Thanks to a recent partnership, Lexington became the first city in Kentucky to guarantee itself a brick-and-mortar sportsbook. And lawmakers representing the city in the General Assembly are supporting it.
Sports betting in Kentucky won’t launch until later this year.
But when it does, Caesars Sportsbook Kentucky will have a heavy presence in Lexington.
Two weeks ago, the Las Vegas-based gaming giant announced a partnership with Keeneland Association Inc. With the Keeneland and Red Mile deal, Caesars will run a retail sportsbook at Red Mile.
Both tracks are located in Lexington, home to nearly 322,000 Kentuckians and the University of Kentucky.
Additionally, the partnership will allow Caesars Sportsbook to operate an online sportsbook in Kentucky.
Politicians From Both Sides of the Aisle Support the Partnership
The bill that legalized sports betting, HB 551, allowed sports betting at the Bluegrass State’s nine horse tracks and the Kentucky Speedway. Gov. Andy Beshear signed the bill at the end of March, and it will take effect at the end of June.
The Caesars-Keeneland deal essentially gave the entire city of Lexington to Caesars. With sportsbooks at both Lexington racetracks, retail sports bettors in the city will almost certainly give Caesars their business.
Sen. Damon Thayer, a Republican representing the 17th district, which includes part of the city, was instrumental in passing the legislation. Thayer, the Senate majority leader, told Gaming Today the partnership benefits his city.
“Caesars is one of the most recognizable names in the gaming and entertainment sector. Its decision to partner with Keeneland and the Red Mile in the Lexington marketplace is positive news,” Thayer said. “The partnership is a realization of what my constituents and a vast majority of Kentuckians have asked for and supported for many years.”
Sen. Reggie Thomas, a Democrat representing the 13th district, which also encompasses part of the city, echoed Thayer’s support. Thomas believes the agreement could help cement the city’s reputation and bring much-needed revenue to state coffers.
“The Caesars Sportsbook partnership with Keeneland and Red Mile could certainly enhance the reputation of our city as a hub for sports and sports betting,” Thomas told Gaming Today. “Over the years, Kentucky has missed out on substantial revenue due to a lack of gaming authorization. This new culture, among others, could help fill that gap, providing critical funding for our state.”
Lawmakers Happy With Caesars’ 21+ Decision
One of the more interesting aspects of the KY sports betting legislation was its age restrictions. Most states require bettors to be at least 21 to wager. However, they only need to be 18 in Kentucky.
Kentucky joins just a handful of other states with those age requirements. But when it announced the partnership, Caesars said it would be 21-plus in KY on its online platform and at its brick-and-mortar sites.
Lexington lawmakers downplayed any concerns about problems with college-aged betting. On the other hand, they also were enthused by Caesars’ decision to enforce a higher age restriction on betting.
Sen. Amanda Mays Bledsoe, a Republican from the 12th district, believed it was the right decision.
“I am grateful that Keeneland and the Red Mile have chosen to voluntarily raise the minimum age to 21 to be in the facility, as opposed to the legal age of 18, to be responsive to those concerns,” Bledsoe told Gaming Today. “We love our community in Lexington and will work hard to ensure positive sports experiences for everyone.”
Thayer had similar thoughts. He said even though 18 was old enough to place a wager, Caesars had the right to bump the age requirements.
“I believe when a person turns 18, they are adults with the free will to choose how they spend their time and money,” Thayer told Gaming Today. “Having said that, the Red Mile and Keeneland have chosen to require a person to be 21 or over, which is their right as a business.”
When Will Lexington Sportsbooks Open?
Under the law, Kentucky sportsbooks will be open no later than Dec. 28, six months after the law takes effect.
But Beshear wants the Kentucky industry to launch by NFL kickoff.
There is still lots of regulatory work to be done by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission before launch. Therefore, there is no concrete launch date yet.
Caesars will be ready for it when it does come time to take bets. Last week, Caesars hired Gabe Prewitt to run its retail sportsbook at Red Mile.