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Kentucky Sports Betting: Handle Surpasses $656 Million Since Launch

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 11 mins

Kentucky Sports Betting: Handle Surpasses $656 Million Since Launch

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Legal Kentucky sports betting generated more than $656 million in handle across retail and mobile since betting launched in September, according to figures released Monday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. 

More than $629 million of the handle has come via mobile wagering, with the remaining $27+ million coming from retail sites. 

The state has generated about $8 million in tax revenue from sports betting since it began. 

"Before we legalized sports betting, this money was going to other states, or the betting was being done illegally," Beshear said on December 7, ahead of the numbers being released. "Now, thanks to our efforts, these dollars are staying right here in Kentucky."

A breakdown of the numbers from September show that DraftKings ($15.457M) and FanDuel ($15.128M) led in market share. They remained atop the state in October with DraftKings' handle of $109.480 million, and FanDuel's $116.023 million. The overall hold for the books in Kentucky was a whopping 18.4% October, resulting in $7.515 million in state taxes from that month alone. 

Mobile Books Online In Kentucky

Eight mobile books have been approved to operate as service providers by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC). The operators approved temporarily in the Commonwealth are: 

Seven of the mobile books are live, with Circa launching later this year. Circa has partnered with ECL Corbin, through its Cumberland Run harness track and Mint Gaming Hall. 

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)
  • Sandy's Racing & Gaming in Ashland.
  • 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 than $4.5 million was wagered in the state.

“We are hearing very positive feedback from both our licensees and people wagering in Kentucky,” said Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz. “Thanks to the dedication and hard work of the team, this launch has exceeded our expectations. Our work continues to protect the bettors in the state and support the best customer experience.”

Kambi has been 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. 

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Kentucky Sports Betting Timeline 

  • 📅 Dec. 8: Beshear puts the total take at nearly $656 million on both mobile and retail sites since betting began in the Blue Grass State in September. 
  • 📅 Oct. 23: Beshear puts the total take at nearly $250 million on both mobile and retail sites. 
  • 📅 Oct. 5: Beshear announces that Kentucky bettors wagered over $68 million within the first weekend online sports betting was open.
  • 📅 Oct. 4: Circa Sports confirms its plan for a retail sportsbook at Kentucky Downs racetrack.
  • 📅 Sept. 29: GeoComply recorded just over 2 million geolocation checks in Kentucky within the first 24 hours of online sports betting's launch.
  • 📅 Sept. 28: Seven sportsbooks go live as mobile Kentucky sports betting kicks off.
  • 📅 Sept. 22: Gov. Andy Beshear announces 60,000+ Kentuckians have pre-registered for sports betting accounts before launch.
  • 📅 Sept. 22: The Kentucky Sports Wagering Advisory Council adds 5 events to the betting catalog, including F1 Racing.
  • 📅 Sept. 7: The first bets are placed at retail sportsbook locations around the state of Kentucky. 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.
  • 📅 Aug. 31: The Kentucky Sports Wagering Advisory Council proposes a betting catalog that includes a full menu of college, pro, and amateur sports. 
  • 📅 Aug. 28: Online Kentucky sportsbooks begin pre-registering users in advance of the September 28 launch. 
  • 📅 Aug. 22: The KHRC approved temporary Kentucky sports betting licenses for eight online sportsbooks to launch operations in Kentucky. DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars, bet365, Circa, Fanatics, and ESPN BET are coming to Kentucky.  

Mobile sports betting launched in 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

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. 

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  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. 

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 next 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 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 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.