The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) has voted to approve sports betting licences for a number of online and retail operators, ahead of the state opening its legal market next month.

Temporary licences cover up to one year of operation in Kentucky, with holders to be continuously reviewed during the period. Licences were approved for sports wagering operators and service providers at a meeting yesterday (22 August).

Kentucky is due to launch regulated retail sports wagering on 7 September, with online to follow on 28 September. Pre-registration for online accounts will open next week.

The initial seven online operators that applied earlier this month all secured a service provider licence. Bet365, BetMGM, Caesars, Circa, DraftKings, FanDuel and Penn Sports Interactive all picked up licences.

Fanatics, which did not appear on the original list, was also approved to launch online sports betting in Kentucky. In addition, the KHRC issued a service provider licence to Kambi, although the provider was only cleared for retail operations.

Kentucky racetracks snap up betting licences

Licences were also approved for a number of racetracks and their satellite facilities in Kentucky.

Successful applicants include Churchill Downs and Derby City Gaming, both Louisville; Ellis Park in Henderson; The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland Run in Corbin and The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland in Williamsburg.

Other approved sports wagering operators are Newport Racing and Gaming in Newport; Oak Grove Gaming and Racing in Oak Grove; The Red Mile in Lexington and Turfway Park in Florence.

In addition, sports wagering operator licences were awarded to three new facilities that are opening soon. These include Derby City Gaming in Louisville; Ellis Park in Owensboro; and Sandy’s Gaming and Racing in Ashland.

Online operators partner with land-based venues

The meeting also revealed details of partnerships between online operators and land-based venues in Kentucky. Each racetrack is able to also partner with up to three online operators.

Both Bet365 and BetMGM will offer mobile betting in partnership with Sandy’s Racing and Gaming. BetMGM will also run retail wagering.

Caesars will offer retail and mobile betting with The Red Mile, while Betfair will run mobile-only betting with Turfway Park. Penn Sports Interactive, soon to rebrand as ESPN Bet, will work with Ellis Park to offer mobile betting. Elsewhere, Circa also struck a mobile-only partnership with Cumberland Run.

DraftKings has partnered with Cumberland Run in Corbin for retail and both Cumberland Run and The Mint in Cumberland for mobile betting. In addition, Kambi will provide retail-only betting services for Churchill Downs’ Ellis Park, Turfway Park and Oak Grove.

“The countdown continues as we move closer to sports wagering with retail locations opening in just 15 days,” Kentucky governor Andy Beshear said. “Thank you to the KHRC commissioners for their dedication to getting this done right and getting it done in time for the opening of the NFL season.”

KHRC chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz added: “We are excited to open sports wagering on our target date as we continue working through this careful process dedicated to wagering integrity and protecting bettors in the state of Kentucky.”

KHRC approves Sports Wagering Advisory Council

In other news, the KHRC approved a new Sports Wagering Advisory Council that will advise the commission on sports betting.

Appointed members include Kentucky Public Protection cabinet secretary Ray Perry, KHRC deputy executive director Waqas Ahmed and KHRC commissioners William May, Tiffany Daniels and James Edwin Worley.

Jonathan Blue will serve as an at-large member, as will Joyce Merritt, who will also act as the council’s chairperson.

Online tax set higher than retail rate

Legal sports betting has been made possible after Beshear signed off on House Bill 551 in April.

The bill makes nine Kentucky racetracks eligible to offer on-site retail betting. After including permitted online partnerships, this left 27 licences up for grabs in Kentucky.

Online tax rate is 14.25% of gross gambling revenue and retail 9.75%. A licence will cost a racetrack $500,000 and an online operator $50,000 to partner.

However, the bill does not contain any tribal provisions. Neither of the state’s two tribes – the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky and the Ridgetop Shawnee Tribe of Indians – are recognised by the US Department of Interior.

As such, they do not qualify for state gaming compacts under the federal enabling law for tribal gaming the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

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