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2021 Kentucky Derby Viewership a Mixed Bag, Betting Huge Though

Written by:
Don Shapiro
Published on:
May/04/2021

Saturday's Kentucky Derby was one of the biggest in years for Gambling911.com, trafficwise.  Viewership was up 49% in ratings and 55% in viewership from last year’s months-delayed, record-low race (4.8, 9.26M) but down 49% and 43% respectively from the previous May edition in 2019 (9.4, 16.34M).

Excluding football games, Medina Spirit’s win delivered the third-largest sports audience since the industry went dark in March of last year, trailing only last month’s Baylor-Gonzaga NCAA men’s basketball national championship (16.92M) and Gonzaga-UCLA in the Final Four (14.94M).  The Derby also beat out last Thursday's opening day of the NFL Draft and easily exceeded viewership of this year's Academy Awards.

For the gambling industry, the Kentucky Derby represented what could be the first semblance of normalcy since the start of the worldwide pandemic. Unlike most sports, horse racing has long been synonymous with gambling.  Most spectators at a race track have placed bets on the winning horse as opposed to only a small portion of those attending an NBA or NFL game.  The Kentucky Derby is the most wagered on horse race of the year.

SportsMediaWatch observed the following:

If a small sample size, the Derby and Masters indicate that sporting events pushed months out of schedule last year can expect a significant increase in ratings this year — but still remain in record-low territory. That may be especially true for the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final, which are scheduled to take place about a month later than usual this year.

- Don Shapiro, Gambling911.com

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