Kentucky sports bettors could place in-person wagers at land-based sportsbooks on Sept. 7, as well as deposit money into their mobile accounts that will go live on Sept. 28. However, social chatter, a mobile-licensed operator, and one supplier made it clear to Bonus that the online sports betting debut may be more significant news.
Eight operators are expected to launch once the Kentucky online sports betting marketplace goes live on Sept. 28.
On Aug. 28, Kentucky online sportsbook operators could accept account pre-registrations. Also, beginning at 6 a.m. today, those accountholders could deposit funds into their accounts.
The following sportsbook operators received regulator approval to offer online esports and sports betting:
- Barstool (mobile)
- Bet365 (mobile)
- BetMGM (retail and mobile)
- Caesars (retail and mobile)
- Circa (mobile)
- DraftKings (retail and mobile)
- Fanatics (mobile)
- FanDuel (mobile)
John A. Pappas, the senior vice president of government and public affairs at GeoComply, responded to a question from Bonus today. Bonus asked the representative of the location detection software and cybersecurity provider if he could provide any data on how many Kentuckians are creating accounts and depositing in them.
Earlier, GeoComply’s data showed that after Ohio launched online sports betting on Jan. 1, Kentuckians were likely traveling to the Buckeye State to place bets. That’s because Cincinnati, just over the Kentucky border, was the top sportsbook geolocation check-in location.
Pappas told Bonus today:
We will wait until mobile launch to determine what data we will be able to share.
Circa Sports Operations Director Jeff Benson told Bonus today:
We will be going live first with mobile only, timing is TBD. Excited to enter the KY market and bring sportsbetting the way it should be to all in the great state.
“We are only mobile,” said Kevin Hennessy, the vice president of communications at Fanatics.
Fanatics Sportsbook is a Fanatics Betting and Gaming (FBG) brand. FBG is the gambling arm of the sports memorabilia etailer.
The other six sports betting operators didn’t respond to a request for comment from Bonus today.
Kentucky Sports Bettors Are Ready for Mobile Wagers
Ron Flatter of Louisville is excited about Sept. 28:
Before long I will have signed up for all the Kentucky sports-betting apps, which are still three weeks away from their own launch. I want to see what the juice is at each of these books before I dive in.
— Ron Flatter (@ronflatter) September 7, 2023
Flatter and others also contended that horse racing was sports betting. So he believed those saying today’s bets were the first were wrong. (Horse racing bets are a different category of wagering called “parimutuel.” That, indeed, has existed in Kentucky for a long time.)
However, Flatter knows that. He’s the host of Ron Flatter Racing Pod at VSiN.
Meanwhile, on various social media sites, including Facebook and Reddit, Kentuckians posted what they planned to bet on when the apps launch. They mentioned which apps they were considering. However, many posts involve expletives or unrelated calls for cannabis legalization, so they’re omitted here.
Kentucky Sports Bettors Included Beshear
Today, many Kentucky lawmakers ventured into land-based sportsbooks to place wagers. There, they were greeted by multiple journalists ready to record the event.
The first sports bettor was Gov. Andy Beshear.
That meant the first legal sports bet in Kentucky was placed at 10 a.m. today at the Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville by the man who signed HB551 into law on March 31.
While driving to the racetrack, Beshear recorded a 27-second selfie video and posted it to X at 9:21 a.m. today:
Hey, everyone. It’s Andy.
I am pulling up to Churchill Downs to make the first sports bet in Kentucky history.
Folks have wanted this for years, and I am proud we are delivering.
This is a good day for Kentucky. It’s gonna boost our tourism. It’s gonna keep our dollars in-state, and I am so excited that we can get it over the finish line, get it done, and now sports betting is legal in Kentucky.
Once at the Churchill Downs Race and Sports Book window, the governor placed a $20 parlay bet “for the ‘over’ on wins for the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville football teams, and the ‘under’ on Duke University’s football team.”
Online jokes said Beshear’s bet against Duke to honor the rivalry against the North Carolina team may do the most to unite Kentuckians.
