Red Mile VP Sees Sports Betting as Boost for Kentucky Horse Racing

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Gabe Prewitt of the Red Mile has been overseeing the start of the 2023 live racing season here at the historic Kentucky horse racing track for the past three days. But it’s a stretch of three weeks in September that has everyone watching the second-oldest harness track in the world.

On Sept. 7, Kentucky sports betting will launch at up to 14 retail locations, including a Caesars-branded sportsbook at the Lexington track. Once fully licensed for sports betting by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, the Red Mile retail sportsbook will be the only permanent in-person sportsbook in Central Kentucky for more than 60 miles, Prewitt told Gaming Today in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

That makes the 148-year-old harness track ground zero for sports betting in the Lexington metropolitan statistical area (population 500,000 plus) until mobile sports betting launches statewide on Sept. 28, said the Red Mile VP of Racing and Sports Wagering Operations.

“We’re going to be slammed for three weeks, then once mobile gets up, it’s no different than horse racing, most people are going to bet from the convenience of their phone,” Prewitt told Gaming Today. “We still want to offer a good experience and a nice place for people to come.”

He said the Red Mile — which also has slot-like historical horse racing (HHR) gaming machines and year-round simulcasting — is already bracing itself for kickoff of the NFL season on Sept. 7 and the start of the college football season, including the Eastern Kentucky vs. Kentucky football game at Kroger Field on Sept. 9.

Red Mile Hopes for Sports Betting Crossover to Horse Race Betting

The buildout of the rich red-hued Red Mile sportsbook, with lounge seating and a full bar, is almost complete. Prewitt said plans for the location include four betting windows, an undetermined number of betting kiosks, and multiple TV viewing locations.

A rendering of the Caesars Sportsbook at the Red Mile harness track in Lexington, Kentucky.
A rendering of the Caesars Sportsbook at the Red Mile harness track in Lexington, Kentucky.

Sports betting kiosks may also be placed on the HHR gaming floor and in the facility’s remodeled clubhouse, he said.

It’s unclear if Caesars will partner with additional Kentucky tracks for a permanent retail sportsbook or a mobile app. Right now the sportsbook’s partners are the Red Mile and Keeneland — a thoroughbred racetrack in Lexington that has signed with Caesars for mobile sports betting and some in-person VIP sports betting events.

Sportsbooks may also be tied to the state’s seven other licensed horse racetracks, including Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ellis Park in Henderson, Oak Grove near Fort Campbell, Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Cumberland Run in Corbin, and Sandy Ridge in Ashland.

Three Kentucky tracks – Red Mile, Cumberland Run, and Oak Grove – feature harness racing. Sandy Ridge will be a Quarter Horse track when it opens later this year. The rest are thoroughbred tracks.

Prewitt sees sports betting as an evolution of the racetrack experience. The former Director of Racing with Caesars Entertainment said the challenge is getting a typically younger sports betting demographic interested in horse racing. Having a sportsbook at the track – especially during those three strategic weeks in September – will help, he said.

“We’ll have a month left when sports wagering opens. Particularly those NFL Sundays, and we’ve got the race product, so our goal is to try and intermingle some of those folks, introduce them to racing,” said Prewitt.

Related: Fixed-Odds Horse Race Betting Not in Churchill Downs’ Plans

Caesars Only Partner Eyed by Red Mile

Under Kentucky’s 2023 sports betting law, each track is allowed a retail sportsbook and up to three mobile apps. State officials say they don’t expect more than 10 to 12 mobile apps statewide, although only two have announced partnerships so far.

FanDuel has announced a partnership with Churchill Downs Inc. Then there is of course Caesars Kentucky, which is behind at least one retail sportsbook (Red Mile) in the state and mobile sports betting partnerships with both the Red Mile and Keeneland.

As for the Red Mile, Prewitt said Caesars will probably be the only sportsbook partner.

“Caesars is our partner,” he told Gaming Today. “I know we have the ability to sign (more), but I think we’re very happy with where we are right now. You want to be with one of the industry leaders so, once we get that done, we’re very happy.

“And obviously with nine tracks and up to three (service providers), everybody will be represented in Kentucky.”

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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