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Kevin Smith Preps for Derby Weekend

30 April 2004

With no clear cut favorite in the 130th running of the Kentucky Derby, interactive bookmakers are gearing up for what could be a huge weekend.

U.S.-based interactive race wagering services are hoping tomorrow's race will be a springboard for acquiring new customers and further promoting their services., which reported its first profitable quarter in the company's history for the first quarter in 2004, has been in Louisville since Tuesday promoting its service as race fans take over the city.

In the weeks leading up to the race, California-based sent a marketing bus throughout many of the states where it is allowed to offer its advanced deposit wagering (ADW) service. The route brought the bus into Louisville, where Youbet has blanketed the city this week with representatives handing out hats and other promotional items for the company.

CEO Chuck Champion said the initiation marks new territory for the longtime I-betting group.

"We are working on more of a grassroots effort," Champion said. "We are focusing on the 30 to 40-year-old demographic with highly targeted campaigns." is also gaining exposure through major media partnerships, such as its agreement to provide streaming video race coverage for The company is working on a similar arrangement with Los Angles Newspaper Group, which owns major newspapers in LA and Santa Anita.

Champion wouldn't speculate and what kind of business will see this weekend, but he said new signups and deposits for this week were on pace with last year's levels.

"The patterns are similar to what we have seen in the past," he said.

Last year set turnover records for each Triple Crown weekend. At the time, however, Funny Cide was vying to win the Triple Crown.

Champion said not having a favorite for the Kentucky Derby is both good and bad. Casual punters will likely put more money on the medium to long-range long shots than they would with a heavy favorite in the field. Without a heavy favorite, bookies are in a good position to have record days in terms of turnover, but without a horse to grab all the media attention and pre-race hype, some casual bettors might not place wagers on the race.

The Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown series of races continue to grow in popularity across the globe too. The events still don't match the betting turnover for the Grand National or Cheltenham in the United Kingdom, but many bookmakers continue to see increases in turnover for the races. Officials with, the leading P2P betting exchange, said they expect a spike in turnover to come from the Kentucky Derby, but levels aren't expected to be record highs.

Champion's goal is promote the sport of horseracing, which he hopes in turn will help Youbet's bottom line.

He said more media coverage is devoted to women's field hockey in daily newspapers than thoroughbred horseracing. Many punters still have a negative image of ADW systems as well, Champion said, because they equate them to online casinos and sports books, which have been heavily scrutinized by the Department of Justice.

"A lot of people don't realize that we are the only form of legal Internet betting in the U.S.," he said. "We are trying to still educate them on how the system works and that the technology can deliver exciting content in a legal way." Preps for Derby Weekend is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith