The first numbers are in for Kentucky sports betting. On Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear said there were “well over” 60,000 pre-registrations for mobile accounts ahead of next Thursday, when online sports betting goes live across the commonwealth. That figure also does not include all operators approved for licenses.
And that figure also does not include people who registered for accounts like FanDuel and DraftKings when they went live in neighboring states. GeoComply, which provides geolocation services for several sportsbooks, reported more than 180,000 active user accounts held by Kentucky residents in February.
Last month, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved eight companies for online licenses. Of those, Barstool Sportsbook, Bet365, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook Kentucky, DraftKings, Fanatics Sportsbook and FanDuel all plan to start taking bets next week. Circa Sports, the other approved operator, expects to start later this year.
First Handle Figures Reported
Sports betting at brick-and-mortar locations has been live since Sept. 7. Beshear also announced on Thursday that those sportsbooks posted a handle of more than $4.5 million after the first two weekends. That total was not broken down by location.
He called it “a strong number,” but he also knows what lies ahead.
“With college football and the NFL season underway, plus the launch of mobile wagering, we expect that number will grow significantly,” Beshear said.
Online sports wagering apps are the preferred choice for most sports bettors. In states with in-person and online options, mobile betting typically is responsible for 85% or more of the handle. In some states, like Ohio, it’s higher than 95%.
Comparing Kentucky’s Launch to Louisiana
Kentucky’s initial retail handle would project to a monthly handle of approximately $13.5 million for an entire month. By comparison, Louisiana, the legal sports betting market most comparable to Kentucky by population, had an opening handle of $27.6 million when retail sports betting went live in November 2021. While the market sizes are similar, a couple of key differences between the two might explain the difference.
First, unlike Kentucky, none of Louisiana’s neighboring states had online betting available when Louisiana opened its sportsbooks. Louisiana also has Texas, the nation’s second-most populous state, as a neighbor. Second, while brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are now open, it still might be quicker or more convenient for Kentuckians to trek across state lines and place their bets in online accounts where they’ve deposited funds.
Also, not all of Kentucky’s tracks have opened brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. BetMGM Kentucky’s sportsbook near Ashland will open later this fall when Sandy’s Racing and Gaming opens its gaming hall. Kentucky Downs, a track just north of Nashville on the Tennessee state line, is also expected to announce its sports betting plans at some point, possibly later this year.
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