Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear Recently Reiterated "100 Percent" Support for Legal Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear Recently Reiterated

Could the opening of a $148 casino gaming facility be a precursor to legal sports betting in Kentucky? Andy Beshear, the Kentucky Governor, sure hopes so.

Churchill Downs, Inc. recently opened the gaming portion of Turfway Park. The company bought the racetrack establishment for $46 million back in 2019 and then invested in a $148 million building to house casino-style games that's attached to it. 

Turfway Park officially opened at the end of August to much fanfare. It left many wondering whether legal sports betting could follow. Naturally, Andy Beshear was asked about the prospect at Turfway Park's unveiling.

“I’m 100 percent for sports betting,” the Kentucky Governor said, according to ABC 9 News. "Pushed it every year I’ve been governor and as I was attorney general. Need a few people in the general assembly to come around. There are a whole lot of them here tonight. Hopefully, they like what they see."

Seldom do you see elected officials offer such staunch support for legal sports betting. Sure, the industry always has its advocates. But most of the lip service happens behind the scenes. When it happens publicly, there is typically plenty of hedging and double-speak. But the Kentucky Governor left nothing to chance. He "100 percent" wants sports betting in the Bluegrass State. 

Will he get his wish?

Kentucky Governor Applying Pressure to Opponents of Sports Betting

This is not the first time the Kentucky Governor used pointed language to push his sports betting agenda. Heck, he even called out those who are currently holding up the process at Turfway Park's opening. (More on this in a minute.) Andy Beshear has made a big to-do about applying pressure to his fellow officials. He has implicitly expressed the belief that the best way to get Kentucky legal sports betting is to continue talking about it.

In previous years, keeping this agenda at the forefront of discussion has been difficult. However, the end of 2022 has posed no such issues. Not only did the opening of Turfway Park allow for natural conversations on sports betting, but Kentucky is now surrounded by legal sports betting states.

When Ohio rolls out sports betting on January 1, there will be six states around Kentucky with some form of legal gambling. Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana and Illinois all joined the fold ahead of the Buckeye State. The Kentucky Governor has hoped that Ohio's legalization of sports betting will push Kentucky to do the same.

His main point: Consider how much money the state is losing to their neighbors. So many Kentucky residents are now close enough to a state with legal sports betting they will have little trouble driving to place their wager. And this says nothing of the online sports betting in Kentucky already taking place. Select sites will allow people in Kentucky to set up accounts and place bets, including many of the reputable companies that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks.

Beshear's critics have argued there's no way to accurately quantify how much out-of-state and offshore betting takes place. But that's sort of the point. While there may not be an exact number, experts in the field have repeatedly said every state without legal sports betting still has tens of millions of dollars in wagers being placed by their residents every year.

Will Turfway Park Push Kentucky to Legalize Sports Betting?

Will Turfway Park Push Kentucky to Legalize Sports Betting?

The scene at Turfway Park was truly surreal. There was the Kentucky Governor, in an election year, blatantly calling out some of his peers. Consider this excerpt from ABC 9 News' Jake Ryle:

"How likely is legalizing sports gambling in the Bluegrass State? Beshear said one to two senators are keeping it from happening. 'If we can get through those members of leadership, we can get it done,' the Kentucky Governor said.

"The governor said he has been frustrated at the lack of options for Kentuckians to wager. In Northern Kentucky, he said, he knows taxpayers have chosen in the past to go to casinos in surrounding states. He’s hoping Turfway Park will change that. 'With a facility like this, we can compete with everyone, but yes, the general assembly has failed to pass sports betting, failed to pass full gaming, failed to pass medical marijuana,' said Beshear. 'We’re behind the rest of the country on those things. It’s time to catch up.'"

Kentucky sports bettors no doubt appreciate the force with which Andy Beshear speaks.

And guess what? It sounds like he might be making a difference.

Kentucky Governor Cites Jobs as Benefit of Legal Sports Betting

One of the final arguments Beshear made focused on the number of jobs that stand to be created in Kentucky as a result of legal sports betting.

Indeed, most sports betting takes place online nowadays, and corporate retail sportsbooks won't set up shop inside the state. But Kentucky can stipulate that they partner with existing racetracks or casinos to gain access to their market.

More than that, Kentucky will invariably generate more in-person sports betting than other states. The racetracks are such a huge draw in their market, and the foot traffic traveling through them speaks for itself. If you attach sportsbooks to those racetracks, Beshear argues, then you're basically guaranteed to strike in-person gold.

By extension, this would keep much of the sports betting business inside the state itself while also creating hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs to help run and maintain racetracks that'll be much busier. And from the sound of things coming out of Kentucky, it seems like some of Beashear's opponents are starting to warm up to the idea. We just have to wait until the next round of Kentucky legislative meetings to see if that actually means anything.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one meets all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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