- How to Bet on the 2015 Kentucky Derby Online
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Every spring, a group of very expensive horses with very ridiculous names heads to Louisville, Kentucky to try to earn a lot of money for their already wealthy owners and top stud privileges for themselves.
This year marks the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. the main jewel in U.S. thoroughbred horse racing's annual "Triple Crown." While some may be content to partake in the julep-soaked, floppy hat-adorned festivities for the fun of it, the real excitement comes from the possibility of winning some cash money.
Even if you don't make the pilgrimage to Churchill Downs, that doesn't mean you won't still be able to win some moolah. If you're looking for some depressing IRL interactions, there are surely off-track betting opportunities in your area. But thanks to the Internet, it's possible for anyone to bet directly from their computer.
On the Up and Up?
You may be asking yourself a version of the following question: "Since Internet gambling is currently not allowed across state lines, is it safe and legal to bet on the Kentucky Derby online?" Well, my cautious friend, the definitive answer to that question is "kinda sorta mostly yes."
As it stands, online gambling in the U.S. exists in a precarious legal netherworld. The past decade has seen all governmental levels issue conflicting and occasionally vague proclamations regarding online gaming. Following a 2011 Department of Justice about-face on the regulation of non-sports online gambling. several states felt free to open in-state online gaming. while others established their own specific online gambling prohibitions .
And then throw into the mix the fact that the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda successfully petitioned the World Trade Organization to force the U.S. to allow cross-border online gambling (which the U.S. has basically just decided to ignore ).
In the wake of the DOJ's position change, Congress made several failed attempts to legislate online gambling on the national level (with more on the way ). It's interesting to note, however, that none of these proposed nationwide regulations involved horse racing. In fact, they often specifically exempted horse racing from further regulation.
Horse racing enjoys a cultural cache not shared by other forms of gambling. And this acceptability has filtered through to regulatory bodies which have bestowed online betting on horse races with something approaching legitimacy.
"It's certainly closer to legal. Anything associated with horse racing tends to be legal," said Joseph Kelly, professor of business law at SUNY College Buffalo and co-editor of the Gaming Law Review .
So, while not unequivocally legal across state borders, betting on the ponies online is not explicitly illegal either.
And what does that mean for you, law-abiding citizen? From a criminal point of view, there is very little chance that online gamblers would ever be prosecuted on the state level (even though online gambling is, for example,
considered a Class C felony in Washington state), and almost definitely not on the federal level. And, just as important, your money is probably going to be secure—as long as you bet wisely.
According to Professor Kelly, whether betting on the Derby on a site based in the U.S. or overseas, the most important thing to consider is that the site has the funds and intention to pay winners. That means researching if a site has a good reputation and taking into consideration if it is located in an area with high legal expectations, e.g. a betting site in the U.K. would probably be a safer bet (excuse the pun) than one based in Costa Rica .
A Google search will indeed pull up a number of foreign-based sports betting sites that will allow you to bet on the Derby. However, the publicly traded Churchill Downs Incorporated offers its own Lexington, KY-based (but Oregon-licensed) betting site, TwinSpires. which is open to U.S. residents (in fact, the site is currently only open to U.S. residents)
It's free to place a bet on TwinSpires if you link your bank account (though it may take three to five business days to collect your full winnings); however there is $5 charge for using a MasterCard or Visa (American Express and Discover are not accepted, but more on that below).
As far as taxes are concerned, the site states it's required by law to report all winnings that exceed $600 if winnings are at least 300 times the wager, and they will withhold funds at "a standard IRS rate" if winnings exceed $5,000 and are 300 times the wager.
You should also note that there is a chance your bank or credit card will not play nice with TwinSpires. The site, for example, specifically states that "MasterCard has a much wider acceptance rate due to restrictions placed on many Visa cards."
This is where the implicit rather than explicit legality starts to matter.
"Banks are worried about legal issues, even in a state like New Jersey where online gambling is legal," commented Kelly on a major hurdle for online gambling. Many financial institutions remain iffy on online gambling, even with well-regarded organizations like the Derby or among in-state online gambling operations that have been blessed by the legislature and are only open to local residents.
Indeed, many NJ online gamblers have reported problems using credit cards (more so with Visa than MasterCard, while American Express and Discover have specifically steered far clear of onling gambling).
Financial institutions are specifically cautious about unwittingly facilitating money laundering schemes that have been associated with online gambiling. Though from Professor Kelly's point of view, this policy is misguided as "using credit cards or other official avenues would leave a paper trail that a trained specialist could easily spot."
As online gambling gains momentum (which it is ), financial institutions will likely begin to offer tools that their customers want.
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