TwinSpires Bets Big on AI for the Kentucky Derby

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How an online wagering site is using AI to entice once-a-year bettors to become year-round customers

TwinSpires Logo
TwinSpires Logo

And they're off…

Bettors, that is (or “wagerers” as they are now known).

With a mere 24 hours until the University of Louisville Marching Band plays “My Old Kentucky Home” to kick off the Kentucky Derby, bettors are fixated on the minute-by-minute news about horses and the odds.

And this year, TwinSpires, the official online wagering site of the race, has partnered with Emarsys, a B2C marketing automation software, to manage the thousands of engagements per minute leading up to the race and deliver a custom consumer journey. Why? To entice once-a-year bettors to become year-round customers.


Well, Emarsys' AI-enabled marketing cloud gathers peak period intel to map preferences and wagering behaviors, down to the individual level. It can then engage the individual with real-time messages via a selected channel (email, SMS, app notification).

“With news of highlighted horses and odds changing, we have to ensure that we can deliver immediate engagement to users leading up to the race,” says Sean Brady, president at Emarsys. “We want to be able to give them the best experience possible, so they will continue to visit and use the site after the race concludes.”

Historically, the Kentucky Derby has been the ultimate horse race, drawing thousands of one-time and first-time wagerers to websites. In 2016, TwinSpires recorded $26.8 million in handle on Churchill Downs races for the Kentucky Derby Day program, an increase of 29% over the prior year. For the actual race alone, TwinSpires handled $16.6 million, up 22% over 2015.

While successful, TwinSpires, along with Emarsys, aims to deliver such a unique wagering experience that it will entice users to revisit.

“This isn't simply personalization, it's individualizing our customers, and essential to further understanding their needs and preferences,” says Ian Williams, VP of marketing at “With Emarsys, we have full support to capture this intelligence and to design engagements that deliver the best horse racing wagering experience for our players' year round.”

It's quite a task, yet TwinSpires and Emarsys, according to Brady, have undergone three months of stress testing to ensure the success of the weekend. And as a result, both companies are confident in the ability to produce a customized wagering experience for its consumers.

“The Emarsys AI-enabled omni-channel platform is helping us better deliver personalized, engaging content and offers to our players through their preferred communication method,” said Ian Williams, vice president of marketing at, in a press release.

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