Sports betting is legal in Kentucky as of Thursday, and Gov. Andy Beshear (D) made the state’s first wager at the famous Churchill Downs horse racetrack in Louisville.
“Today is a great day to celebrate and have a little bit of fun doing so,” Beshear said as the Bluegrass State became the 35th to legalize betting on sports. “It has taken many years to get here, but sports wagering is finally a reality in Kentucky. This is a win-win for Kentuckians, who can enjoy a quality entertainment experience and benefit from funds staying right here in our state to help us build a better Kentucky.”
Beshear opened up the books by putting $20 each on the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky to beat their projected win totals this football season, and another $20 on Duke University in North Carolina to fall short of its projected football win total.
The governor’s office said any of his winnings would go to the Louisville Sports Commission.
Betting on all sports is now allowed at participating horse racing tracks, and nine new locations throughout the state opened just in time for the kickoff of the first NFL game Thursday night. Mobile betting will begin later this month.
The program is expected to bring in as much as $23 million per year in tax revenue for the state, though some predict even higher amounts, The Associated Press reported. Most of the funds will go toward public employee pensions.
Legalizing sports betting was a last-second move by Kentucky Republicans at the end of the legislative session in March. The bill gained bipartisan support as Beshear runs for reelection as governor this November.
His opponent, Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R), minimized Beshear’s achievement, celebrating sports betting legalization as an accomplishment of the state’s Republican Legislature.
“The legislature deserves the credit for moving this ball down the field. Beshear once again is trying to take credit for this victory when all he did was cheer from the sidelines,” Sean Southard, a Cameron campaign spokesman, said in a statement to the AP.
Beshear and Cameron are locked in a tight race as Beshear hopes to be reelected as a Democrat in a state that voted for former President Trump over President Biden by 26 points in 2020. Beshear is the country’s most popular Democratic governor.