Source: CDI objection stops DraftKings' Derby futures in Mississippi

By Ron Flatter  ( 

The Scarlet Pearl Casino in D’Iberville, Miss., took down DraftKings’ Kentucky Derby futures after an objection from Churchill Downs Inc., a source told VSiN. (Scarlet Pearl Casino photo)

Las Vegas

An objection from Churchill Downs Inc. led DraftKings to take down its Kentucky Derby futures Saturday morning, only three days after they were posted at the Scarlet Pearl Casino in D’Iberville, Miss., a source told VSiN.

The source, who is a handicapper and horse owner, said Monday morning that CDI cited legal precedent as its basis to demand a stop to the betting.

Separately, a racing-industry sports bettor who asked to remain anonymous vouched for that reason in a Twitter direct message Monday afternoon to VSiN. He said that a ticket writer at the Scarlet Pearl told him “unofficially” that CDI wanted the futures taken down. He also said that a casino “supervisor was mum about it.”

Johnny Avello, the new director of operations for DraftKings Sportsbook, was making his first attempt to post his futures in Mississippi after 13 years of doing so in his old role running the race and sportsbook at the Wynn Las Vegas.

The problem CDI would have with DraftKings and Mississippi is that neither hosts betting from any racetrack, including Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. Conversely, the Wynn Las Vegas is one of many Nevada books offering pari-mutuel betting from nearly every track in the U.S. and Canada, meaning CDI gets a piece of that action. CDI also operates and manages casinos and sportsbooks in Mississippi that are direct competitors with the Scarlet Pearl.

A spokesman for Churchill Downs said in an email to VSiN that he was “unaware of the details” of any objection by CDI and was reaching out to executives to fill in the blanks.

Avello said by text that he was “not clear on what really happened” and offered no further comment.

Derby futures betting came to a stop Saturday morning without public explanation. Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said in an email that “Scarlett Pearl/Draft Kings (sic) suspended it on their own.”

Attempts to contact Nico Sfanos, the sportsbook director at Scarlet Pearl, were diverted to DraftKings’ corporate communications. A spokesman for DraftKings on Monday afternoon said that he was “working on getting something” in response to a VSiN email.

Avello’s move to DraftKings and regulatory red tape combined to delay his annual posting of Derby futures for nearly four months before Mississippi regulators approved them to be opened Wednesday at the Scarlet Pearl.

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