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Kentucky Sports Betting: Caesars 1st Operator To Make Deal In State

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 7 mins

Kentucky Sports Betting: Caesars 1st Operator To Make Deal In State

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Caesars Sportsbook has become the first operator announce a deal in Kentucky following the legalization of sports betting in March. Caesars Tuesday said it has partnered with Keeneland and Red Mile Gaming & Racing in Lexington to both operate both its online betting app and brick-and-mortar retail sportsbooks at each site.

The partnership marks the first significant move since Gov. Andy Beshear signed HB 551 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 bill allows the Kentucky Speedway and the state’s nine horse tracks to operate retail sportsbooks. 

Each of the above 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. The bill states that sports betting rules must be finalized six months after the law goes into effect (June 28), which means Kentucky sports betting could launch some time in late 2023 or early 2024.

Ceasars will limit betting to those over 21, despite the age limit being 18 Kentucky. 

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. 

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Kentucky Sports Betting Explained

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. 

"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. 

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. 

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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 Downs TBD TBD
ECL CorbinCumberland Run TBD TBD
Ellis EntertainmentEllis Park TBD TBD
Keeneland Association Keeneland Caesars Sportsbook Caesars Sportsbook
Kentucky Downs Kentucky Downs
Lexington Trots Breeders Red MileCaesars Sportsbook Caesars Sportsbook
Turfway Park Turfway ParkTBD TBD
WKY Development Oak Grove TBD TBD
Speedway Motorsports Kentucky Speedway TBD TBD

Kentucky 'A Sports-Crazy State'

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 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 to 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. 

“For years I believed it was time for Kentucky to join so many other states and pass sports betting,” Beshear said Friday after signing the bill. “We talk about having a competitive business climate, but we did not have an important business that nearly every state surrounding us has. Our dollars were supporting Indiana, West Virginia, Ohio, and other states.

“After years of urging action, sports betting will be legal in Kentucky. We made it happen. This industry will bring new jobs, tourism, and growth.”

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. 

The bill’s fate was uncertain in the legislature given that a similar push had failed in 2022. It was believed a vote in the Senate would fall short, but the bill was brought to the floor late Thursday on the final day of the session by Thayer and passed by a 25-13 vote within 30 minutes. Twenty-three votes were needed for passage. 

“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.
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