Race Betting and Sports Betting Different — Rules Go Back Decades
While there are new gaming laws, racing laws remain the same

by Avery Martinez
a horse race at Arapahoe Park in Colorado

For decades, hooves of racehorses have been thundering around the bends of Colorado’s only legal horse racing track, Arapahoe Park. With a long legal history, race betting has been practiced for approximately 70 years. While sports betting laws were recently enacted by the Colorado voters, the distinct differences between the two forms of betting are worth noting, as is the fact that there are two separate governmental agencies that rule over them — the Colorado Racing Commission and the Division of Gaming.

In horse racing “pari-mutuel” betting is the name of the game. This term describes how horse race betting is performed, “wagering amongst ourselves,” Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe Associate Sean Jennings said. The idea is that the odds are set for each race, based on the people participating — the number of participants enter a pool of betting, and based on who is betting where, the odds fluctuate until the start of the event.

“It’s a small group, as opposed to against the odds. It’s different,” Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe Director Tom Downey said.

In sports betting, different vendors set the odds, or lines, like the house in a casino, Jennings explained. Each organization, such as Draft Kings or FanDuel, will set different lines based on proprietary information or however they deem the fair line is set.

A main differentiator between gaming and race betting is that a horse racing track is based around an “in-person” experience, Jennings said. Betting is part of the experience of attending the races, in addition to experiencing the entertainment. Fans follow horse racing closely — and horses and trainers involved with which races — with an entire sports culture around betting.

There is an interesting contrast in comparison to sports betting, Jennings said. Legally, pari-mutuel betting has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

“There is no other legal horse racing — this is it, this is the one licensee,” Downey said of Arapahoe Park.


The complete version of this article appears in the Aug. 10 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read the rest of this, and other articles, from that issue, order a copy online. Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.