BetMGM Opening Massive Kentucky Sports Betting Operation

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Aug 13, 2023 12:00 AM
BetMGM is opening a Kentucky sports betting operation as the state gets set to roll out legal wagering across the region.

With legal sports betting coming to Kentucky in time for wagering on the 2023 NFL season, news about the rollout is dropping quickly and relentlessly. From licensing updates to rules and regulations to tax structures, the Kentucky sports betting news cycle has been nonstop.

The latest update: BetMGM Sportsbook has struck a partnership to join the list of The Bluegrass State’s gambling operators. And they’ll be bringing a big-time sports betting facility with them.

What are the details behind this agreement and the new gambling facility? And what else should we expect from the 2023 Kentucky sports betting launch? Read on to find out.

BetMGM is Officially Joining the Ranks of the Kentucky Sports Betting

This news doesn’t come as a massive surprise given the terms of Kentucky’s sports gambling rollout. Their initiative allows for up to 27 online sportsbooks in Kentucky. Granted, the final number will likely be much lower. As of August 10, 2023, fewer than 10 online sportsbooks had applied for a sports betting license in The Bluegrass State.

Still, the official list hasn’t yet been finalized. And though many of the other best online sportsbooks in the United States already made the cut, BetMGM hadn’t announced anything official. As it turns out, that’s because they were preparing even bigger news. Chris Hughes of Spectrum News 1 provided all the details for us: 

“BetMGM, a sports betting and iGaming operator, and Revolutionary Racing Kentucky announced the gambling platform will be coming to Kentucky. BetMGM offers online and retails platforms, and will open a retail BetMGM Sportsbook at Sandy’s Racing & Gaming in Ashland. The online sports betting platform will be ready to go as soon as sports betting launches in Kentucky. BetMGM plans to open a 5,200 square-foot retail venue this fall at Sandy’s Racing & Gaming. It will be a $75 million gaming and entertainment facility in Ashland. A new racetrack and equestrian center is also being planned for the site, with the first races launching in 2025.”

This partnership figures to be huge for Revolutionary Racing Kentucky. Even with many tracks receiving Kentucky sports wagering licenses, brick-and-mortar operators have been worried about their ability to compete with commercialized online bookies. This agreement ensures Revolutionary Racing Kentucky will latch onto the mobile wagering business while also giving gamblers a destination until their new track and equestrian center opens.

BetMGM Set to Capitalize on Earlier Sports Betting Launch in Kentucky

The move also profiles as a home run for BetMGM. They are expected to join DraftKings and FanDuel, among others, in receiving an online Kentucky sports betting license, but the on-site presence will actually allow them to launch their services earlier than many of their competitors.

As we discussed when the rollout date for Kentucky sports betting was first released, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission pushed for a staggered launch. And they got it. Retail sportsbooks in Kentucky will be open for business on September 7. That includes the BetMGM Sportsbook in Ashland. Even if the 5,500-square-foot facility isn’t completely finished, you can almost guarantee they’ll have makeshift kiosks, at the very least, ready to go by that date.

Online sportsbooks licensed in Kentucky, meanwhile, will be permitted to go live three weeks later, on September 28. This setup, naturally, received some push-back from mobile operators. Launching three weeks later puts them at a clientele deficit. Retail sportsbooks will have a head start when it comes to soliciting account holders. This, of course, was the entire point. Kentucky wants to ensure their on-site operations—specifically, race tracks and casinos—are given a fair shake in the new gaming climate. 

Eventually, the online operators relented. The exact timing proved to be everything. That September 28 launch still coincides with the early part of the 2023 NFL season. This gives online sportsbooks plenty of runway to capitalize on 2023 NFL futures in addition to most of the weekly games.

For their part, though, BetMGM is no longer beholden to that timetable. Assuming their facility is up and running in some capacity, they should be allowed to launch on September 7, with the rest of the state’s retail sportsbooks. This not only jump-starts their revenue stream in the market, but it’ll give them earlier access to bettors who will convert to online services once they’re available.

Could Other Sportsbooks in Kentucky Follow BetMGM’s Lead?

At this writing, there is less than one month until the 2023 Kentucky sports betting launch. And it just so happens that’s enough time for other online operators to follow in BetMGM’s footsteps.

Heck, BetMGM is technically following in the footsteps of Caesars Sportsbook. They struck up a partnership with Keeneland, Red Mile that’s expected to include a retail location. They should also be able to launch those services on September 7—which, by the way, just so happens to be the opening week of the 2023 NFL season.

With only weeks until the retail-location launch, could we see DraftKings or FanDuel or Fanatics or another online property attempt the same? We wouldn’t rule it out. Many race tracks have sites that can be almost immediately converted into retail gambling spaces. Still, if another major United States sportsbook was going to make such a play, we believe there would have been some more concrete chatter by now.

Regardless, as the retail partnerships for Caesars and BetMGM prove, the Kentucky sports betting scene is shaping up to be one hell of an arms race. It will be interesting to see how the launch ultimately pans out.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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