Kentucky Sports Betting Launch is Off to a Scorching-Hot Start

Kentucky Sports Betting Launch is Off to a Scorching-Hot Start

Legal Kentucky sports betting has only been live for a couple of weeks, and it’s apparently already blowing expectations out of the water.

Retail gambling operators inside The Bluegrass State officially opened on September 7. Initial hopes for business were high, in large part because of the timing. Kentucky planned their legal gambling launch specifically so that operators could offer betting on the NFL from the very start of the 2023 regular season.

That approach has, it seems, worked out in a big way. Not only that, but sports betting in Kentucky is reportedly even more popular than originally projected. And what’s more, given what’s to come, this may be just the beginning. Another Kentucky sports gambling milestone could ensure the state rakes in tax revenue at an even more jaw-dropping rate.

Residents Jumped at the Opportunity to Visit Kentucky Sports Betting Locations

Successful sports betting launches in the United States are not exactly a rarity. Legal sports gambling is a massive growth industry. The debut of betting services is seldom met with disappointment. Concerns tend to come years down the line, after legal sports betting has been live for a while and it’s not as much of a novelty.

Still, the Kentucky sports betting launch came under unique circumstances. In reality, it was more like an expansion rather than a debut. State residents were already permitted to bet on horse races. Certain legislature members were worried that they might not rush to bet on general sporting events as quickly as residents in other regions that didn’t allow any forms of sports gambling. On top of that, Kentucky online sports betting did not roll out at the same time as retail gambling. That launch will come later. And since most wagers these days are funneled through online sportsbooks in the United States, it wasn’t clear whether the staggered debut would repress the early bottom lines. 

It turns out that any and all concerns were premature, if not completely unwarranted. Retail sports betting in Kentucky has been a booming industry from the jump. Spectrum News 1 broke it all down in an Associated Press wire article:

Sports wagering facilities opened across the Bluegrass State on Sept. 7 in the first phase of the rollout, made possible when the Legislature finished work on a bill to legalize, regulate and tax sports wagering in late March during the final hours of its annual session. Beshear quickly signed the measure into law. Since the retail launch, preliminary figures show sports wagering has topped $4.5 million across Kentucky, Beshear said in an update during his regular news conference. ‘This is a strong number that certainly reflects the excitement Kentuckians have for the opening of sports wagering,’ the Democratic governor said. ‘With college football and the NFL season underway, plus the launch of mobile wagering, we expect that number will grow significantly.’”

Though the timing of the retail launch will (deservedly) receive a lot of credit for the onset success, Kentucky also made sure to prioritize accessibility. Eight sportsbooks were reportedly operational at the launch across various locations, including seven different race tracks. Other states that rolled out on-site wagering first (or exclusively) did not ensure sports betting was as widely available. From a financial perspective, Kentucky was clearly smart to forego a softer opening with just one or two operators. 

Sports Betting Revenue in Kentucky May Continue Obliterating Expectations from Here

As Governor Beshear mentioned in his press conference, the state is hopeful that the launch of Kentucky online sports betting will drive revenue projections even higher than they are now. His optimism seems to be well placed. Experts inside the market forecasting more than $20 million first-year tax revenue profits.

“Once fully implemented, sports wagering is projected to generate about $23 million in yearly revenue for the state, although some supporters predict higher amounts,” the Associated press wrote. “Kentucky lawmakers established a new excise tax on sports wagering: 9.75 percent on the adjusted gross revenues on wagers made at a licensed facility and 14.25 percent on wagers placed online or on a smartphone.”

These are monstrous figures for a state that doesn’t boast a top-10 population. And yet, if the first couple of weeks are any indication, Kentucky may actually be underestimating their earning potential. 

This is not hyperbole. Kentucky online sports betting goes live on Thursday, September 28. This, again, is a deliberate date. Online operators will go live just in time for NFL Thursday Night Football and just in advance of that weekend’s slate of both college football and NFL games. More than that, Kentucky’s optimistic calculations aren’t merely rooted in theory. They have numbers to back it up.

Kentucky Sports Betting Set Up for Long Term Success, Too

According to the Associated Press, over 60,000 online sports betting accounts have already been pre-registered in advance of the September 28 launch. And at this writing, we still have roughly one week to go before that rollout. This number could exponentially increase.

As far as sports betting launches in the United States have gone, Kentucky should be commended for how they handled their own. The staggered implementation of retail wagering and online sports betting was seen as a potential mistake at first. Clearly, it was not. 

Kentucky set itself up for an immediate and medium-term windfall by really promoting the pre-registration process and drumming up anticipation with the staggered launch. Equally important: They have mechanisms in place that should allow them to keep growing the Kentucky retail and online sports betting business for years. 

The bill that Governor Beshear signed into law is uniquely flexible. It allows for the state to license up to 30 different sportsbooks. They may never reach that number in total. However, the flexibility is incredibly valuable. Markets can get stale if they don’t have enough competition. This setup will also allow Kentucky to capitalize on any deep-pocketed new entrants to the industry—such as Fanatics Sportsbook and ESPN, two services that have aggressively looked to expand their footprint.

Overall, it’s tough to imagine the present and future of Kentucky sports betting looking any better than it does right now.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for 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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