Opening weekend for sports betting in Kentucky brings thousands to Churchill Downs

Sports bettors filled the halls of Churchill Downs to take advantage of the opening weekend of legalized sports betting in Kentucky.
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 12:47 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Sports fans in Kentucky made their way to Churchill Downs for the opening weekend of legalized sports betting in the commonwealth hoping to win big.

Governor Andy Beshear made his first bet on Thursday at Churchill Downs and other Kentuckians have followed suit for an industry that is expected to explode.

Usually at Churchill Downs, you see horse bettors fill the halls but now that sports betting is legalized, sports fans of all kinds are joining the scene.

In fact, starting at 11:30 a.m. mutuel clerks said long lines were building to make bets ahead of the 1:00 p.m. kickoffs.

The turnout showcased the excitement fans have for Kentucky’s new legalized industry.

“I’ve been here all morning getting it in,” sports bettor Cedrick Johnson said. “So yeah I’m happy that we got the sports betting, and I hope they keep.”

One of Churchill Down’s Mutuel Managers said they saw more than 3,500 sports bettors for opening weekend, including people like Jordan Duff who said he made his first-ever sports bet just weeks before things kicked off in the Commonwealth.

The convenience of being able to make bets so close to his home has made the change a no-brainer for him.

“It’s cool because it’s just right down the street, so I might as well at least try,” Duff said. “Like I said this is my first year doing it. And I’ve had some hits, I’ve had some misses, but that’s part of the game. Other than that I’ve really enjoyed it.”

The chance to cash a winning ticket while betting on sports like football has even enticed some of the most avid horse bettors as well.

“Churchill Downs, I come here all the time,” Egdgardo Diego said. “Like most of the time, I’ve been here betting on horses. But now, sports is here it’s different because I went across over in Indiana, and it was cool but now that it’s here it’s way better though.”

Governor Beshear said he expects sports betting to generate more than $23 million a year and now that people don’t have to cross the bridge to make their bets, it will all stay in the Commonwealth.

For even the more staunch horse bettors, it’s a fun way to make a quick buck.

“Come on out and win some of this easy money because it’s easy, and it’s pretty fun,” Johnson said. “So come on out. Have fun and enjoy the sports betting while it’s here in Kentucky because it’s here, and it’s not going nowhere, and we don’t have to ride far. So it’s here now.”

You’re not just limited to sports betting at Churchill Downs, you can also do so at Derby City Gaming, Ellis Park in Henderson and Red Mile in Lexington, which are all approved locations for sports betting in Kentucky.

Online sports betting in the Commonwealth will begin on Sept. 28.