The spring horse racing season in the U.S. has always brought about thrilling occasions. While plenty of smaller professional races take place this time of year, the three races that comprise the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes – are recognized around the world for their history and prestige. In fact, a recent ranking of the most prestigious racing events around the globe included all three of them.
For most fans of the sport, these three events are best known for their history, their legendary venues, the fashion and culture that define the festivities, and of course the quality of the races themselves. Beginning in 2020, however, it appears more than likely that betting is going to begin playing a bigger role in these races, and further enhance their already-thrilling nature.
This is a result of the fact that legal online betting has recently been allowed back into the world of U.S. sports, and is expanding fairly rapidly across the nation. It began in New Jersey, where court battles were played out for years in an effort to do away with federal bans on betting. And after sports betting was legalized in New Jersey in 2018, the floodgates were effectively opened. The Garden State itself almost instantly unleashed a powerhouse of a betting industry, and its quick, lucrative success led government officials in other states to start the process of following New Jersey’s lead.
It’s still unclear at this point how long it will take for this activity to become legal and catch on in a majority of states, let alone the entirety of the U.S. However, New Jersey’s extensive selection of betting options does give us an idea of what it will look like. Essentially, sports fans will soon become familiar with a plethora of safe, legal gambling sites that accept digital deposits and facilitate a range of wagers across all major sports and events. And as is traditional around the world on such betting platforms, those events are guaranteed to include major horse races like the Triple Crown competitions mentioned above.
Incidentally, none of the states that host Triple Crown races – Kentucky, Maryland, and New York – have legalized online betting just yet. However, the process has begun in all three states, and in the meantime each one borders at least one state where betting has been legalized. This means that people attending the races live will have the option of placing bets in neighboring states already in 2020, if they want to make the effort. And we would expect that in the very near future – perhaps as soon as next year – one or all of the Triple Crown states will directly facilitate sports betting.
This is bound to be a lot of fun for a lot of fans who already have an interest in the competitions, or who have specifically wished they could bet on them before. However, it’s also worth considering what legalized betting might do for the races more broadly.
For instance, there’s potential for betting opportunities to bring in new fans; casual observers may see the opportunity to treat the races almost like fantasy sports by betting on a few horses, and they may realize they want to follow horse racing more closely. Betting may also help to further emphasize and catalogue the major races’ winners from an historical standpoint. Equestrian enthusiasts are aware of, say, the horses who have won the Triple Crown, or the most notable racehorses in Derby history – but with widely viewed betting odds, the public will have a greater appreciation for dominant favorites or surprising underdogs.
It may ultimately be a few years before we see these changes take full effect, while sports betting industries continue to expand beyond New Jersey (and hopefully into the Triple Crown states). But in a few years’ time, U.S. sports betting could significantly effect, and in many ways improve the sport.