Breaking Down Potential Partnerships For BetMGM Sportsbook In Kentucky

Written By Adam Hensley on July 31, 2023 - Last Updated on August 1, 2023
BetMGM Kentucky sportsbook partner

Last week, one of BetMGM’s parent companies, Entain, held its second-quarter earnings call. Afterward, the company published a press release that, while expected, was impactful on the upcoming sports betting market.

The company confirmed that a BetMGM Kentucky platform will launch in the Bluegrass State this year. The online sportsbook is the third to confirm a sport in the Kentucky sports betting market, joining Caesars and FanDuel.

Per HB 551, which legalized sports betting in Kentucky, all online sportsbooks need to partner with an eligible Kentucky racetrack. And we already have a sense of which racetracks will partner with those operators.

On the other hand, BetMGM is a bit of a mystery.

But reading between the lines, here’s a look at what does and does not make sense regarding which racetrack will partner with the sportsbook.

Churchill Downs seems like a longshot, but a partnership would be quite the brand match

Churchill Downs Inc. is synonymous with the horse racing industry and is arguably the biggest name in Kentucky entertainment. The MGM brand is a hospitality blueblood. FanDuel Kentucky already confirmed a partnership with CDI, but CDI will have more than one partnership in the Bluegrass State.

Together, the two brands could form quite a partnership. There would be no shortage of opportunities between the biggest name in horse racing with one of the entertainment world leaders.

However, PlayKentucky assumes CDI’s existing relationships will trump any sort of advances with BetMGM.

CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen spoke highly of FanDuel earlier this year after the sportsbook became the first to integrate pari-mutuel racebook into its traditional platform.

“So far, particularly FanDuel, I think they’re showing a lot of interest and appetite,” he said in CDI’s Q1 earnings call. “And the thesis that we have here is that many of our customers will enjoy a bet on the Kentucky Derby or horse racing, but we never managed to reach those customers with our TwinSpires offering.”

CDI won’t stop with just a FanDuel partnership.

CDI vice president of communications Tonya Abeln told PlayKentucky that more deals are on the horizon. And on Monday, she said that CDI will announce its partnerships on Aug. 17.

Based on CDI’s existing horse racing partnerships, it’s wise to assume DraftKings would be the other sportsbook next in line. DraftKings partnered with CDI late last year to launch its DK Horse, a horse racing platform. CDI also has a Pennsylvania partnership with Bet365, which could be a third partner.

Keeneland and Red Mile ruled out with Caesars partnership

In May, Keeneland and Red Mile announced a partnership with Caesars Entertainment, which takes two possible landing spots off the board. Caesars Sportsbook Kentucky was the first to announce a partnership with Kentucky racetracks.

Per their agreement, a Caesars-branded retail sportsbook will be inside Red Mile. It will be called the Red Room.


Sandy’s Racing & Gaming seems like a top landing spot

To be clear, when PlayKentucky spoke with members of Revolutionary Racing, no spokesperson identified a specific sportsbook partnership. However, based on the information given and a little process of elimination, it appears BetMGM could be a prime candidate for a partnership with the Ashland facility.

In an exclusive interview with PlayKentucky, Conor Lucas, Revolutionary Racing VP of Government Affairs, explained that the target for the Sandy’s Racing & Gaming sportsbook partner would be one of the industry’s top four operators.

“Obviously, in a state like Kentucky — especially with us being in a more rural community — having an online sportsbook is very valuable, as opposed to a brick-and-mortar one,” Lucas said. “Name recognition is also obviously important. Sports betting is competitive. Outside of FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars, it’s pretty small fractions after that. Those guys have 90% of the market, 80% of the market in most states. The rest is 2%, 5%.

“For us, we want to go for one of those big four.”

There has been no official announcement just yet. When PlayKentucky connected with Lucas in late June, he said they were “pretty far down the road” in their negotiations with a partner. All that was left was some of the legal details.

The latest we’ve heard is that an announcement could come any day. John Marshall, the President and COO of Revolutionary Racing, told PlayKentucky in mid-July that Sandy’s had picked its desired partner and that it was a “big name you would recognize.” Take that as you will.

Sandy’s Racing & Gaming’s retail sportsbook will be state-of-the-art regardless of the operating partner. Lucas said it would be about 5,800 square feet with close to 70 different screens and plenty of seating options, complete with food and drink.

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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a staff writer for PlayKentucky. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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