Kentucky Gov. Beshear Marks Retail Sports Betting Launch with ‘Kentucky Bet’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs racetrack was the launch epicenter of Kentucky sports betting on Thursday as state and local dignitaries lined up at Aristides Lounge to place ceremonial first bets.

Among them was Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, all smiles as he placed what he dubbed the “Kentucky bet.”

The wager? A $20 parlay bet with the Over on University of Kentucky and University of Louisville football and the Under on Duke University — one of the UK’s biggest rivals. 

“It’s fun,” said the Democrat incumbent, who has used the legalization of sports betting in Kentucky in his push for re-election this fall. “This is something that the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky have wanted. They want to keep their entertainment dollars in the state and make sure that the revenue that comes out of it stays in the state.”

“Let’s keep our dollars in the state and let’s enjoy ourselves.” — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear

Other Kentucky dignitaries at Churchill Downs for the launch of sports betting in the Commonwealth Thursday were Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Chair Jonathan Rabinowitz, State Representative, and Kentucky sports betting law lead cosponsor Al Gentry, D-Louisville, Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet Secretary Ray Perry, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg, and area sports celebrities Darrell Griffith, Bobby Perry, Will Wolford, and Eric Wood.

The governor was scheduled to place a second wager today at 1:30 p.m. ET at the Red Mile (Caesars) sportsbook in Lexington.

The Churchill Downs Race & Sports Book welcomed the ceremonial kickoff of Kentucky sports betting.
The Churchill Downs Race & Sports Book was the launch epicenter of retail sports betting in Kentucky. (Rebecca Hanchett/Gaming Today)

Kentucky Retail Launch Keeps Dollars in State

The 8,755 square-foot Churchill Downs Race & Sports Book is located in a fully remodeled second-floor clubhouse lounge at the track. Fifteen sports betting kiosks line a massive TV wall featuring a 7’ x 24’ screen and a dozen 90” TVs. There are also six sports betting windows, horse betting kiosks, and a bar with seating for 280.

Until today, the closest place to Churchill Downs for legal sports betting was a few miles away across the border in Indiana. Beshear held his parlay ticket up for the cameras to show times have changed. 

“Everyone can now do this without driving across the river or heading to a different state,” the governor told the press. “It’s a lot of fun as long as you do it responsibly.”

Kentucky is expected to conservatively net $23 million in state revenue each year at full implementation of retail and mobile sports betting. Beshear told Gaming Today he has no revenue projections for the retail launch Thursday except that Kentucky should exceed expectations. 

“In every state every year, the overall revenue and handle beat the projections,” Beshear said.

18+ Retail Sports Betting at Churchill Downs, 21+ at Other Locations

Anyone aged 18 or older — the same age for legal horse race betting in Kentucky — will be allowed to wager at the sportsbook at Churchill Downs racetrack. However, not all retail sportsbooks will serve the 18+ population.

Caesars, FanDuel, and BetMGM have already announced that they will limit sports betting in Kentucky to those aged 21 and older. Caesars is partnered for retail and mobile with the Red Mile in Lexington and mobile with Keeneland in Lexington; FanDuel is the mobile partner of Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) property Turfway Park in Florence, and BetMGM is partnered with Sandy’s in Ashland.

It was unclear at press time if an age 18 minimum would also be in place at other Churchill Downs Inc. properties in Louisville, Ellis Park in Henderson, Turfway in Florence, and Newport Gaming and Racing in Newport.

Up to 9 Retail Sportsbooks Open on Thursday

The Churchill Downs track sportsbook is one of up to nine retail locations expected to open to the public today in Kentucky.

In-person sportsbooks opening Thursday include the sportsbook at Churchill Downs racetrack, Derby City Gaming on Poplar Level Road in Louisville, Ellis Park, Newport Racing & Gaming, Oak Grove Racing, and Turfway Park (Kambi), the Red Mile in Lexington (Caesars), Cumberland Run and The Mint Cumberland in Corbin and Williamsburg, respectively (DraftKings).

Derby City Gaming in downtown Louisville, Ellis Park in Owensboro, and Sandy’s Gaming and Racing in Ashland are also licensed to open once fully operational. 

About an hour or so away, Republican state lawmakers gathered to place their ceremonial bets at the Red Bar at the Red Mile harness track and gaming facility in Lexington. A reporter told the governor that some lawmakers at the Red Mile criticized his role in the sports betting legalization process. 

Beshear, seemingly unsurprised, waved away such criticism as election-year politics.

“(State Rep.) Michael Meredith was talking to us day in and day out,” said the governor. Meredith was the primary sponsor of 2023 House Bill 551, Kentucky’s sports betting law. He was also with the governor when he signed emergency regulations for sports betting to launch by Sept. 7.

“We worked hard to flip a number of votes. They all know the truth; it’s just an election season. Let’s all be happy today,” Beshear told the press. “Let’s keep our dollars in the state and let’s enjoy ourselves.” 

Mobile sports betting will launch in Kentucky in two weeks on Sept. 28, with as many as 12 mobile apps likely. Apps licensed to date include DraftKings (Cumberland Run), FanDuel (Turfway Park), Caesars (Red Mile/Keeneland), ESPN Bet (Ellis Park), Circa (Cumberland Run), Fanatics (Oak Grove), BetMGM (Sandy’s/Revolutionary Racing), and Bet365 (Sandy’s/Revolutionary Racing). 

Louisville Tourism President and CEO Cleo Battle learns how to use a sports betting kiosk.
Louisville Tourism President and CEO Cleo Battle learns how to use a sports betting kiosk. (Rebecca Hanchett/Gaming Today)
About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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