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Kentucky sports betting, March Madness edition

At The Red Mile on Easter Sunday afternoon, folks betting on Elite 8 basketball games didn't seem too upset over the absence of the school less than a mile away.
John McGary
At The Red Mile on Easter Sunday afternoon, folks betting on Elite 8 basketball games didn't seem too upset over the absence of the school less than a mile away.

“Let’s go! Let’s go, Purdue! Give me a bucket!”

It’s Easter Sunday afternoon in The Red Mile’s sports book, and a very vocal man appears to have placed a wager on Purdue to beat Tennessee. The teams are playing for a trip to the Final Four. In a way, so are the gamblers.

“Get going, buddy. Get going. Yep. And one. Money!”

The sports book isn’t too crowded. A few days before, during his Team Kentucky briefing, Governor Beshear suggested a reason Kentucky sports wagering, at sports books and online, fell from $18.6 million for the first round to $15.4 million for the second.

“I think the drop off is probably because we didn't have any teams make the second round. Hopefully next year, we will see that change.”

Beshear was referring to first-round losses by Morehead State, Western Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky, which is less than a mile from The Red Mile. On this day there, no one seems blue over Big Blue’s early exit. In fact, Greg, who says he picked Tennessee to beat Purdue, is the only better who mentions it.

“If it was Kentucky, it was, this place would be really packed, probably. Yes. So that was kind of a downer for the city of Lexington. But I'm from Pittsburgh, originally, but my wife’s sister lived here for 20 years. So we like it down here a lot. So we decided to move down here.”

Greg says he visits The Red Mile about three times a month and also has the Caesars sports bbetting app on his phone.

A few feet away is another man from another place. Terence grew up in Jamaica, Queens, New York City and went to Atlantic City frequently. He says he always turns right when he walks in The Red Mile, because turning left would put him in what he calls a warehouse full of slot machines. He says he likes betting on sports in person, partly because he can pick the brains of other betters.

“Who do you like today? Who’re you betting on?”

“Basically man I'm not -- I keep my feelings man out of the sports, know what I'm saying? So my favorite team is line. Line meaning the spread, you know what I'm saying. Whatever spread I'm betting on that day, that's what I go for. So I don't really care about the colors of the team, names, I bet on the line. I say, ‘Go line, go spreads!’”

At the bar, traveling building superintendent Mike Stewart says he’s in his company’s NCAA pool, but hasn’t placed a wager here. He says he prefers football and “kinda” has a system that keeps him on the plus side of the ledger.

“When I got back from Desert Storm, I didn't watch football for a long time, then I noticed a lot of patterns, especially in the pros. Like, come week, I'd say, 13, 16, the number one team always loses to the worst team in the season. Been like that for 15 years.”

A few seats away, Jared Roahrig says he’s here for the second time. He says he bet on Tennessee and Duke, but admits, “It’s a roll of the dice every time.”

“What do you like about sports books, places like this?”

“Um, I mean, making money is always fun. But it adds a next level of, I guess, excitement and anticipation that you wouldn't get if you were just -- most of the games I don't really care about, but you put a little money on it and make something out of nothing.”

On this day, it’s nothing – both Tennessee and Duke will lose, which means Greg will, too. How Terence fares with his line betting, and Mike Stewart in his company pool, is unknown.

The excitable Purdue fan – a Purdue fan on this day, anyway, declines an interview. He’s still busy advising the Boilermaker players and coaches.

“Get it to Edey! Get it to Edey!”

It’s good advice. Purdue center Zach Edey will go on to score a career-high 40 points. It’s unclear how much the first March Madness with legalized sports betting in The Red Mile’s history will add to its’ owners bottom line – or betters’ wallets, as Jared Roahrig notes.

“Don't gamble, you can't lose. That's it. You're gonna lose – they wouldn't exist if everyone won. So it's honestly probably better just not to get into.”

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John McGary is a Lexington native and Navy veteran with three decades of radio, television and newspaper experience.
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