Revolutionary Racing‘s new Kentucky racetrack is close to announcing its official sportsbook partner.
Gaming Today spoke with Revolutionary Racing VP of Government Relations Conor Lucas, who said Sandy’s Racing & Gaming is currently in “final negotiations” with an operator for sports betting in Kentucky.
“Long-form negotiations at this point, so we’re pretty far down the road,” Lucas told Gaming Today in an exclusive interview. “We just need to hammer it out on the legal front.”
Which Sportsbook Operator Will Sandy’s Racing & Gaming Partner With?
Lucas said that he couldn’t share which sportsbook operator he was in talks with, specifically ahead of his team’s announcement.
However, he did outline the group’s approach to finding a partner, hinting that it could be one of the major players.
“Obviously, in a state like Kentucky — especially with us being in a more rural community — having an online sportsbook is very valuable, as opposed to a brick-and-mortar one,” Lucas said. “Name recognition is also obviously important. Sports betting is competitive. Outside of FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars, it’s pretty small fractions after that. Those guys have 90% of the market, 80% of the market in most states. The rest is 2%, 5%.
“For us, we want to go for one of those big four.”
Sandy’s Racing & Gaming Catering to a Unique Demographic
It’s always interesting to see trends develop when a state first launches its sports betting industry.
But for Kentucky, which currently eyes a fall launch, the concept of sports gambling isn’t quite foreign. Especially in Ashland, where the new Sandy’s Racing & Gaming facility is located.
Ashland is located just along the Ohio River. It borders Ohio and West Virginia, two states that already boast legal sports wagering.
Lucas thinks that familiarity with the industry from bordering states will be beneficial.
“There’s a lot of crossover,” he said. “People either live in Kentucky and work in West Virginia or live in Ohio and work in Kentucky. There’s kind of a back-and-forth between those three states. Our population is already used to legal online sports betting, which I think will be helpful.”
Additionally, Lucas believes the new brick-and-mortar sportsbook at Sandy’s will serve as not just a betting option for customers but a place for all to hang out and catch their favorite teams on television.
He tabbed the location as a “melting pot” for not just HHR gaming but sports bettors and casual fans.
“Right now (near Ashland), if you wanted to watch a game, Buffalo Wild Wings in Ironton, Ohio, is really your only option,” Lucas said. “(We’re) going to provide an opportunity for people locally to have somewhere to go and hang out, (but) also wager on the game and get a bite to eat, a drink, play some HHR, go to the track and wager on some horses.”
Bringing All the Amenities of Urban Market to the Rural Community
Ashland’s demographic is different from others within the state.
It’s not necessarily an urban market. Lucas classified the area as rural. However, he said the new sportsbook will provide everything that one in a major city would.
“A lot of these people are being forced to go into a more urban, more metro market — either Lexington or Cincinnati,” he said. “So I think it’s an attraction in that way, too. You don’t have to go to a big city to do something you want to do. You can come somewhere that’s right in your backyard but still have the amenities that are still being offered in bigger cities, which I think is cool.”
Even in the surrounding areas, it will give players another option not in one of the state’s busier spots.
“Some of these people, they could either drive an hour to come see us, or drive an hour to go to Cincinnati,” Lucas said. “I think for a lot of people, especially in rural, Eastern Kentucky, it’s more comfortable to go to somewhere that’s in their backyard.”
Lucas Thinks Basketball Could Be a Major Player in Kentucky Sports Betting
It’s assumed that basketball could be a huge component of the state’s sports betting demographic.
Football — specifically the NFL — is king across the country, but there are a few states that differ.
For example, basketball was the most popular sport to bet on in Colorado. Plenty of that has to do with the recent success of the Denver Nuggets, but it’s proof that a strong following of a non-football sport can reign supreme.
Lucas thinks the same could happen in Kentucky, a state with no professional sports teams.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said. “Obviously, I think the NFL (wagers) will be on par with the rest of the country. But I think we’ll see an uptick in basketball wagering and collegiate basketball wagering.”
The Kentucky Wildcats are a basketball blueblood, having been a contender essentially every year under John Calipari. The school consistently lands top recruits from across the country and churns out NBA talent.
Louisville and Murray State have proven success in the sport, too.
“Being a newcomer to Kentucky myself, I didn’t realize how big basketball, specifically college basketball, is to the culture here,” Lucas said.
What to Expect at the ‘Pretty Impressive’ Sportsbook
We’re still a few months away from the facility’s projected completion date in October. But even now, Lucas said it’s looking great.
“I was walking around the facility (Wednesday) with some guys,” he said, “and what I love about this facility so much is that it’s not just a nice facility for a regional market. It’s a nice facility period. I think it’s going to be somewhere, too, that people are going to be proud to go to and bring their friends and family.”
According to Lucas, the sportsbook will be around 5,800 square feet. The entire Sandy’s Racing & Gaming facility will be around 80,000 square feet, including the back of the house, restaurants and gaming floor.
Sportsbook Will Be a Destination for Bettors of All Experience Levels
The sportsbook will be a bright, shiny new hangout spot.
“I think we’re putting up somewhere around 70 screens with couches, recliners and a bar,” Lucas said.
Lucas hopes the new amenities will help draw out even those with no sports betting experience. He envisions a scene where fans come, learn a bit about the concept of gambling and then start to wager at their own comfort levels.
Lucas likened the concept of that gradual process of immersing into sports betting to horse racing.
“I remember (someone) saying, ‘What keeps the track alive is the $2 show bets,'” he said. “The guys that make $5 bets on the over or $10 moneyline bets, that’s what it’s there for. It’s there for people to come, have a good time and wager. They don’t have to spend (large amounts). Having $5 on a game is just as exciting as having $100 on the game. You’ve got skin in the game.”
Lucas noted that if Kentucky’s sports betting timeline goes according to plan, Sandy’s Racing & Gaming will have an online sports wagering presence at the state’s launch date.
Construction on the facility as a whole is ahead of schedule. Previous estimates projected a 2024 opening, but Lucas told Gaming Today last week that he figures construction will conclude by September.
“(We will) start getting games in there and hopefully open by the end of October,” he said.
Partnership With Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Key for Revolutionary Racing
And according to Lucas, the partnership with the tribe has been “amazing.”
He pointed out that their history within the industry has been incredibly beneficial, especially with its ties to one of the country’s main gaming entities.
“Obviously, they have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to gaming,” Lucas said. “They run an amazing facility in North Carolina and they also just bought Caesars Southern Indiana a few years ago. (They have) a lot of old Caesars guys that have been in the gaming business for a long time that we work very well with when it comes to operating and planning this build.”
Lucas pointed out that he appreciates the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians‘ analytics regarding the gambling industry as a whole, not just with sports betting.
A lot of that stems from their partnerships with Caesars.
“Obviously Caesars as a brand has been a gold standard in gaming for a long time,” Lucas said. “(The tribe’s) ability to harness data and analyze data and treat gaming no different from any other investment (has been great).”