Kentucky Sports Betting Breakdown: Differences Between Wagering On Horses and Other Sports

Kentucky Sports Betting Breakdown: Differences Between Wagering On Horses and Other Sports
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

The time has almost arrived. Legalized Kenutcky sports betting comes to Kentucky this week! While thousands of Kentuckians have participated in wagering for years, BetKentucky knows it will also be a new activity for many in the Bluegrass State. As such, we are launching a series of Kentucky Sports Betting Breakdown articles in the days and weeks ahead to help those individuals better understand some of the numbers and terms they will see when they enter a sportsbook or open an online app for the first time.

In our first segment, we’ll go over a couple of key differences between horse racing and sports betting.

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Fractional And American Odds Explained (And Decimal, Too)

If you live in Kentucky, chances are probably high that you’ve been to a racetrack at least once or watched a Kentucky Derby. If you have, then you're familiar with fractional odds. It’s a straightforward concept. If a horse has 2/1 odds to win, you’ll get at least double your bet if that horse wins. You’ll also get your wager back, so you’d get at least a $6 payout on a $2 bet on that horse.

Most U.S. sportsbooks post odds in what’s called an American format, which features a number with three or more digits and a plus or minus sign before it. You’ve likely seen this odds format when you’re watching a game, as either announcers promote an available betting opportunity, or you see them on the ticker or crawl during the telecast.

Odds with a plus sign show your profit if a $100 bet was a winner (i.e., +125 means a bettor would receive $125 in addition to their $100 wager). Conversely, odds with a minus sign show the amount you’d need to wager to make $100 (i.e., at -200, a bettor would need to wager $200 in order to win $100 and receive $300). You can easily convert American odds into a fractional format by dividing the number by 100. Then, put a 1 as the denominator for plus odds (i.e., +125 would equal 1.25/1 or 5/4) or make 1 the numerator for minus odds (i.e., -200 would equal 1/2).

When you register for an online account, you can check the app’s settings to see if you can change the odds from American to fractional. Some Kentucky betting apps also have decimal odds, which show the exact payout – winnings plus the original stake – for each $1 wagered. Another thing to note: American odds are the price based on $100 or more, but you do not need to bet that amount for your wager. Bet $1 or less if you want, depending on the book's limits.

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Parimutuel Odds Versus Fixed Odds

There’s another difference between horse racing wagers and bets on other sporting events. Horse racing has parimutuel markets. For each race, the track collects pools for each type of wager (win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, etc.). After taking out a portion of each pool for administrative and operational expenses, the money in the pool is divided among those who had the winner.

In parimutuel wagering, the odds can shift. You can bet a horse at 5-1 to win minutes before the race, but your horse’s odds could change in either direction as more money is put into the pool. Betting stops just before the race starts, and whatever the odds are at that time, that’s what you’d receive for a winning bet. At sportsbooks, wagers placed on football, basketball, baseball, and other games, events, and races feature fixed odds. The odds may change before the event, but the odds at the time of your bet are the odds you’ll have.

Do you have a question that you’d like to have answered about Kentucky sports betting? Email Steve at [email protected] with your question, and you may see it answered in an upcoming article at

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Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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