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Kentucky Sports Betting: 312,000 Mobile Wagering Accounts In Operation

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 12 mins

Kentucky Sports Betting: 312,000 Mobile Wagering Accounts In Operation

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More than 9 million geolocation transactions occurred in the first four days of mobile betting across Kentucky sportsbooks with over 312,000 accounts now in the state, a geolocation service provider said Tuesday. 

Eight mobile books have been approved to operate as service providers by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The operators approved on a temporary basis in the Commonwealth are: 

Seven of the mobile books are live, with Circa launching later this year. Circa formalized its partnership with ECL Corbin, through its Cumberland Run harness track and Mint Gaming Hall, on Thursday. Caesars said its first mobile bet Thursday was $25 on the Detroit Lions to cover as 1.5-point road favorites against the Green Bay Packers. Detroit won, 34-20. 

The betting data comes from GeoComply, which began tracking the action in Kentucky when mobile sports betting began at 6 a.m. Thursday. A GeoComply official said its numbers in Kentucky are nearly double from the ones they saw in Louisiana, the closest state in which they operate in terms of population size. 

“We are in the most popular betting season of the year, football season. So, the NFL is always going to be the top market or you know, betting activity for consumers across the country. So, Kentucky stepped in at really the right time to really take advantage of the NFL and collegiate betting on football,” said Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs at GeoComply John Pappas.

Retail Sites Also Open For Business

Kentucky became the 35th state (plus the District of Columbia) in which people can legally bet in the United States on September 7. Here are the locations legally allowed to take in-person wagers in Kentucky:

  • Churchill Downs/Derby City Gaming (Louisville - 4 Locations)
  • ECL Corbin - The Mint Gaming Hall at Cumberland Run (Williamsburg)
  • ECL Corbin - Cumberland Run Harness Track (Corbin)
  • Ellis Park (Henderson)
  • Lexington Trots - The Red Mile (Lexington)
  • Revolutionary Racing - Sandy's Racing (Ashland) 
  • Turfway Park (Florence)
  • Turfway Park (Newport)
  • WYK - Oak Grove Racing 

Not all the facilities were open as of launch day. 

After the first two weekends of retail betting, more $4.5 million was wagered in the state.

“With college football and the NFL season underway, plus the launch of mobile wagering, we expect that number will grow significantly," said Gov. Andy Beshear last week. “This is a strong number that certainly reflects the excitement Kentuckians have for the opening of sports wagering,”

Kambi was also approved as the technology service provider for several operators. The KHRC said it does not have any other service operators in the pipeline. But others could still apply to operate this year. Licenses are valid for up to one year. 

The approvals were unanimous. 

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Gov. Beshear Places First Wager At Churchill Downs

Gov. Beshear placed the first bet at Churchill Downs on September 7: 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 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.”

Beshear placed a second wager that day at Lexington’s Red Mile.

The Kentucky Sports Wagering Advisory Council met for the first time on August 31 and proposed a betting catalog that includes a full menu of college, pro and amateur sports. On September 21, the Council added 5 events to the betting catalog, including F1 Racing.

“Sports wagering will benefit all Kentuckians,” Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said on September 7. “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.”

The college football season continues this weekend. 

“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

The proposed mobile launch date co-coincides with Week 4 of the NFL NFL betting season. Kentucky joins Kansas (four months after legalization) as two of the fastest states to launch sports betting since it became widespread outside of Las Vegas in 2018.

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Kentucky Sports Betting: 27 Betting Apps Could Launch

DraftKings operates its book in conjunction with Cumberland Run. It also plans to take wagers from those 18 and over, as the law allows. Kentucky would be the 22nd state DraftKings is live in with its mobile sportsbook and 24th overall with sports betting. 

Caesars Sportsbook was the first operator to announce a deal in Kentucky following the legalization of sports betting in March. Caesars partnered with Keeneland and Red Mile Gaming & Racing in Lexington to operate both its online betting app and brick-and-mortar retail sportsbooks at each site. However, Keeneland has opted not to apply for a sports wagering license. 

BetMGM previously announced a partnership with Revolutionary Racing Kentucky. 

In addition to statewide mobile betting through its BetMGM app and website, the operator plans to open a 5,200-square-foot retail book at Sandy's Racing & Gaming in Ashland. The legal betting age in Kentucky is 18, however, BetMGM, along with Caesars, will only take bets from people 21 and over.

Each of the nine aforementioned betting entities can partner with up to three online operators. Thus, as many as 27 betting apps could operate in the state’s digital space when Kentucky sports betting goes live. Kentucky became the 37th state to legalize sports betting in March. 

