where you set up an account at a site like and you can bet and watch the races from your computer no matter where you are.

"Now, is that a good thing? I think yes, it is a good thing in the long run, says Mike Battaglia.

The Churchill Downs oddsmaker will set the opening line for his 30th Kentucky Derby, but he's not sure about the odds on account wagering.

"I think it's like trial and error right now. We're still in the infancy of this. It's just been going on for awhile, but you know we still don't have any -- I don't think there's a blueprint for the best way to do it, so I think we're still working on that," Battaglia said.

For every dollar bet at a track like Churchill Downs, after paying winners and taxes about fifteen cents is left to split between the track and the horsemen. But an online site like gets half of that fifteen cents. So Churchill Downs got in the game one year ago with to avoid giving up half the profit.

"It's a great convenience and also account wagering is available in cities where there are no tracks like beautiful Churchill Downs," says Jeremy Clemons of

Clemons hopes account wagering can mirror the success of online poker. Some players learned the game online so well they became such big fans and experts and ended up at casinos winning tournaments.

"The online poker story is encouraging for us. We feel like we can reach out through the internet, tackle some new demographics, show them how good racing can be and hopefully online can lead the charge for new growth and deliver people back to the racetrack for key events," Clemens says.

And it better deliver. The handle at America's tracks -- the total dollars bet -- has been flat for the last five years and that is with slot revenue at many locations.

"If you take out all the slots revenue, the racing industry is in really bad shape right now. Without those subsidies, purses would probably be anywhere from 25 to 30 percent lower," says Matthew Hagarty of the Daily Racing Form. "If the industry doesn't get this right, then it doesn't have a very good future in front of it."

Currently, the industry doesn't have it right. The video signal going out from the tracks like Keeneland and Churchill might be exclusive to just one online wagering site. Most of those deals are expiring and in the next year or two, you should be able to bet on and watch races from all the tracks at one website.

It is not the historic twin spires, but the electronic version that could save the horse racing industry.

The battle over revenues from account deposit wagers between the tracks and horsemen has taken its toll. They have to have an agreement signed or you can't bet on the races from the comfort of your own home. They don't have a deal for the racing cards on Oaks and Derby Day with the exception of the two big races and the Woodford Reserve.

Online Reporter: Scott Reynolds

Online Producer: Charles Gazaway