Kentucky sports wagering revenues tracking to surpass projections, says Gov. Beshear

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced on Thursday that the state has exceeded the initial tax revenue projections for sports wagering following the launch of the legal market in September.

The state has collected nearly $8 million in tax dollars in the first two months since sports betting became legal, according to the governor’s statement during his weekly news conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, The Associated Press reported.

This early success puts Kentucky on a trajectory to surpass the revenue projections made during legislative discussions earlier in the year, he said. Notably, some advocates of legal sports wagering had anticipated higher revenue figures.

“It is an incredible start, and if it continues, we will significantly exceed the $23 million in (annual) projected revenue from sports wagering. These tax dollars will support the oversight of sports wagering, establish a problem gambling fund and primarily help our pension systems here in Kentucky,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

Sports betting officially launched in Kentucky in early September, coinciding with the start of the NFL regular season. Governor Beshear inaugurated the activity by placing the first sports bet at Churchill Downs in Louisville, the iconic venue of the Kentucky Derby. State Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a key proponent of sports betting legislation, also placed a wager during the launch at a facility in Lexington.

The initial phase of the state’s rollout saw the opening of sports wagering facilities, followed by the introduction of mobile wagering in late September, allowing residents to place sports bets via smartphones.

Governor Beshear disclosed that over $656 million has been wagered thus far. This includes approximately $26.8 million in-person wagers at licensed retail sportsbooks and around $629.5 million through mobile devices, the report said. The governor noted a weekly average of $65.2 million in sports wagers.

The launch of sports betting has reportedly curtailed the outflow of revenue to neighboring states, where Kentucky residents previously placed sports bets. 
“Remember, before we legalized sports betting, this money was going to other states or the betting was being done illegally,” Beshear said.

The legalization of sports betting in Kentucky marked the end of a protracted political battle. The Republican-dominated Legislature finalized the bill to legalize, regulate, and tax sports wagering in late March, with Governor Beshear promptly signing it into law.

While celebrated by some as a long-awaited milestone, critics view sports betting as an addictive form of gambling that may have negative consequences for Kentucky families. David Walls, Executive Director of The Family Foundation, has criticized it as an ‘expansion of predatory gambling,’ expressing concerns about its impact on vulnerable individuals.

A portion of the sports wagering tax revenue will be allocated to a fund addressing problem gambling, while the majority will contribute to Kentucky’s public pension system.