Horse Race Wagering and Colorado

State considers change that would expand access to betting on the sport

A gambler in Colorado can open a sports betting app on a smartphone to place wagers on any pro sports team in the United States, British soccer games, Russian table tennis, European rugby and even Pakistan’s cricket team.

But they can’t place a bet on a horse race. Not even the Kentucky Derby.

That’s led horse racing to fall behind in popularity and in the amount of money it handles through betting. Now, Colorado officials are considering a change to how people bet on horse races — a move being driven by sportsbooks but one that the state’s sole race track is tentatively supporting — in hopes of boosting the sport’s popularity and financial standing.

“Horse racing has become very stagnant,” Michele Fischer, a vice president at Sports Information Services, a United Kingdom-based company that provides services to the gambling industry, said during a recent Colorado Department of Revenue meeting. “As sports betting has proliferated around the country, including in Colorado, horse racing is getting left behind. When you’re not on the list of sports on a sports betting site are you still a sport?”

Colorado’s Department of Revenue, which regulates horse racing and sports betting, is considering a change this month through a series of meetings that have drawn international attention. And if state officials decide to make the change it would become just the second state to do so, after New Jersey’s legislature adopted new rules earlier this year.

The change would allow for fixed odds wagering on horse racing in addition to parimutuel betting, which is used in the United States by animal racing tracks such as Bally’s at Arapahoe Park, Churchill Downs in Kentucky and Santa Anita in California.