Kentucky governor says sports wagering is off to strong start, with the pace about to pick up

September 21, 2023 5:54 PM
Photo: Office of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear
  • Bruce Shreiner, Associated Press
September 21, 2023 5:54 PM
  • Bruce Shreiner, Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Sports betting in Kentucky is off to a strong start right out of the gate, attracting more than $4.5 million in wagering since launching two weeks ago, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.

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And the pace will pick up significantly in a week when mobile wagering launches, he said.

Sports wagering facilities opened across the Bluegrass State on Sept. 7 in the first phase of the rollout, made possible when the Legislature finished work on a bill to legalize, regulate and tax sports wagering in late March during the final hours of its annual session. Beshear quickly signed the measure into law.

Beshear placed the first sports bet at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, fulfilling a pledge that his administration would launch sports wagering in time for the NFL regular season. Opening day for sports betting came on the same day as the NFL’s first game of the season.

Since the retail launch, preliminary figures show sports wagering has topped $4.5 million across Kentucky, Beshear said in an update during his regular news conference.

“This is a strong number that certainly reflects the excitement Kentuckians have for the opening of sports wagering,” the Democratic governor said. “With college football and the NFL season underway, plus the launch of mobile wagering, we expect that number will grow significantly.”

Beshear pushed to legalize sports betting throughout his term. The governor is seeking reelection this year, and his Republican challenger, Daniel Cameron, also touted what he sees as the benefits of sports wagering for Kentucky at a gubernatorial forum Wednesday night.

“I’m pleased that we have sports wagering here in the commonwealth,” Cameron said. “And I certainly think that it will have an economic benefit to our state. There’s no question about that.”

Starting Sept. 28, Kentuckians can begin placing sports wagers on their smartphones. In preparation for the mobile opening, people can create an account and deposit money into licensed mobile wagering applications. More than 60,000 mobile accounts are preregistered in the state, Beshear said.

Kentucky lawmakers established a new excise tax on sports wagering: 9.75% on the adjusted gross revenues on wagers made at a licensed facility and 14.25% on wagers placed online or on a smartphone.

Once fully implemented, sports wagering is projected to generate about $23 million in yearly revenue for the state, although some supporters predict higher amounts. Most of the revenue will flow into Kentucky’s public pension system. It also will stop the siphoning of revenue to other states where Kentuckians previously placed sports bets, supporters said.

But critics of sports betting see it as an addictive form of gambling that will hurt Kentucky families. A small percentage of sports wagering tax revenue will flow into a fund to help combat problem gambling.