Kentucky Online Sports Betting Goes Live, Seven Operators Off and Running

  • Kentucky is the 25th state with mobile sports betting
  • Circa is the only licensed operator yet to launch
  • Retail sports betting has been live for three weeks
  • Governor Beshear is excited to keep wagering dollars in-state
Churchill Downs in the evening
Online sports betting launched in Kentucky on Thursday; seven of the state’s eight licensed operators have gone live. [Image:]

Circa Sports still to come

Kentucky’s online sports betting market has gone live, making it the 25th state to have mobile sports wagering. The online launch missed the very beginning of the lucrative NFL season (not to mention college football), but it is in time for the NFL’s Week 4, which kicks off Thursday night with the Green Bay Packers hosting the Detroit Lions in an NFC North rivalry battle.

An excited Governor Andy Beshear celebrated mobile sports betting with a quick video Thursday morning:

Seven of the eight licensed operators flipped the switch on their apps within three hours of the 6:00am start time: Barstool Sportsbook, Bet365, BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, Fanatics, and FanDuel. Most were ready within the first hour. The eighth operator, Circa Sports, plans to go live as soon as possible.

In Kentucky, people as young as 18 are allowed to place bets, but most of the online sportsbooks are sticking to the usual 21. DraftKings and Bet365 are the two that are going with the lower age limit.

Optimism abounds

Retail sports betting already went live in Kentucky on September 7. It was an extremely fast legalization-to-launch timeline, as Governor Beshear only just signed the bill in March. In the first two weeks of in-person sports betting, Kentucky sports books accepted approximately $4.5m in wagers.

The online numbers will easily eclipse that and will do so quickly. According to Legal Sports Report, in states that have both retail and online sports betting, about 90% of total handle comes from online wagers. The site also estimates that even with just three months remaining in the year, Kentucky sportsbooks could attract as much as $1bn in handle in 2023.

college sports are king in the Bluegrass State

When states open their sports betting markets, people often look at the professional sports teams in the state as a gauge on how popular wagering might be. Kentucky doesn’t have any major pro teams, but because Cincinnati is on the Kentucky border, both the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and MLB’s Cincinnati Reds have strong followings in Kentucky. College sports are king in the Bluegrass State, highlighted by the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.

Kentuckians can stay home

Kentucky is surrounded by states that have legal sports betting markets, so one of the goals with Thursday’s launch is to keep sports wagering dollars in the state. In a report this spring, GeoComply said that it processed nearly 1.3 million geolocation checks in Kentucky in March, meaning there were that many instances in which people in the state tried to place online bets.

that’s a lot of possible bets that can now stay within Kentucky’s borders

The checks came from about 62,000 different player accounts. Almost 80% of the pings were on sportsbooks located in Ohio and Indiana; 41% in Ohio and 38.6% in Indiana. That’s a lot of possible bets that can now stay within Kentucky’s borders, not to mention all the people who will now sign up for wagering accounts since it is legal.

Online sportsbooks must pay a 14.25% tax on adjusted gross revenues, compared to a 9.75% tax rate for retail sportsbooks. Governor Beshear, who placed the first retail sports wager in the state earlier this month, estimates that annual sports betting tax revenue will be about $23m.

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