Kentucky Governor Places Ceremonial Bet for Wildcats’ Saturday Win at New BetMGM Sportsbook

ASHLAND, Ky. — BetMGM has been taking sports wagers in Kentucky for a month. But it wasn’t until Thursday that the sportsbook’s Kentucky horse racing partner facility officially opened its doors – and retail sports betting – to the public.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was among a crowd of about 400 at the grand opening of Sandy’s Racing and Gaming today. And it was only the latest sports betting stop for the Democrat incumbent in the state’s 2023 race for governor. 

Beshear has made the rapid Kentucky sports betting launch (which essentially came less than three months after legalization) a campaign issue.  He signed the state’s sports betting law last spring. It took effect in late June. Retail launched Sept. 7, and mobile launched on Sept. 28.

“Every dollar that you bet guarantees that any proceeds, part of which go to better our lives in the Commonwealth,” Beshear told the Sandy’s crowd Thursday. He emphasized the retail sportsbook and larger gaming facility at Sandy’s – which includes nearly 700 slot-like gaming machines — is also bringing approximately 250 jobs to the region.

“Let’s not forget what we’re really talking about here today is economic development,” said Beshear. 

He revved up the crowd a bit more by reminding them the only thing Kentuckians like more than a win by the University of Kentucky Wildcats is a loss by the University of Tennessee Vols. Minutes later, he walked up to a BetMGM betting window and placed the retail sportsbook’s ceremonial first bet for the Wildcats (+150 ML at BetMGM online) to beat the Vols at Kroger Field in Lexington on Saturday. 

The BetMGM retail sportsbook is one of 14 expected to open in Kentucky at full implementation. Seven mobile sportsbook apps, including BetMGM, are now live in the state.

All Kentucky sportsbooks are partnered with one of the state’s nine horse racetracks as required by state law. 

Horse Racing Set to Arrive at Sandy’s in 2025

All in all, Sandy’s grand opening in Ashland was a political event. Beshear and other state plus local officials took the stage to share credit for attracting the $75 million entertainment facility – including the BetMGM-branded sportsbook – to the Northeast Kentucky region. 

And the 75,000-square-foot gaming hall is only part of the project.

The horse racing part of Sandy’s will come in 2025 when Sandy’s opens Kentucky’s only quarter horse racetrack on 180 acres behind the gaming hall.

Revolutionary Racing Kentucky and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are investment partners in Sandy’s Racing and Gaming.  Revolutionary Racing Chair Larry Lucas said at the event that Thursday’s grand opening is proof of “promises made, promises kept” by the investment partners.

A reminder that the quarter horse track is also on the way came at the end of Beshear’s speech.  That’s when he and other dignitaries pushed a detonator, ceremonially blasting the hills behind the gaming hall where the track will be.

“My security detail is really nervous about now,” joked Beshear. 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks at Sandy's Racing and Gaming grand opening on Thursday.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks at Sandy’s Racing and Gaming grand opening on Thursday.

New Sportsbook, New Revenue 

BetMGM Sportsbook at Sandy’s is a roomy 5,200 square feet. Dozens of leather seats lined the space. Three cinema-size screens fill the curved wall around the back of the space.

It’s a showpiece for Northeast Kentucky, which has undoubtedly suffered the loss of coal jobs and other industries in recent years.

Based on the turnout Thursday, Sandy’s brought the county’s Republican leadership and Beshear together to bring needed new jobs and what Sandy’s called in a press release “millions of dollars in new tax revenues” to the region.

Some of those dollars will come from mobile and retail sports betting. According to state budget officials earlier this year, Kentucky can expect at least $23 million in annual state revenue from sports betting at full implementation.

Beshear announced last week that Kentucky’s sports betting handle had reached nearly $250 million in the first seven weeks since the state’s launch in early September. Official revenue numbers are expected at the end of the month.

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.

Get connected with us on Social Media