BetRivers Sportsbook Still Deciding ‘Whether To Enter’ Kentucky Market

Posted on May 11, 2023 - Last Updated on May 12, 2023

When Kentucky launches its sports betting industry, will BetRivers make the cut?

That’s a decision for parent company Rush Street Interactive.

There’s no date set in stone for when Kentucky sports betting will officially launch, but we know it will go live by December.

In the meantime, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will hash out sports betting regulations and divvy up operator licenses.

You can seemingly guarantee that big names like FanDuel and DraftKings will be some of the first in line for a license.

But will BetRivers Kentucky be among the group?

BetRivers approach in Massachusetts

During its first-quarter earnings call, RSI executives were asked specifically about their decision to not launch in Massachusetts — and how it relates to the future in Kentucky.

Massachusetts, home of frenzied Boston sports fans, didn’t appear to be that valuable of a market for BetRivers. Because back in November, when the state’s gaming commission imposed a deadline for operator applications, BetRivers was noticeably absent.

It all boiled down to return on investment.

“At the end of the day, you’ll see that our goal is to really make sure that we recover our investments on it relatively soon at a fast pace,” RSI CEO Richard Todd Schwartz said during this month’s call. “And so when we look at all the modeling and the subjective analysis of the various opportunities in the market, we make a decision whether to enter and pursue that market or not. And so that’s what we’ve done in Massachusetts, and we’ll be doing the same thing in Kentucky.”

So far, that mindset has proven profitable.

RSI’s first-quarter earnings outperformed projections. The company beat all its first-quarter goals to start the year.

RSI’s revenue for the first three months was $162.4 million, which is a 20% increase year-over-year. Its net loss of $24.5 million is a 47% decrease from last year’s timeframe.

Online casino presence is a major decision driver

One key factor in BetRivers’ approach is its online casino presence.

Schwartz emphasized during the earnings call how much RSI is pushing for online casinos legalization in the US. Online casinos generate greater revenue than online sportsbooks, and BetRivers has veered toward investing in its online casino product and states that have legalized online casinos lately.

“In terms of markets, we are always looking to direct our capital to get the best returns, staying very disciplined on where we spend the capital and what our expectations are for results,” Schwartz said. “So when it comes to a new market, every state or jurisdiction looks at it on a case-by-case basis, looking at the tax rates, looking at adjacent markets.

“We’re looking at expected competitive intensity opportunity for (online casinos) to be legalized in the near term versus long term in those markets. And then we look at data from our past launches to match our investments with our expected returns.”

That’s where a Kentucky decision could get tricky. As of now, there’s no legislation in place to legalize online casinos within the state. Retail casinos are available, but no real-money options for players on their phones.

That being said, the launch of sports betting could eventually trigger the online casino domino to fall. Kentucky’s online gambling presence will certainly make a splash with sports this year.

Should there be any rumblings in the coming months of online casinos on the horizon, BetRivers would certainly listen.

Sportsbook market share could impact the decision

It’s not always a win for sportsbooks when a state launches sports betting.

BetRivers isn’t a small sportsbook by any means. But it’s nowhere near the size of companies that will be household names in Kentucky, such as FanDuel Sportsbook KY or DraftKings Sportsbook KY.

And with that comes the challenge of acquiring new customers.

Those companies have seemingly endless pockets for advertising and promotions. With limited opportunities to enter new US markets, they will probably continue their spending in Kentucky.

FanDuel is projecting future growth for 2023. Therefore, Kentucky is key for FanDuel this year.

BetRivers, which previously had a new customer deposit match bonus of up to $250, changed its approach recently. Now, the sportsbook offers a $500 second-chance bet that goes into effect if a new customer loses their first wager with BetRivers.

Could college basketball factor into BetRivers’ decision to launch in Kentucky?

It’s no secret that Kentucky residents love their college hoops. And that could be key when it comes to BetRivers having a share of the Kentucky market.

BetRivers currently has a partnership with the Field of 68 Media Network. The Field of 68 is the brainchild of Jeff Goodman and Rob Dauster. It’s a company dedicated to year-round college basketball coverage.

And it just so happens that Field of 68 has its own Kentucky basketball podcast: The Burner Turner Show.

The Field of 68 is also the exclusive streaming partner of The BetRivers Network. And on Tuesday, the company announced it would launch a three-year round-robin series between FAU, College of Charleston and Liberty.

Previously, the Field of 68 on the BetRivers Network served as an exclusive streaming host of Stephen F. Austin’s game against Furman last year.

BetRivers’ partnership with the Field of 68 signals a clear commitment to college basketball. And that college hoops positioning would only strengthen with a presence in Kentucky.

Kentucky residents could have more than 20 sportsbooks to choose from

Kentucky law states that each of the state’s nine horse racetracks can partner with up to three operators, as well as Kentucky Speedway. So, if each site does indeed opt for the maximum of three partnerships, there’s the chance residents would have 30 sportsbooks to choose from.

Here’s a list of the venues that could open a retail sportsbook:

  • Churchill Downs (Louisville)
  • Cumberland Run (Corbin)
  • Ellis Park (Henderson)
  • Keeneland (Lexington)
  • Kentucky Downs (Franklin)
  • Oak Grove Racing & Gaming (Oak Grove)
  • The Red Mile (Lexington)
  • Revolutionary Racing (Ashland)
  • Turfway Park (Florence)
  • Kentucky Speedway (Sparta)

As of now, Kentuckians will have to play the waiting game. The deadline for sports betting to launch sits on Dec. 28, 2023. But a lot can happen in those six months.

There’s a chance that not all possible partnerships will be final by the launch date, too. More operators could join the state, depending on how much space is left at launch.

Will BetRivers be available for Kentucky sports bettors?

Time will tell.

Granted, RSI hasn’t made any announcement on applying for a Kentucky sports betting operator license. But there’s a chance it eventually will.

Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee surround Kentucky’s border. And BetRivers is operating in all five of those states.

FanDuel and DraftKings will certainly be atop the list of operators applying for a license. So will Caesars KY and BetMGM KY.

BetRivers leaving itself out of the Massachusetts conversation may make some experts doubt it launches in Kentucky. And that’s a fair assessment. But for a sportsbook increasingly diving into college basketball ties and found success in neighboring states, we believe BetRivers certainly might apply for a license in Kentucky.

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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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