They said we couldn't do it, but It's always a win to bet on Kentucky.
First sports bet placed: ✔️ pic.twitter.com/XN6FAPzZk7
— Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) September 7, 2023
Beshear then traveled to Lexington to cut the ribbon on the Caesars Sportsbook at The Red Mile Gaming and Racing track. He then placed a second bet this afternoon at the facility where the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) voted on July 10 to approve sports betting regulations.
Many other lawmakers ventured to the retail sportsbooks, made bets, and posed for pictures today:
.@kyhousedems Caucus Chair @CherlynnForKY and Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo joined with many other legislators today at @RedMileKY to help kick off sports betting in Kentucky. They bet on UK’s men’s basketball team & the Cincinnati Bengals to win it all during their upcoming seasons. pic.twitter.com/r5P8l3yoxa
— KY House Democrats (@kyhousedems) September 7, 2023
Kentucky Sports Bettors Present a Geolocation Challenge
Unlike surrounding states, Kentucky sports bettors can be 18 and legally place a mobile wager.
While BetMGM, Caesars, Fanatics, and FanDuel are sticking with the 21-plus gambling age that’s most common for US sportsbooks, Bet365, Circa, and DraftKings will follow Kentucky law and offer their sports betting apps to Kentuckians 18 and older.
Barstool, the Penn Entertainment sportsbook brand that’s changing to ESPN Bet, hasn’t yet revealed its gambling age choice.
That Kentucky gambling age presents a geolocation challenge.
Pappas reassured Kentucky lawmakers before the bill’s passage that Kentucky sports bettors would be within the state’s borders.
On April 3, Pappas stated:
After Ohio launched on January 1, the data was impossible to ignore. In the first month alone, we processed more than 1 million geolocation checks and identified nearly 60,000 player accounts in Kentucky accessing legal sports betting apps licensed in Ohio. Of course, our technology prevented those individuals in Kentucky from placing a bet.
These numbers continued to soar, and our government affairs team continually shared updated figures with Kentucky lawmakers around the Super Bowl and other key moments. GeoComply data was cited repeatedly at public House and Senate hearings, and in private meetings throughout the Frankfort capital buildings.
Six days ago, GeoComply posted on LinkedIn:
Our experience and time spent maintaining mission-critical online gaming compliance in the 6 states that share a border with Kentucky gives us unparalleled insights into protecting our customers in the Blue Grass State and ensures an exceptional experience for their players.
We can’t wait until September 28th!
Esports Betting Also Launched
In Kentucky, esports bets are allowed for the following video game tournament outcomes:
- Call of Duty League
- Counterstrike Global Offensive (CS:GO)
- League of Legends (LoL)
- Dota 2
- NBA 2k League
- Overwatch League
- Rainbow 6
Cody Luongo, a senior manager of corporate communications with Ontario online gambling operator Rivalry, also writes the Sharpr e-newsletter.
Luongo told Bonus today that his tally of legal US esports betting jurisdictions now includes Kentucky:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
He didn’t include North Carolina because that esports and sports betting state’s marketplace won’t launch until next year.
Meanwhile, in Luongo’s newsletter today about “the intersection of esports and betting,” he wrote:
Kentucky’s sports betting catalog greenlights eight different esports and leagues, from the most bet-on titles to developing games such as Valorant and Rainbow 6.
Whitelists seem to be the best option for regulating esports and navigating its nuance and how nascent the category is in the eyes of both lawmakers and operators. This leaves less to the imagination versus more ambiguous state legislation where I imagine broad language around esports is less helpful in understanding which games are actually worth offering and safe.
Esports is likely the last thing on everyone’s mind with the NFL season kicking off today, but Kentucky has certainly taken a step in the right direction for the segment to grow stateside in the future.
As noted, today is the NFL season kickoff. So Beshear’s goal of launching Kentucky sports betting before the football season became a reality today, just hours before the Kansas City Chiefs took on the Detroit Lions.