Kentucky Sports Betting: What To Watch For Next

Kentucky Sports Betting: What To Watch For Next
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

Now that Kentucky sports betting is live for retail and online, it doesn’t mean the news will stop in the Bluegrass State. On the contrary, there will still be several developments to watch out for in the coming weeks and months. Here’s a brief list of the storylines BetKentucky.com will be observing as the Kentucky sports betting apps  vie for customers in the newest state to launch.

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How Will Fanatics Fare?

Fanatics Sportsbook Kentucky has made a big splash as it vies for market share against industry leaders FanDuel and DraftKings and other strong competitors such as Barstool Sportsbook, Bet365, BetMGM and Caesars. While the online sports merchandiser is in four other states, those were soft launches in markets where the sportsbooks listed above had clear head starts. In Kentucky, they’re all starting together.

We should get a good idea of Fanatics’ competitiveness when the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission releases the first numbers in the coming weeks. If Fanatics can take the No. 3 slot in Kentucky, it may bode well for their chances to gain market share in other states.

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Will ESPN Give Penn A Boost?

Penn Sports Interactive is rolling out in Kentucky with its lame-duck brand, but the gaming company has announced it will rebrand its online sports betting operation later this year. PENN Entertainment is putting billions on the line as it hopes connecting with the sports media giant increases its market share. Will Kentuckians choose to wait until the new brand kicks off, and will ESPN BET also be able to siphon some customers away from FanDuel sportsbook Kentucky and DraftKings KY?

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Who Else Might Join The Party?

Seven of the eight operators approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission launched on the state's first day of online sports betting. The other, Circa Sportsbook Kentucky, announced Thursday it will reveal its plans for the state later.

Even before the launch, a ninth operator – new-to-market Prime Sports – said it would launch in Kentucky in the near future. With each of the state’s nine racetracks able (if licensed) to partner with up to three online operators, there’s still plenty of room for more Kentucky sports betting apps in companies that are interested. Some names to watch down the road are Hard Rock Bet, Tipico, Betway, Betr and Betfred.

Is Churchill Downs A Wild Card?

The Louisville-based gaming company owns four of the state’s nine licensed tracks, and it divided its Kentucky sports betting partnerships among those tracks as FanDuel paired with Turfway Park, Barstool/Penn aligned with Ellis Park and Fanatics aligned with Oak Grove. The company’s namesake Louisville track does not yet have an online partner – although it and Churchill’s other properties are partnering with Kambi for retail sportsbooks operations – so there’s the potential it may make a move there in the near future.

Churchill Downs Incorporated caught some flack from gaming industry insiders a year-and-a-half ago when it unceremoniously pulled out of online sports betting (although TwinSpires continues to operate in Arizona). CEO Bill Carstanjen cited the amount of promotional money that others in the market were offering customers as the main reason for the withdrawal, saying that that spending made it nearly impossible to find a way to be profitable in the near term.

More than 18 months later, the promotional spending is starting to recede, and sportsbooks are becoming profitable. Might that entice Churchill leaders to reconsider?

There’s something else to consider about this. Many in Kentucky see Churchill Downs as a racing company because that’s the product the company offers in the state. The fact is CDI is one of the top regional gaming operators in the nation. Churchill is building a nearly $300 million casino in Terre Haute, Ind. It’s partnering with another company in trying to get voters in Richmond, Va., to approve building a $562 million casino resort there. A year ago, it bought most of Pacific Peninsula Entertainment’s gaming portfolio, which included casinos in Iowa and New York. As it develops its casino portfolio, having an in-house sportsbook for those properties will likely make sense.

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Author

Steve Bittenbender

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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