But Churchill Downs' newly launched Luckity.com is legal because it takes advantage of federal law that allows interstate gambling on horse races.
It's an attempt to attract a broader gambling audience that is less interested in horse racing, generating revenues to result in fatter racing purses and bigger payouts.
Luckity.com gamblers can bet their lucky number or have the game choose a number for them. But rather than spinning wheels, horses in races running live somewhere around the world determine a winning bet.
Luckity players can see the location of the race and the names and odds of the horses if they want - though not the video. But the game is more aimed at the gambler who couldn't be bothered by the difference between a filly and a mare. For instance, gamblers who pick numbers for the Luckity Fast 2 don't know - unless they want to - that they're placing an exacta bet on the Tuesday opener at Beulah Park near Columbus, Ohio.
Because of the reliance on live horse racing, the game is still a far cry from an online slot machine with instantaneous results. Minutes can go before the next race starts.
And finding out if you're a winner still requires the time it takes to declare a race official. Payouts can vary greatly, since they're based on the pari-mutuel pool.
The target demographic is women over 35 who enjoy slots, the lottery and social networking games, said Ted Gay, president of the newly created Churchill Downs Interactive subsidiary. Gay said the Luckity target customer is more likely to attend night racing and bet casually on their favorite names or jockeys.
"Luckity is really designed with those fans in mind," he said, "and with an effort to bring other fans like that to racing."
Gay declined to specify the amount invested in Luckity or discuss revenue projections. But he said horse owners and true horse bettors stand to see bigger purses and payouts as more money goes into the betting pool.
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