After kicking off retail operations three weeks ago, Kentucky’s online sports betting market has officially launched. 

Today (28 September) marks the first day when operators can offer mobile sports betting in the US state. 

Kentucky has already granted eight mobile sportsbook licences, with Fanatics, BetMGM, bet365, FanDuel, Caesars, Penn Entertainment and DraftKings set to go live on day one.

Circa Sports, the eight operator granted a Kentucky sports betting licence, is yet to launch.

Regulatory journey

Kentucky became the 37th state in the US to regulate sports betting just six months ago.

In March, Governor Andy Beshear signed the Kentucky sports betting bill into law, paving the way for the launch of up to 10 retail sportsbooks and a potential 30 mobile sports betting apps in the state. 

The oversight and regulation of these platforms will fall under the purview of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Retail sports betting launched in the state on 7 September. 

Online sports betting GGR will be taxed at 14.25%, while licence fees cost $500k in addition to a $50k annual renewal fee.

To launch a mobile app in Kentucky, sportsbook operators are required to establish partnerships with local horse racing tracks.

Revenue boost

Kentucky, home to over three million adults, shares borders with several states where sports betting is already legal.

A frequently cited reason for introducing sports betting was therefore to safeguard and retain tax revenue within the state.

According to Governor Andy Beshear’s office, the move is anticipated to result in an annual revenue boost of approximately $23m. 

The additional revenue will support sports wagering oversight and contribute to the Kentucky permanent pension fund.

“Kentucky has been one of the quickest states to launch sports betting after legislative approval, and the Bluegrass State is taking the right approach by keeping the barriers to entry low and allowing a variety of operators to enter the market,” said Group CEO Charles Gillespie.

“We believe that this will foster competition and ultimately benefit consumers as the operators with the best products rise to the top,” he added. Group launched its comparison site in April 2022, ahead of the legalisation of online sports betting in the state.

Initial interest

For the past month, Kentucky residents have had the opportunity to pre-register for mobile betting accounts with authorised operators. 

More than 60,000 mobile accounts in Kentucky have been registered with online sportsbooks during this time.

This summer, Kentucky sports betting authorities made a contentious decision to establish the legal sports betting age at 18, setting the state apart from the majority, which set the minimum age at 21.

However, most operators have opted to maintain the 21+ age requirement, restricting those aged 18 to 20 from participating. 

Only bet365 and DraftKings have chosen to allow 18-year-olds to place wagers.

“Kentucky marks the 24th jurisdiction overall where DraftKings is live, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to deliver sports fans across Kentucky with our safe and legal mobile DraftKings Sportsbook app,” said DraftKings North America president Matt Kalish. 

“It’s an exciting time of year with the NFL and college football seasons currently underway, and we look forward to being the ultimate host, providing customers with a seamless and enjoyable sports betting experience.” 

Bonus promises

Kentucky’s entry into the sports betting arena is expected to spark a fierce battle of promotions among licensed sportsbook operators. 

“At the Fanatics Sportsbook, customers can bet on the sports they love and be rewarded with up to 5% back in FanCash on every wager they make, win or lose,” revealed Scot McClintic, CPO at Fanatics Betting and Gaming.

“We are launching in Kentucky with our signature jersey drop promotion where new customers can sign up and suit up with a fresh jersey from any team and any sport from,” he added. 

Broader benefits

Mobile sports betting in Kentucky holds the promise of delivering broader benefits to the state.

“Kentucky has a rich history in sports and a passionate fan base,” said BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt. 

His company has joined forces with Revolutionary Racing Gaming and is set to launch a 5,200 square-foot retail BetMGM sportsbook at Sandy’s Racing & Gaming, a $75m gaming and entertainment facility scheduled to open this autumn.

Greenblatt added: “Revolutionary Racing is an ideal partner, enabling us to deliver an entertaining and responsible gaming experience while contributing to the state through job creation and tax revenue.”

The full list of approved mobile sportsbooks and their partners can be found here.

BetMGM has kicked off the new NFL football season by adding a wide array of features to its sports betting app.

