Social Gaming Startup DerbyJackpot Is About to Get You Addicted to Horse Racing

Start the countdown to Zynga acquisition.

Following last year’s crackdown on online poker sites, Betabeat figured Bitcoin was the best bet for online gambling. But did you know betting on horse races is legal online? We didn’t, but three brothers, Tom, Walter and Billy Hessert, did—and they’re creating an addictive online gambling site to take advantage of that fun little fact. “It’s 80 percent gambling and 20 percent horses,” Tom Hessert, cofounder of a young startup called DerbyJackpot, told Betabeat today.

DerbyJackpot has a former Zynga designer as an advisor, Freakonomics author and economist Steve Levitt as an advisor, and a mysterious “billionaire investor” who the cofounders say has given the startup $1 million in seed money.

A small number of beta users have been using the site to place bets on races at 100 tracks in the U.S. DerbyJackpot acts as a broker, funneling its users’ bets to the tracks to join the betting pool along with off-track betting houses and people at the races. The company is on track to launch a wider beta in June, Mr. Hessert said.

DerbyJackpot has a team of five working out of General Assembly and is hiring for two developer positions. The company started in the fall and raised money at the end of November. Beta users are already placing live bets; you can win $10,000 with as little as a $.10 bet, Mr. Hessert tells me, and there are close to 100 races a day. Okay, we’re starting to see where the addiction could kick in. The interface incorporates live footage of the races and will connect with Facebook to make the game as viral as possible. “It’s a really unqiue, gamified take on horse betting,” Mr. Hessert said.

There are some public companies that facilitate online betting on horse races, he said, such as Churchill Downs, which owns the Kentucky Derby. But those existing services focus on tradition horse racing enthusiasts, not the casual drive-by online gamer.

DerbyJackpot has a unique edge, Mr. Hessert said, because his older brother Billy is a “quant finance guy from Princeton” and experienced in online gambling on horse racing in the United States. Brandon Keene, the head of engineering at GroupMe, is also advising DerbyJackpot.

“It’s pretty fun,” Mr. Hessert said. “We’ve been playing it a lot. If I’m any indication of how much the customers will like it, it’s going to be engaging for sure.” Social Gaming Startup DerbyJackpot Is About to Get You Addicted to Horse Racing