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Gaming Commission to weigh action to help allow Kentucky Derby betting

It’s hard to imagine that the betting public would not be able to wager on a sporting event as prominent as the Kentucky Derby.

But with horse racing’s most famous event just two weeks away, it’s going to take an affirmative vote on a regulation amendment request next week to enable Nevada sportsbooks to take bets on the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

Following a public hearing at Thursday’s Nevada Gaming Commission meeting, an amendment to Regulation 22 governing race books and sports pools will be considered by the five-member commission. A request to amend the regulation went to the commission in February from the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association. After the Nevada Gaming Control Board reviewed the request, it was set for the Thursday hearing.

If the situation sounds familiar, it’s because the same thing happened last year when the Kentucky Derby was postponed to the fall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Gaming Commission solved the problem the same way it’s been proposed for resolution this year — that sportsbooks be allowed to base race results and calculate payouts on what is presented on national television.

The Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association alluded to last year’s resolution in its petition to amend the regulation.

“Unfortunately, since their last off-track pari-mutuel agreement expired in October 2019, the Nevada books have not been able to successfully negotiate another off-track pari-mutuel wagering agreement with Churchill Downs, the track that hosts the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks,” the petition says. “And, despite good-faith efforts on behalf of the books, it appears highly unlikely that there will be an off-track pari-mutuel wagering agreement in place for the 2021 Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks, currently scheduled to be held May 1 and April 30, respectively.”

Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman John Moran has been monitoring the situation since the commission was contacted by the association.

“The commission wants to save the horse bettors and the books so they can bet the Kentucky Derby,” Moran said in a recent interview. “We don’t want to lose that revenue for the state. And how can we be the gold standard for wagering if we don’t have betting on the Kentucky Derby?”

Regulation 22 requires that a licensed race book shall determine the winners of or payouts on wagers on horse and other animal races only with information the book receives from licensed disseminators.

Moran said he was at a loss as to why it has been so difficult for Churchill Downs to reach an agreement with a licensed disseminator.

“You’d have to ask them,” he said.

Requests for comment from Churchill Downs have been unanswered.

But fortunately for the affected race and sportsbooks — the association says there are 68 association member books in the state and 53 more affiliated through operator William Hill US — the solution to fix the problem is relatively easy.

The association, through attorney Marc Rubinstein, drafted an amendment to Regulation 22 that will be reviewed and considered by the commission.

The amended text lists exceptions to the rule that only licensed disseminators can provide race results. The amendment says:

■ The book must file a request with the Control Board chair, at least seven calendar days prior to the races taking place, for permission to determine the winners of specific races based on nationally televised broadcasts.

■ There is no off-track pari-mutuel wagering agreement in place between the track where the races are being held and any licensed race book or the Off-Track Pari-Mutuel Wagering Committee.

■ The book stops accepting wagers on each of the races at the time the first horse or other animal enters the starting gate.

■ The book shows the nationally televised broadcast of the races live at the book.

■ The book ensures an employee of the book, other than a betting ticket writer, monitors the nationally televised broadcast, records the outcome of the races with the conclusion of each race, and records the time the outcome of each race occurred.

■ The chair, upon a finding that the request is consistent with the public policy of the state of Nevada as set forth in Nevada Revised Statutes 463.0129, approves the request subject to any limitations or conditions the chair deems appropriate.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to place bets on the Kentucky Derby next month. With a positive outcome at Thursday’s commission, they will include Nevada residents.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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