Kentucky Derby Sports Bettor Takes a Bad Beat to the Tune of $575K
While the historic disqualification of the first-place finisher in the 2019 Kentucky Derby actually gave one Reno man a big winning ticket, another kind of technicality kept him from collecting the full $609,000 that his tickets would have normally been worth.
When the heavily favored 7 horse Maximum Security was taken out of the mix, the 65-1 long shot No. 20 Country House was declared the winner and Nevada-based ophthalmologist Steve Friedlander had it among his exotic picks. He has his fiancée to thank for that one, as he included the horse in his bets in honor of his wife-to-be Monica House.
A recreational sports bettor who has competed in the World Series of Poker, Friedlander ended up with winning $40 trifecta (top three horses) and $100 exacta (top two horses) tickets that, based on the odds, were good for $459,024 and $150,480 respectively.
But when he went to cash them in at the Tamarack Junction's William Hill sports book in Reno where he made the bets, he was told his winners were only worth $35,000.
In parimutuel gambling like horse racing, individuals are competing against other bettors for a share of various betting pools. The longer the odds of the horses finishing in the top places, the bigger the payout. This is typically the format that horse racing betting follows, but apparently - as Friedlander discovered in a most painful manner - not all sports books offer parimutuel betting.
When he went to collect his winnings, Friedlander was told that the Tamarack Junction location falls into the non-parimutuel category, and thus has caps on exotic wagers such as those Friedlander placed. Sure enough, a placard displayed on the wall of the sports book reads “This William Hill Race and Sports Book is a NON PARI-MUTUEL LOCATION.”
"If my son’s track meet was on the north side of town, I almost certainly would have stopped at Grand Sierra, where William Hill has pari-mutuel.”
“I was pretty sick,” Friedlander told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s one of those things where I watched the race and thought I won all this money, yet I thought ‘This is too good to be true.’ And I went down there and ‘Yeah, that’s right.’”
Adding to the bad beat is the fact that had Friedlander stopped at one of a number of other William Hill sports books in town which offer pari-mutuel betting, he would have received the full payout he expected. Oddly enough, it was his son’s track meet schedule that dictated where he’d place the bet, and Tamarack happened to be on the way.
“It’s somewhat ironic how the story goes, because if my son’s track meet was on the north side of town, I almost certainly would have stopped at Grand Sierra, where William Hill has pari-mutuel,” he said.
It’s not common knowledge that horse racing bets can be booked outside of the parimutuel format, and Friedlander hopes his story will inspire other bettors to assure they know the regulations where they’re placing their bets. In a statement, William Hill explained the reasoning behind not having all of their sports books pari-mutuel.
“Because of the requirements of the gaming regulations, there are significant costs involved to offer pari-mutuel wagering in Nevada. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make economic sense to offer pari-mutuel wagering at all of our 115 Nevada locations."
At 17 of their 115 locations in the state, bettors can participate in pari-mutuel race betting. At several other locations, William Hill offers what is called “booked wagering” on the five major horse racing days, the Kentucky Derby chief among them. They explained further how this booked wagering works.
“I want new bettors to hear my story so they’re aware what house rules are, and to make sure they do their research before they make a bet."
“At the locations where we book these select races, we pay official track prices, subject to certain caps that are prominently displayed. … The capping of booked race payouts has been industry standard for decades and allows race books to book without taking on unlimited liability, which no one would want to do.”
Friedlander exercised his right to appeal to the Gaming Control Board, and a decision from that group was promised within 45 days of his appeal.
“I want new bettors to hear my story so they’re aware what house rules are,” he said. “And to make sure they do their research before they make a bet.”
So let this be a lesson… If you’re going to bet the ponies, make sure you place your exotic bets at a pari-mutuel establishment — and betting horses based on their names can be a good strategy, especially on major racing days.
You can watch the news story, presented by newscaster and poker blogger Ben Deach below: