One sportsbook in Kentucky hopes to buck the trend of online sports betting vastly outpacing retail sports betting.
At least slightly.
The Red Mile’s Caesars Sportsbook hopes to generate heavy foot traffic and handle more bets than other retail books in the state when Kentucky sports betting launches later this year.
It wasn’t long ago online sports betting wasn’t available in the US. And the only brick-and-mortar sportsbooks were in Nevada.
Since online betting became an option, the retail handle has paled in comparison to the bets handled by online operators. In states where both are legal, bettors have overwhelmingly chosen the online option.
For example, in New Jersey, online betting makes up more than 90% of the total handle.
Red Mile Is Following Sportsbook Trends for Its Room
Before the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA in 2018, most Nevada sportsbooks had the same layout. There were several couches and chairs, sometimes in a stadium seating format, in front of massive screens playing the day’s sporting events.
However, those same sportsbooks are mostly empty now.
Online betting took over and gamblers can watch the games from their home more comfortably than in the sportsbook.
Red Mile VP of Racing & Sports Wagering Operations Gabe Prewitt told Gaming Today that Red Mile’s retail sportsbook will attempt to bring bettors back to the brick-and-mortar sportsbook experience.
“At this stage of the game, what we’re really working on is the construction of the actual sportsbook,” Prewitt told Gaming Today last month. “That’s taking up a lot of time. We all have thoughts on that. I’ve tried to reiterate my feelings that this is going to be a very high-volume retail sportsbook with a lot of foot traffic.”
For a Successful Sportsbook, Betting Is Actually Secondary
Prewitt believes making the sportsbook a destination is the key to getting foot traffic. Not just a place to bet on sports. Instead, he wants to make Red Mile a fun place to be where the betting is a perk.
Just imagine your favorite local hangout. Like the old sitcom Cheers. But with sports betting.
“I think if you build a nice place that people feel comfortable in, and it’s a good place to go out and have a good time, it will succeed,” Prewitt said. “I think sports wagering, in general, is trending more toward going into social settings. It’s going more toward bar tops, nice, well-furnished (sportsbooks). The days of theatre seating with 4-foot-long chairs … I think it’s going away from that.”
Thus, Prewitt and the Caesars Kentucky team are focusing on a bar and restaurant area where you can place bets and watch the games. Moreover, everything will be pristine.
“It’s an extension of the gaming bar on the first floor as well. But it’s a brand new bar,” Prewitt said. “A very nice facility. But it also has a staircase you walk right up to what is the dining room clubhouse that overlooks the racetrack. It’s absolutely beautiful.”
Sportsbook Should Work in Conjunction With the Racebook
Like sports betting, Kentucky horse racing betting has lost most of its brick-and-mortar revenue to online racebooks. And like sportsbooks, racetracks have lost most of their foot traffic too.
But with the new sportsbook just down the stairs from the racetrack, Prewitt believes the two will work symbiotically. Theoretically, the sportsbook should help drive racebook revenue and vice versa.
“There are going to be Sundays during football season where we’re racing out back. And there’s going to be a lot of volume in the sportsbook for the NFL,” Prewitt said. “These two are going to be so close that it’s going to be impossible not to overlap.”
Lexington Is a Hidden Gem of a City
Lastly, Prewitt thinks Lexington is just too big of a city for Red Mile’s sportsbook not to be successful. The venue recently hosted the two-day Railbird music festival, which attracted 40,000 music fans.
The size of the city and the quality of the venue are what make Prewitt believe success is on the horizon.
“I don’t think you could start a track in a dream world with a better setting than we have at a beautiful property that overlooks the skyline of Lexington,” Prewitt said.
But regardless of the other factors, he believes it comes down to the execution of the original plan.
“I think you really just want to have a place where the public feels comfortable spending time,” Prewitt said. “The more you can do to really put something out there that’s nice, a first-class-type facility that people don’t mind going and taking some buddies to get a table, get a bar top, drinks and hang out. I think it’ll be a place that people are proud to come to.”