New for the 2023-24 campaign, bettors will have the option to enter a free-to-play $100,000 survivor pool where they must choose one NFL team to win each week.

Once a winning team is selected, they cannot be picked again for the remainder of the season, until the last person standing wins the six-figure jackpot.

“We developed our state-of-the-art sports betting platform to feature a variety of ways sports fans can engage,” said BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt.

“The next generation of the BetMGM app is a giant step forward in the sports betting experience, increasing the level of entertainment before, during and after games,” he added.

Another free-to-play feature sees the return of 8-Bit Barry as BetMGM celebrity ambassador Barry Sanders stars in a retro arcade-style football video game.

The BetMGM sportsbook has also added cross-state functionality for customers who travel across multiple states during the NFL season.

“The next generation of the BetMGM app is a giant step forward in the sports betting experience, increasing the level of entertainment before, during and after games.”
BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt

This means that log-in and cash balance details will be seamless across most markets where BetMGM is live, except for Nevada, Puerto Rico, and Ontario.

Arguably the most notable upgrade from an investor point of view is the launch of Same-Game Parlay+. This high-margin product will allow bettors to combine two different same-game parlays into one big bet with increased odds.

Finally, BetMGM is offering an exclusive hometown odds boost on teams it has a commercial partnership with.

This means fans of the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans can claim a token for a 50% boost on live odds.

The operator has also ramped up its customer acquisition offers to coincide with the new season. First-time players can place up to $1,500 on their first bet and have it paid back in bonus bets if it loses, or wager $10 on any football game to receive $200 in bonus bets.

The 2023-24 NFL season began on Friday 8 September as The Detroit Lions overturned a six-point deficit to defeat Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 21-20.

BetMGM currently operates a mobile or retail sportsbook in 26 markets.

BetMGM has launched its mobile sports betting app in Puerto Rico, in partnership with Casino del Mar at La Concha Resort.

Puerto Rico is the second market outside of the US mainland for BetMGM’s mobile sports betting app.

“BetMGM is ecstatic to become the first operator to deliver mobile sports betting to Puerto Rico,” said BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt (pictured).

“This great collaboration between local officials and Casino del Mar provides a safe, responsible and entertaining product accessible from anywhere on the island,” he added.

In-person validation

As part of the BetMGM mobile app registration process, customers in Puerto Rico need to validate their identification in person at the BetMGM Sportsbook located at the Casino Del Mar resort in San Juan.

BetMGM was the first operator to debut regulated retail sports betting in Puerto Rico when it was legalised in February 2022.

In December 2022, Casino del Mar opened a permanent $3.5m sportsbook and lounge, featuring 12 self-service kiosks and five betting windows.

Sports wagering is permitted in Puerto Rico on all sporting events, including those that are professional, collegiate, Olympic, and international, as well as on esports.

Sigfrido De Jesús, general manager of Casino del Mar, commented: “We are pioneers in the sports wagering industry, and we are elevating sports to the next level by developing trustworthy and user-friendly technology tools.

“Creating this technological alliance with a company of BetMGM’s caliber has allowed both Casino del Mar and the government to learn about innovation in the betting industry,” he added.

Puerto Rico betting regulation

Being a US territory, Puerto Rico is bound by US federal law.

Following the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, Puerto Rico promptly took steps to legalise betting.

In 2019, a resolution was passed, allowing retail sportsbooks and online betting sites to operate and provide their services to the local population.

However, the launch of the betting industry in Puerto Rico was not given immediate priority by legislators.

It wasn’t until late 2021 that lawmakers started making progress, which led BetMGM to open the first retail sportsbook in Puerto Rico in 2022.

Puerto Rico has also granted sports betting licences to Caesars Sportsbook and DraftKings, with the launch of corresponding apps anticipated.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is in discussions with US state regulators to legalise betting on high-profile matches, according to CNBC.

Regulators in Colorado and Michigan are understood to be engaged in talks with WWE over the concept, whereby scripted match results would be protected by Ernst & Young (EY).

