Sports wagering launches in Kentucky
Thursday marked the much-anticipated opening of in-person sports wagering in Kentucky, and Gov. Andy Beshear celebrated the historic moment by placing the first bet at Churchill Downs.
Gov. Beshear placed a $20 parlay bet for the “over” on wins for the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville football teams, and the “under” on Duke University’s football team.
“Today is a great day to celebrate and have a little bit of fun doing so,” said Gov. Beshear. “It has taken many years to get here, but sports wagering is finally a reality in Kentucky. This is a win-win for Kentuckians, who can enjoy a quality entertainment experience and benefit from funds staying right here in our state to help us build a better Kentucky.”
Gov. Beshear placed a second wager Thursday at Lexington’s Red Mile.
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman placed a wager at an opening event at Northern Kentucky’s Turfway Park, betting $20 on the Cincinnati Bengals to win the Super Bowl.
“Sports wagering will benefit all Kentuckians,” said Lt. Gov. Coleman. “It means more revenue for economic development, disaster relief and infrastructure projects, like new roads, bridges and clean water. It means more money for our public schools and support for the pensions of firefighters, public servants, teachers and law enforcement officers. Simply put, sports wagering is helping us build a better Kentucky for everyone.”
With college football already underway, the opening of retail sportsbooks comes just in time for the kickoff of the NFL season this weekend.
“It is an honor to host this historic first sports wager in the commonwealth at historic Churchill Downs. We are proud to offer Kentucky’s newest form of wagering entertainment to the hundreds of thousands of guests who enter our gates each year and to help facilitate the economic benefits that sports wagering will bring to Kentucky,” said Mike Anderson, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack.
“The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and the KHRC staff worked tirelessly to meet this challenge. The KHRC is dedicated to wagering integrity, and while we are celebrating today’s launch, our work continues,” said KHRC Chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz.
“Red Mile and Keeneland have prepared a premium space dedicated to sports wagering,” said Shannon Cobb, chief operating and financial officer of Red Mile Gaming & Racing. “We believe Caesars will provide excitement with their sports wagering product that exceeds expectations, and we are excited to invite the public out for the full experience. We hope guests will also take a moment to experience live harness racing, gaming and great food and beverage while they are with us.”
“Protecting Kentucky’s bettors is our number one priority, that and providing the best customer experience. Thanks to an extremely dedicated team, we are meeting those goals on an ambitious timeline,” said Public Protection Cabinet Secretary Ray Perry.
A list of licensed retail sportsbooks is available here. Some locations are coming soon.
On Aug. 15 and 18, Gov. Beshear signed executive orders 2023-480 and 2023-483 appointing members of the Sports Wagering Advisory Council. The council will advise the full commission and provide additional voices who have knowledge of the sports betting industry.
On Aug. 17, Gov. Beshear announced a timeline for sports wagering to open in Kentucky. Approved mobile applications can start taking wagers on Thursday, Sept. 28.
On Aug. 22, the KHRC voted to approve temporary licenses for seven operators and nine service providers. The details of those approved for licensure and their business relationships are available here.
On Aug. 31, the Sports Wagering Advisory Council recommended an initial catalog of sporting events for wagering in Kentucky. The recommended catalog was approved by KHRC Executive Director Jamie Eads, subject to ratification by the full commission at their next scheduled meeting. See the Wagering Catalog for the complete list.
Kentucky chose a tiered implementation, which has been used in multiple states and which allows for the testing of policies and procedures before the full rollout that includes mobile applications.
House Bill 551 established a new excise tax on sports wagering: 9.75% on the adjusted gross revenues on wagers made at a licensed facility and 14.25% on wagers placed online or on a smartphone.
Sports wagering is expected to increase the state’s revenue by an estimated $23 million a year upon full implementation. The increase in revenue will support the oversight of sports wagering and then be dedicated to the Kentucky permanent pension fund.
Additionally, 2.5% will support the Problem Gambling Assistance Fund. The fund educates Kentuckians on safe gambling practices, the risks of developing a gambling problem, risk factors and warning signs of gambling problems and available services to reduce the consequences of problem gambling.