Kentucky Sports Betting Handle Surpasses $1 Billion in First Six Months Since Launch

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jun 10, 2024 08:00 PM
Kentucky Sports Betting Handle Surpasses $1 Billion in First Six Months Since Launch

The launch of online Kentucky sports betting appears to be getting well-received by consumers.

Online gaming in the  Bluegrass State has been live since September 2023. And in that time, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which oversees wagering, reports that the sports betting handle has hit $1 billion. Heck, not only has it hit $1 billion, but it’s outstripped the benchmark by a nearly 40 percent margin.

Before we go any further, let us first reiterate that the Kentucky sports betting handle does not refer to revenue. This is instead the total amount of money bet inside the Bluegrass State. Revenue for both online sportsbooks in Kentucky and the state itself are separate figures.

Still, betting handles are an excellent reflection of how popular sports gambling is inside a given region. And with already more than $1 billion worth of wagers in the rear view, it’s safe to say that the launch of Kentucky sports betting has resonated throughout the state.

Online Kentucky Sports Betting Has Been Critical to Driving Popularity

Not surprisingly, the popularity of sports betting in Kentucky is being primarily buoyed by online sportsbooks in the United States operating inside the market. Here’s iGaming Business’ Robert Fletcher with the full lowdown:

“Kentucky began legal online betting on 28 September 2023, with the retail market opening just weeks earlier on 7 September. New figures published by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission cover the period to the end of February this year. Of the total wagered on sports during this period, $1.30 billion was bet online and $57.3 million at retail sportsbooks. In terms of revenue, the entire regulated market generated $169.3 million during the first six months. This includes $163.8 million in online betting revenue and $5.6 million from retail wagers.

As most already know, the vast majority of sports betting in the United States takes place online these days. Though it’s too early to have an average for 2024, many believe over 90 percent of legal sports betting in the USA is processed through a mobile betting site.

The Kentucky sports betting market doesn’t just follow this trend. It transcends that (loose) expectation.

Based on the betting-handle figures above, more than 95 percent of sports betting in the Bluegrass State went through an online provider. Mobile betting sites also account for more than 96 percent of the market’s total gambling revenue. 

If we had to guess, this will wind up being an above-average split relative to the industry average during 2024. At the same time, we’re seeing more and more betting handles skew almost entirely towards online betting sites. It would not surprise us if the industry average in 2024 more closely mirrors the Kentucky sports gambling market.

FanDuel and DraftKings Continue to Dominate the Field, but ESPN Bet Picks Up a Pretty Big Victory

Many originally wondered whether the Kentucky sports betting scene would be large and popular enough to accommodate so many different operators. It turns out that concern was premature.

FanDuel and DraftKings represent a lion’s share of the Kentucky sports betting business, as expected. But other operators seem to be fairing pretty well. Fletcher has exact figures for us to munch on:

“Looking at individual operators, FanDuel and partner Turfway Park led the way in the online sector. Total online betting revenue for the period hit $62.8 million from $478.6 million in wagers. DraftKings, which is working with Cumberland Run, followed close behind with revenue of $61.1 million. This was despite taking more bets – $499.0 million – than long-time rival FanDuel. 

“Elsewhere, Bet365 and Sandy’s Racing and Gaming posted $15.4 million in online revenue from $93.6 million. BetMGM, another partner of Sandy’s, reported $6.6 million off a $56.6 million handle. Caesars and Red Mile generated $8.9 million in revenue from $81.6 million in total bets. ESPN Bet, with partner Ellis Park, posted $7.2 million off $65.3 million. Fanatics and Oak Grove rounded off the online market with $1.9 million in revenue and a $25.2 million handle.”

The performance of ESPN Bet in Kentucky, which launched right around Thanksgiving 2023, stands out more than anything to us. Penn Entertainment operates the sportsbook and recently rebranded it from Barstool Sportsbook. Given how often newer odds providers struggle to keep pace with veteran operators, it wasn’t clear how ESPN Bet would perform. 

In this case, the sportsbook can celebrate a sizable victory. ESPN Bet in Kentucky is already more popular than Fanatics and not too far off BetMGM and Caesars.

Will the Kentucky Sports Gambling Handle Clear $3 Billion in Year 1?

In total, the Kentucky sports betting handle sniffed $1.4 billion during the first six months of operations. That raises the question: Can it hit $2 billion in Year 1?

This inquiry is more complicated than it seems. At this current pace, the Kentucky sports betting handle is on course to hit $2.8 billion during the first year. But the first few months are always extra busy. That’s when online sportsbook sign-up bonuses are at their most appealing. State officials are no doubt preparing to see the total gamble handle undergo some dips as online sports betting becomes less novel.

On top of that, the Kentucky sports betting market just navigated some of the busiest periods of the calendar. Betting on the Super Bowl as well as betting on the Kentucky Derby both reached fever pitch during this window. The Bluegrass State also played host to the PGA Championship this year. The second half of the year won’t have as many tentpole events. Especially inside the market.

But while the Kentucky sports betting handle shouldn’t hit $3 billion in Year 1, it sure seems like it’ll top $2 billion without breaking a sweat.

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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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