The prospect of betting on a predetermined outcome will undoubtedly raise questions over sporting integrity, as well as the potential for match fixing.

If there are sportsbooks spending any amount of time/energy working on offering/regulating WWE betting, please eject them into the sun because almost all of them should have far more important things to do.

— Dustin Gouker (@DustinGouker) March 9, 2023

One way to alleviate those concerns, according to CNBC, is to adopt a tactic used historically by awards shows like the Oscars and the Emmys.

Accounting firms such as PwC and EY have worked with these ceremonies previously to keep the results a secret.

This method has cleared the path for operators to offer consumer betting markets on the events.

Betting on the Academy Awards is already legal and available through some US sports betting apps, including market leaders FanDuel and DraftKings, although most states don’t allow it.

The WWE news broke during iGaming NEXT NYC, where BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt was invited to share his live reaction on stage in front of a capacity crowd of iGaming executives.

CNBC television journalist Contessa Brewer, who anchored the Keynote Talk with Greenblatt, asked: “Would you be interested in taking bets on WWE?”

BetMGM chief Greenblatt replied with an acronym of his own – “NFW”, which is short for “no f*cking way”. The audience erupted with laughter in response.

Betting on Scripted outcomes?🤣😂🤣

I don't care what security measures the WWE says they'll implement, there is way too much of a chance for fraud.

One of the wrestlers knows the outcome and they signal something subtle at the start of the match and friends on the inside start…

— Alby (@albyva) March 9, 2023

Despite his initial rejection of the idea, Greenblatt admitted that offering wagering on markets outside of traditional sports betting can be very lucrative for bookmakers.

“You can be very successful, especially with the game shows and the talent shows in terms of who’s going to win,” said Greenblatt.

“Betting around that creates a lot of buzz because the shows have record audiences. What is also helpful is the role of social media and the commentary around it,” he added.

Greenblatt described those types of markets as “interesting and exciting”, but admitted they are simply not part of the betting catalogue in most US states at the present time.

BetMGM has expanded its executive team with the appointment of Penn Interactive VP Rhea Loney as its new chief compliance officer.

Loney will oversee the group’s compliance department, including online and retail operational compliance, registration and licensing, AML and financial compliance, as well as responsible gaming.

BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt commented: “Rhea brings extensive industry knowledge and regulatory experience to BetMGM and is a phenomenal addition to our team as we continue to grow rapidly in a dynamic industry.”

Loney joins the company from Penn Interactive, the online subsidiary of Penn Entertainment.

She first started at Penn Interactive in 2019 as director of compliance and was promoted to the position of vice president compliance and regulatory affairs in March 2021.

While at Penn, she helped build the compliance team, including licensing, regulatory affairs, operational compliance, risk and fraud and AML, as well as responsible gaming departments.

Additionally, Loney oversaw the online launch of Barstool Sportsbook in 13 states, iCasino in four states and more than 20 retail sportsbook launches.

Loney said: “I’m thrilled to play a meaningful role in BetMGM’s continued commitment to excellence in compliance.

“BetMGM is uniquely positioned in the market, and we will continue to be a leader and innovator in responsible gaming and compliance.”

BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt: “Rhea brings extensive industry knowledge and regulatory experience to BetMGM and is a phenomenal addition as we continue to grow rapidly in a dynamic industry.”

Prior to Penn Interactive, Loney served as an assistant attorney general with the Louisiana Department of Justice, Division of Gaming.

While there, she represented and provided legal counsel to the Louisiana State Racing Commission from 2011 to 2019.

Her tasks included administratively prosecuting cases, representing the Commission in judicial review actions in all court proceedings, as well as the drafting of regulations.

Loney started her legal career in private practice at a small general practice law firm in Louisiana. She holds a J.D. from Tulane Law School, and a B.S. from Southeastern Louisiana University.

BetMGM is the exclusive sports betting division of MGM, both online and in MGM casinos nationwide.

Earlier in October, MGM named Gary Fritz as the president of its online division and chairman of the recently acquired LeoVegas.