Kentucky sports bettors have gone out of state or used offshore apps to place wagers for years. In two weeks, they will be able to bet – legally – from anywhere in the Commonwealth with their pick of any (or all) of up to eight licensed apps.
The question is, which apps will they choose?
The statistics say FanDuel. Flutter Entertainment’s US product was the top online sportsbook in the country in 2023 Q2 with 47 percent of the US online market, according to an August earnings call. In Kentucky, FanDuel will be available online in a partnership with Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) property Turfway Park Racing and Gaming in Florence.
Seasoned Kentucky sports bettors, however, aren’t necessarily settling for one product. Interviews that Gaming Today held with a handful of Kentuckians this week show a majority of those interviewed plan to sign up for all apps offered in the Bluegrass State.
That indicates what many have anticipated all along – a very competitive Kentucky market fueled by consumers clamoring for the best odds and plenty of betting options.
How Much Do Bonus Bets Matter in Kentucky?
Bonus bets are already flooding the Kentucky market ahead of the Commonwealth’s Sept. 28 mobile sports betting launch. And Kentucky bettors plan to use them – although they don’t intend to limit their app choice based on promotions.
Most Kentuckians interviewed by Gaming Today this week said they will sign up for all available Kentucky apps, taking advantage of as many sign-up bonuses as they can.
It’s a strategy that Brad Taylor, sports talk radio host at WLXG ESPN Radio 92.5 in Lexington and host of “The Bottom Line with Brad Taylor”, says he uses.
Taylor – host of the first daily radio show about sports gambling in Kentucky and author of the sports betting book Side Hustle – said that he considers FanDuel his “favorite”: the sportsbook endorses his show on ESPN Radio. But Taylor said he will not limit himself to any one app or its promos.
“‘Take what the game gives you’ is a mantra that we all should use when competing at anything, much less sports gambling,” Taylor said. “Utilize these bonuses to the max.”
The remaining Kentucky bettors interviewed said they are unlikely to sign up for multiple apps because they don’t wager every week, or regularly. Lanny Brannock is a Kentucky communications professional who considers himself a “small player” in the sports betting market. He said an app that is easy to use and consistent with fair odds is most important to him.
Right now, he is undecided on which app he will use.
“I’ve been looking at who has the best signup bonuses, but honestly, I’m a small player so I’m unlikely to recoup all the bonuses because they’re often based on how much you wager.”
Reading Between the Lines
Betting lines and odds are what most bettors look for when deciding how much to wager (or not) on a game or play. The majority of Kentuckians interviewed by Gaming Today said they intend to base their bets on the best numbers, including the best odds, spreads, totals, and moneylines.
According to Taylor, “If seven sportsbooks have a line for an underdog at +5.5 and a single book has the line at +6, then I’m taking the +6. That half point may not matter in that particular wager, but over time that half point adds up.”
Johnny Livengood, a retirement specialist who has lived in Kentucky for 35 years, said that he typically only bets spreads and totals. Even a slight difference in the numbers can make a huge difference, said Livengood, so having a choice in the lines is important.
“The difference between a 3-point spread and a 2.5 spread in football for example is huge,” he told Gaming Today. “If one sportsbook is offering -2.5 and the other is -3, you’ll win long-term betting the -2.5 instead of the -3. If you have a bankroll of $1,000, and you can sign up for 10 apps, sign up with all 10 and spread the money around so you can line shop.”
It probably goes without saying that choosing the best numbers means most bettors interviewed by Gaming Today don’t bet parlays. Two-thirds of those interviewed said they never bet parlays, with the remainder saying they have but no longer do. The risk is too great, said Taylor.
“It’s hard enough to just pick one winner without losing, much less more than one,” he said.
Yes, Betting Limits Matter to Kentuckians
Betting limits matter, too. And every sportsbook has them, although some are more generous than others. Circa (partnered with Corbin’s Cumberland Run for mobile sports betting) is known for having high betting limits that Livengood says matter to him.
“They’ll offer very little in sign-up bonuses, but they have high betting limits and won’t ‘kick out’ winning bettors,” Livengood told Gaming Today.
As for how much Kentucky sports bettors will wager by app, the majority of those interviewed said money management is key. Livengood, for example, said he “strongly suggests never going over 2-3 percent of bankroll on any bet.”
Taylor said he bets the same amount every time.
“As crazy as it sounds, money management skills are more important than actually picking winners,” said Taylor.
Fandom and Kentucky Sports Betting
Which sports will Kentuckians bet on the most? Everyone interviewed by Gaming Today said they bet on football, with most betting on both college and pro games and a minority betting almost exclusively on the NFL. Regular bettors said they also bet on college basketball, the MLB, and golf.
When it comes to fandom, however, don’t expect many serious bettors to base wagers on sentiment.
Taylor said his “favorite” team is the team he bets on that night.
“If you’re a true sports gambler, you can’t show favoritism. Each game is Team A vs. Team B.”
Eight Mobile Apps at Kentucky Sports Betting Launch, More Offers Expected
Eight online sportsbooks have been approved for temporary licensing in the Commonwealth, although only Caesars, FanDuel, DraftKings, bet365, and BetMGM have announced plans to launch on Sept. 28.
A complete list of all eight sportsbook apps licensed in Kentucky to date is below:
- Caesars Sportsbook partnered with The Red Mile for retail and mobile
- Betfair/FanDuel partnered with Turfway Park for mobile
- DraftKings, partnered with Cumberland Run harness track in Corbin for retail and both Cumberland Run and The Mint (ECL) Cumberland (Williamsburg) for mobile
- Penn Sports Interactive (ESPN Bet) partnered with Ellis Park for mobile
- BetMGM partnered with Sandy’s Gaming and Racing in Ashland for retail and mobile
- Circa partnered with Cumberland Run for mobile
- Fanatics, partnered with Oak Grove harness track for mobile
- bet365 partnered with Sandy’s Gaming and Racing (Sandy Ridge track) for mobile
Retail sports betting launched at up to nine retail sportsbooks in the Commonwealth on Sept. 7. In-person sportsbooks now open in Kentucky include: 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).
More retail sportsbooks – for a total of 14 statewide – are expected to open in the coming weeks and months.