Churchill Downs CEO Expects KY Sportsbooks ‘Around Football Season’

Posted on May 17, 2023

Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen expects Kentucky sports betting to be live “around football season.”

He said so during a Wednesday presentation with the Association for Corporate Growth, according to Chris Otts of WDRB.

Carstanjen’s comments echo the sentiments shared by Gov. Andy Beshear, various state lawmakers and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz — who all share the goal of Kentucky online sportsbooks launching by the NFL season in September.

Is Churchill Downs CEO right?

House Bill 551, which formally legalized sports betting in Kentucky, stipulates that sportsbooks must launch by Dec. 28, 2023, at the latest. However, beyond lawmakers’ optimism, most industry experts believe launch will also happen sooner.

The state’s nine horse racetracks, including Churchill Downs, and Kentucky Speedway can open retail sportsbooks. They can also partner with up to three online operators. That’s a total of 40 licenses (30 online, 10 retail). However, chances are considered quite slim that Kentucky winds up with even close to that amount of licenses.

Kansas provides a recent example of an expedited launch. The state’s sports betting bill was signed last May, and sportsbooks went live in September. That’s just four months.

So, yes, there’s a real chance Carstanjen is right when he said Kentucky sportsbooks could be available around football season.

We already know of one sportsbook that will launch in Kentucky. Caesars announced this week it has partnered with Keeneland and The Red Mile for retail sportsbooks at a Caesars Sportsbook Kentucky app when mobile betting goes live.

Here’s what comes next

The KHRC has been working behind the scenes on drafts of regulations for sports betting since Beshear signed HB 551 into law in March. Up next is the KHRC’s next public meeting, on June 20, during which we should get an update regarding how much progress has been made.

Then, when the bill officially goes into effect June 28, the KHRC can formally begin the licensure process. The NFL season starts on Sept. 7 — that’s roughly 2 1/2 months.

Beshear sounded optimistic the KHRC would get the job done earlier in May during one of his weekly press conferences.

“We are not creating the wheel here,” he said. “The wheel has been created in many other states. So, our job is to look and to take the very best practices to make sure that bureaucracy does not slow us down.”

ALSO READ: 5 Potential Launch Dates For Sportsbooks In Kentucky

Photo by AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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Matthew Bain

Matthew Bain started as a Content Manager for PlayKentucky and other Catena Media sites in 2022. He covered the launch of Massachusetts sports betting and the Prop 26 vs. Prop 27 battle in California. Before that, he spent six years as a sports reporter and then deputy sports editor for the Des Moines Register, during which time he won nine statewide journalism awards, including the Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Outstanding Young Iowa Journalists Award. As deputy sports editor, Matthew oversaw the Register's recruiting coverage while also innovating the outlet's high school sports coverage. Matthew graduated from San Diego State and grew up in California, but he's somehow a Boston Celtics fan. Long story.

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