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Giddyup! Horse betting site Derby Jackpot lets casual gamers play the ponies at work, the bar and everywhere

Written on:January 30, 2013
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Bosses are going to love this one. A website goes live today that lets people go to racetracks across the country and make real bets using a goofy, cartoon-like interface. The arrival of Derby Jackpot, which may throw office productivity for a loop, represents the latest effort by the tech industry to turn social gaming into full-blown gambling.

We saw a preview of Derby Jackpot in November and now the pony game is live in 25 states. It works by letting players put small bets on horse races around the country and then letting them watch the race in real time in a video feed. Unlike the complicated race forms of real-world horse-betting, Derby Jackpot has a cartoon-like feel that invites casual players to make a simple “Granny Bet” starting at $ 1 or even a ten-cent “Dime Bet” on multiple horses. It looks like this:

Derby Jackpot screenshot

As you can see above, the site also has social media features that lets friends or co-workers banter online as they wait for Old Dobbin to cross the finish line. Players can pay into their account with credit card or through online payment system Dwolla which lets them cash out instantly; for now, the maximum bet is $ 20.

Derby Jackpot has a frivolous feel but it’s backed by serious economists and computer scientists as well as a mysterious “billionaire investor.” It is also playing for high stakes because the US online gaming and gambling industry now stands at a strange crossroads.

Recall that, a few years back, the US government cracked down on off-shore poker operations like Full Tilt Poker, leaving American players with few outlets for online gambling. At the same time, flailing online social gaming companies like Zynga are hoping that gambling will save their skin as users tire of inane activities like Farmville.

Into this void have stepped companies like Doubledown, Betable and Derby Jackpot which are partnering with casino companies in the hopes of turning gamers into gamblers. For now, most of the action is taking place in the UK and other countries while the companies badger state governments to change the gambling laws.

The companies got a glimpse of hope last year when the Department of Justice changed its position and said it would permit online gambling in states — so long as states in question passed laws for the gambling to take place within their borders. For now, that’s not happening and, we’re guessing, not much is going to change so long as powerful politicians like Nevada’s Harry Reid and New Jersey’s Chris Christie can protect their home states’ casino interests.

In the case of Derby Jackpot, the company has found a legal loophole because the laws are different when it comes to betting on horses. This because, unlike casinos, there is no “house” and players only bet against each other; in Derby Jackpot, the odds for each race are set by the track in question. While some professional off-track-betting parlors are offering online bets, Derby Jackpot says it’s the only one to target small-scale casual gamers. The company offers a mobile site too and hopes to partner with Facebook in the future.

The site is live in 25 states and, the founders say, it will soon be in about 12 others. Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia are among the states that restrict online horse betting.

(Image by Alexia Khruscheva via Shutterstock)

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