DraftKings’ DK Horse App Set to Launch in Illinois

DraftKings and the Sport of Kings again enter the starting gate.

And next week, Illinois bettors will be off to the races with the launch of the DK Horse app. On Jan. 17, Illinois will become the 19th state to link horse racing, the Sport of Kings, with the sportsbook operator.

DraftKings rolled out the DK Horse app in 12 states for its initial launch last March and continues adding them with each new state approval.

Illinois was set to debut on Wednesday, but the start was nudged back a week to finalize operational details.

Once the program gets underway, Prairie State bettors will be able to access major tracks throughout the world on all major devices. They can, in effect, hold a race book in the palm of their hand.

The mobile betting age helps sportsbooks put horse racing in the same instant-access wagering realm as all other major sports.

Racing-rich New York, Florida, and Kentucky are already major players in the DK Horse lineup.

Illinois contains the lucrative Chicago market and should add considerable wagering clout.

“This is a big state for us and a really good one to be in for this business,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told Gaming Today. “There are a lot of horseplayers in Illinois. This is a natural for our customers who live there.”

Players can download the app and access live meets throughout the world. From the million-dollar races to low-level claimers, run on dirt, turf, or tapeta and at distances from a couple hundred yards to over a mile, nearly all hours of the day.

It’s all there. Find it, select it, and play.

“We have all the content you could possibly want,” Avello said. “We have domestic races, European races, and events from Hong Kong. Another benefit of betting in this mobile age is that you can wait until almost the last minute and still get in a wager online. You don’t really have to worry about being shut out,” he added, noting the contrast of mobile’s instant access versus the heavy lines and possible kiosk jams that occur at live tracks and simulcast outlets.

The mobile age has all but remedied the customer frustration and countless lost revenue shutouts caused over the years.

Bettors should easily be able to navigate the app. It will enable them to watch and bet live races, sample the opinions of handicappers, and observe the pre-race post parade to evaluate horses on looks.

Gamblers who want to dig to another level can find deeper resources. One of them is archived races, which they can tap into while previewing an upcoming event. They can assess one past race, for instance, or review a string of events to trace the projection of one horse.

“When I had a kiosk in the brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, people would come in all the time and want to watch the replays of past races,” Avello said. “They were what you would call ‘trip handicappers.’ They would want to look and see how that horse got into trouble in his last race, how he broke from the gate, how wide he was forced around the turn, etc.

“Many players love to apply that into their view of an upcoming race.”

Customers also can obtain enticements similar to the offerings they expect at many sportsbooks. This includes free Brisnet past performances for certain players and daily specials like betting $25 and getting $5 back or getting up to $10 back if one’s horse finishes second or third in a designated race, he said.

Avello forecasts a wave of customer innovations once the tracks, horsemen, and state government bodies green-light them for his book.

“The public loves contests and individual props like head-to-head matchups,” Avello said. “That can take many forms. It can be ‘who wins between Horse A or Horse B.’ It can be whether a certain jockey will get more than 1.5 wins today or odds on which jockey or trainer is going to lead the meet.

“That takes a lot of approvals, but these are the types of things that will keep the game moving forward.”

Avello said DK Horse has exceeded expectations and he believes the book will prosper from a full calendar year of racing. Its Illinois rollout, for instance, comes in time to accommodate the first 2024 blockbuster, the Jan. 27 Pegasus from Gulfstream Park in Florida.

The $3 Million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on dirt and the $1 Million Pegasus World Cup Turf headline a series of stakes races exceeding $5 million.

The Road to the Triple Crown gains high profile in February and keeps rolling through March and early April.

The series of high-level winter and spring races awards points to the winners and ultimately forms the field for the 150th Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Stellar preview races occur on many Saturdays and are available to nationwide gamblers.

The three biggest, which will headline monster cards aimed at cornering the gambling market:

March 23: Louisiana Derby (Fair Grounds)
March 30: Florida Derby (Gulfstream Park), Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn)
April 6: Santa Anita Derby (Santa Anita), Blue Grass (Keeneland), Wood Memorial (Aqueduct)

Sportsbooks Like the Run Racing Gives for Their Money

Sportsbooks like using big races to showcase their market presence.

FanDuel bankrolls the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile on the sport’s highest stage.

Caesars has sponsored the turf racing Triple Crown in July and August at New York tracks with purses approaching $2 million.

DraftKings got rolling last year, sponsoring the $500,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga.

The book, via DK Horse, will sponsor the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes, a Kentucky Derby preview and unofficial qualifier for the Santa Anita Stakes, on March 2.

More: Best horse racing betting apps and sites

About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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