Beshear is a long-time proponent of sports betting. Kentucky has roughly 4.5 million people. Six of the seven states that border it already have online betting: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. The seventh, Missouri, could approve betting this year, as well. 

Kentucky Sports Betting Explained

HB 551 became law in March. The bill allows legal sports betting in the state for those 18 and over after it cleared a final vote in the state Senate following a long legislative slog. The law allows the Kentucky Speedway and the state’s nine-horse tracks to operate retail sportsbooks. 

Here is a look at some of the key elements of how sports betting will operate in Kentucky, including the rules on wagering on college sports. 

Category Law
Retail Operator Tax9.75%
Mobile Operator Tax14.75%
Est. State Annual Revenue$23M
Minimum Age18
Betting AppsUp to 27
Retail BettingYes
Retail VenuesUp to 9
Pro SportsAll Teams
College BettingAll Teams
Credit CardsAllowed To Fund Accounts
Debit CardsAllowed To Fund Accounts
Advertising LimitsNone
Licensing Fee$500K & $50K/Year

The new Kentucky sports betting law calls for sports betting to be administered by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC). The commission is now responsible for creating the necessary regulations to implement and oversee betting. The law allows for bettors to use credit cards and “any other form of payment authorized” by the racing commission. 

Kentucky was able to move quickly because it had a lot of other states to gauge in terms of how they handled regulations.

"The KHRC is dedicated to fulfilling its responsibilities in a timely manner while ensuring a successful implementation of sports wagering in Kentucky," a spokesperson told Bookies.com via email. 

Kentucky retail sportsbooks will be taxed at 9.7%, while mobile will be charged at 14.35.

Wagering is allowed on professional sporting events, collegiate events sanctioned by the NCAA, amateur sporting events, international events such as the Olympics and World Cup, eSports and competitive iGaming, and any other events authorized by the racing commission. 

The law bans “participants” in any of those events from betting on them, as well as track employees. Those “participants” include players, coaches, officials, family members, and those who own more than 5% of any of the teams participating who could have “influence” over players or coaches. 

The statute also provides criminal felony penalties for anyone who tampers with the outcome of an event.

Each host track/licensee will have to pay a $500,000 fee to the state, plus an additional $50,000 per year to renew the license. Mobile operators will pay a 14.25% tax on adjusted gross winnings, while retail sites will pay 9.75% on their net revenues. 

Sports betting will generate an estimated revenue increase of $23 million a year upon full implementation that will be dedicated to the Kentucky permanent pension fund and 2.5% to the problem gambling assistance account. 

Who Are The Players In Kentucky Sports Betting?

Here are the nine operators that will be allowed to run retail sites in Kentucky. Each can partner with up to three mobile sportsbooks to provide online betting apps.

Operator Racetrack Retail Betting Partners Mobile Betting Partners
Churchill DownsChurchill DownsChurchill Downs Race & Sportsboook Fanatics
ECLMint Gaming DraftKings/Circa DraftKings/Circa
ECLCumberland Run DraftKings DraftKings/Circa
Ellis EntertainmentEllis Park TBD Barstool (ESPN Bet)
Lexington Trots Breeders Red MileCaesars Sportsbook Caesars Sportsbook
Turfway Park Turfway ParkTBD FanDuel
WKY Development Oak Grove TBD Fanatics Sportsbook
Revolutionary Racing/EBCI Ashland BetMGM BetMGM/bet365

Kentucky 'A Sports-Crazy State'

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What Makes Kentucky A Special Sports Betting Market?

Kentucky’s most populous county (Jefferson) includes Louisville. It borders Indiana at the Ohio River. Another cluster of Kentuckians live in suburban Cincinnati. Ohio sports betting went live on January 1.  

Kentucky is a college sports hotbed but has no professional major league teams. But The Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds, and Paycor Stadium, home of the Bengals, lie just across the Ohio River from Covington. 

GeoComply processed over 295,000 geolocation checks in Kentucky during the opening weekend of March Madness. The company has processed 1.2 million attempted logins from Kentucky since March 1. Of those, 41% were for Ohio-based books and 38.6% were for books based in Indiana. 

Downtown Nashville, home of the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators, is less than an hour’s drive from the Kentucky border. 

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer pushed the bill through to final passage with no time to spare. He estimates sports betting could bring $23 million to the state per year in tax revenue. 

“We are a sports-crazy state,” Thayer said. “And people want to be able to make a choice of their own free will to make a wager on a sports event — like almost all our surrounding states.”

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About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.