For all the hysteria that concerned the passage of legal sports wagering in Kentucky, Thursday’s start of it brought plenty of smiles to Lexington’s only retail sports betting location.
Legal sports gambling began at 10 a.m. Thursday at nine brick-and-mortar sports betting locations across the commonwealth: Lexington’s location is a Caesars Sportsbook located at The Red Mile.
Keeneland and Red Mile have partnered with Caesars for this physical sports betting location, which is housed in Red Mile’s remodeled clubhouse.
Several ceremonial political events helped christen the sportsbook — which takes up more than 4,600 square feet — on Thursday.
In the morning, Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, and Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, headlined an event at Red Mile that marked the start of legal sports wagering in the state.
In the afternoon, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear — who marked the start of sports betting at Churchill Downs in Louisville in the morning — came to Red Mile and participated in a ribbon-cutting to “officially” open the sportsbook.
He also bet on the Kentucky men’s basketball team to win the NCAA Tournament as part of the visit.
During his morning appearance in Louisville, Beshear made a $20 “Kentucky Special” season-long, college football parlay bet that includes three parts: Both Kentucky and Louisville to have more than 7.5 wins, and for Duke to have less than 7.5 wins, during the 2023 season.
What is the sports betting experience like at Red Mile?
Most days at the Caesars Sportsbook at Red Mile will not look like Thursday.
Pomp and circumstance aside, one shouldn’t expect continued visits from high-ranking political figures to become commonplace.
So what does a regular sports betting experience feel like at Red Mile?
The clubhouse — in the glow of red, white and blue ceiling lights — has plenty of open space for bettors to navigate.
On Thursday, the majority of sports bettors at Red Mile used self-service kiosks.
The wait to use a kiosk could be lengthy, but there’s plenty to do once you reach the touch screen monitor.
The kiosk displays different panels where you can select which sport to bet on and which kind of bet you want to place, in addition to several other more specific requests.
There are five manned terminals and 14 self-serve kiosks for sports wagering.
What do you do if a wager you place wins?
You can scan the barcode from the bet at one of the self-service kiosks, and you then receive a voucher that you can redeem for cash at one of the manned terminals.
Or, you could just take your winning ticket straight to the manned terminal to collect the winnings from it.
The sportsbook is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to midnight.
Upon entry at Red Mile, you must have your ID checked and scanned.
While online betting doesn’t begin until 6 a.m. on Sept. 28 in Kentucky, Caesars Sportsbook is already offering a full assortment of sports wagers at its Red Mile location, ranging from boxing to minor league baseball.
The facility also aims to offer more than just a sports gambling experience.
An expansive bar is surrounded by flat-screen TVs, with the goal of getting sports bettors to come for the wager, but stay for the atmosphere.
Plenty of historical horse racing (HHR) machines are just steps away, and still attracted a strong crowd of players Thursday.
During Beshear’s press conference at Red Mile, the din of the machines was a steady background noise.
“This facility is going to supercharge our tourism,” Beshear said to a crowd of more than a hundred onlookers Thursday. “Now, we’re not going to have people traveling to Las Vegas (for) the first rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They’re going to be bringing their dollars right here, to Lexington, Kentucky.”
According to a fiscal note to House Bill 551 (which makes sports betting legal) provided by the Legislative Research Commission, HB 551 is projected to bring in almost $23 million per year once fully implemented.
The majority of the tax revenue will go to the Kentucky pension fund.
Beshear said the next few weeks of only in-person sports betting will provide valuable feedback.
“We’re going to make sure that we’re updating regulations as we go, to make sure that we get this right,” Beshear said. “We haven’t invented the wheel. So many others have done this before us, and we’re doing this at locations that are already highly regulated.”
While some crossover, obviously, exists between wagering on horse racing and sports, there were still some learning moments for sports bettors Thursday at Red Mile.
Chief among them?
Having to wait until Saturday to place a wager on this weekend’s Kentucky-Eastern Kentucky college football game.
Betting lines have not yet been set for the matchup, which is common in FBS vs. FCS games (lines are normally posted the day of the game).