With a week of retail wagering now in the books, Kentucky is still on track to launch online sports betting sites in the state later this month.
A spokesperson for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission confirmed Thursday that September 28 remains the target date for the mobile component of legal sports betting to begin.
Kentucky sports betting officially began last week at brick-and-mortar racing and gaming properties in the state, such as Churchill Downs. Gov. Andy Beshear placed the ceremonial first wager at the historic track, which was a parlay that included the win totals of two Kentucky colleges.
BREAKING MUST CREDIT @Covers: The parlay Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear chose as the state’s first (non-horse racing) sports bet is a *~special~* at Churchill Downs, with odds of +750, according to the book's bet builder. And only available until 7:30 p.m. ET today, it appears. pic.twitter.com/sLFvTOFliQ— Geoff Zochodne (@GeoffZochodne) September 7, 2023
Kentuckians of legal gaming age can now pre-register for accounts with online sportsbooks, which have begun offering sign-up promotions for new customers. As of last week, residents can deposit into their mobile accounts as well.
There is still work to do on the regulatory side, however. Among other things, the state horse racing commission is busy licensing entities that will offer and be involved in mobile wagering.
“The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and the KHRC staff worked tirelessly to meet this challenge,” KHRC Chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz said in a press release last week announcing the retail start. “The KHRC is dedicated to wagering integrity, and while we are celebrating today’s launch, our work continues.”
The busy season
While no official numbers have been reported, it’s on the mobile side where most sports betting in Kentucky will happen. For states with both online and in-person wagering, the online side of the business ultimately claims the lion’s share of the handle. In nearby Ohio, for instance, there was nearly $320 million in online wagering during July but only $11.5 million in betting done at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.
Football season is (with the possible exception of March Madness) the busiest time of year for legal sportsbooks. Kentuckians may be willing to hop in a car and head down to the track to wager now, but they may be even more inclined to get a bet down if they can do so from home.
Newly legal states are seeing significant activity and sign-ups during the early NFL season, according to GeoComply, which helps sportsbooks determine the location of their customers. In Ohio, from September 3 to September 10, there were approximately 133,000 new accounts created, GeoComply reported this week.
Analysts for investment bank Jefferies also noted in a report to clients this week that football is still king for U.S. bookmakers, as it accounted for more than 33% of their gross revenue in 2022, more than basketball at 28% and baseball at 18%.
This year is shaping up similarly, with H2 Gambling Capital projecting the 2023-2024 NFL season will generate $23.8 billion in wagering and $2.3 billion in gross win, up more than 19% and 24%, respectively, over last year, the Jefferies note said.
“Commentary suggests that this NFL season may be more open, with no clear favourites, likely therefore increasing interest (and potentially to the benefit of the bookmakers),” the note added.
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