The Red Mile served as the site for Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to sign off on Kentucky sports betting regulations, and in less than two months, the 148-year-old harness track in the heart of Lexington could very well be the site for even more history.
One floor below where Beshear approved the regs sits a bar adjacent to The Red Mile’s historical horse racing parlor, which it operates as a joint venture with nearby thoroughbred track Keeneland. That bar will be transformed into a Caesars Sportsbook retail site, and pending approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, it will likely be open on Sept. 7, the first-day brick-and-mortar establishments can take wagers in the Bluegrass State. That’s three weeks before online apps will be allowed to launch in Kentucky.
Online Sports Betting Is King In Current Market
For many people of a certain age, thoughts of sports betting hearken to Las Vegas sportsbooks, for years the only place where you could bet legally on a game. Those sportsbooks have large screens that can show multiple games at once. Buddies arrange trips to Vegas every year to watch and wager on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in that setting.
Sports betting has spread to three-quarters of the country in the five years since the Supreme Court overturned PASPA. Most states now have retail books of their own, though few would match the size and scale of those in Vegas. But in the post-PASPA Era, sports betting is almost exclusively an online market across the country, and a couple of Kentucky’s neighbors are proof of that.
Last month, 95% of the $224.1 million in wagers made in Indiana were placed online. In Ohio, which launched retail and apps on Jan. 1, online has been responsible for 97.3% of the $3.46 billion wagered over the first five months.
Why Brick-And-Mortar Is Important To Red Mile
Even with the trends showing that retail sportsbooks typically do not command much traffic, having a brick-and-mortar facility was important for a few reasons, Red Mile COO/CFO Shannon Cobb told BetKentucky on Monday.
For starters, the track wants a drawing card for people who otherwise may not look to come to the track.
“We get the opportunity to provide them a really neat, nice newly renovated space, and we get the opportunity to reintroduce them to live racing, to simulcasting, to our HHR product and become another amenity that’s great for their entertainment here in Lexington,” she said.
One of the reasons why Red Mile sought to partner with Kentucky Caesars Sportsbook is the Las Vegas company’s commitment to brick-and-mortar, Cobb added. Caesars is the largest brick-and-mortar sportsbook operator in the U.S., and it has a couple of facilities just minutes away from Kentucky in Southern Indiana.
Dan Shapiro, the senior vice president and chief development officer for Caesars Digital, told BetKentucky the company is proud to work with Red Mile and Keeneland and be the only retail operator in Lexington, Kentucky’s second-largest market.
“Having a premier brick-and-mortar location in Kentucky will be instrumental for us to build relationships with customers and also process cash deposits and withdrawals to Caesars Sportsbook mobile accounts, enabling an omnichannel experience,” Shapiro said.
Cobb said the bar will be a permanent venue for sports betting, but the track will also look to put kiosks elsewhere, such as in the simulcasting room and other areas on the HHR floor.
You can read about Caesars and all of the top Kentucky sportsbook apps expected to go live in the Bluegrass State here on BetKentucky.com.
More Partners To Come?
Under Kentucky’s sports betting law, Keeneland and Red Mile each can partner with up to three online sports betting operators.
Cobb said Red Mile has talked with several operators interested in coming to Kentucky and partnering with other operators will be considered.
“We want to get operational,” she said. “I’m sure that we will look at the other licenses available to us, and we’ll probably speak with Caesars. We want to be a good partner. They want to be a good partner with us, and so, we’ll analyze what makes sense from here forward.”
Keeneland, meanwhile, is taking a more deliberate approach. Amy Gregory, the track’s director of communications, told BetKentucky that Red Mile will be filing for the license to host the Caesars brick-and-mortar site.
“Keeneland will file for a license if, at some point in the future, we decide to open a sports betting operation on our grounds,” she said.
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