Sandy's Racing and Gaming

Amanda Gilmore

With the opening of the first half of Sandy’s Racing & Gaming in Boyd County last fall, a former shopping mall has transformed into an entertainment venue for young and old. What was first the Cedar Knoll Galleria (1989 to 2005) and then the Kyova Mall (2005 to 2021) is now collectively called the Camp Landing Entertainment District. Sandy’s, which opened in late October 2023, joins Malibu Jack’s indoor amusement center and The Cinema at Camp Landing as the district’s anchors.

“The response has been fantastic,” said John Marshall, president of Sandy’s Racing & Gaming. “This is a regional venue that makes Boyd County a place to drive to, not drive through.” Sandy’s Gaming occupies the former mall’s Sears store. Now, instead of the electronics department to your left and women’s clothing to your right as you enter, there are rows of machines with bright, flashing lights and loud bells and whistles – just a few of the 670 slot-like games in the casino. The term “slot-like” is used because games are slightly different than ones you’d find in Las Vegas, for example.

The slots at Sandy’s are HHR (historical horse racing) machines, which means the odds are based on horse racing. And that’s where the second half of Sandy’s Racing & Gaming comes in. The machines are connected to Sandy’s license with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which last summer granted the state’s ninth and final horse racing license to Revolutionary Racing Kentucky, the owner of Sandy’s. The HHR machines will pay for the horse racing that’s coming to Sandy’s Ridge – 182 acres on the hill behind the casino – in the spring of 2025.
“It’s all the same games that you are used to seeing in other casinos, but the payouts are higher,” explained Rachel Martin, the marketing director at Sandy’s. “We have jackpot winners every day and lots of fun promotions all the time.”
The racing at Sandy’s will be on a quarter horse racetrack – the only one in Kentucky connected to a casino. “It’s extremely fast – like drag races for horses,” Martin explained. The first Sandy Ridge races were held in April at Red Mile in Lexington, as the ones in March 2024 will be. After Sandy Ridge opens in 2025, there are plans to build an equestrian center with rodeo and dressage events.

Those who go to Sandy’s to play the machines (table games are not legal in Kentucky) can sign up for the casino’s rewards card, which gives free play upon joining and on your birthday, as well as invites to VIP events and, at the top level, a complimentary annual cruise. Sandy’s also has an enclosed smoking section with 200 games and a separate ventilation system. Free soft drinks are available throughout the 75,000-square foot facility.

In addition to slot machines and horse racing, Sandy’s is also home to BetMGM Sportsbook, a 5,200-square foot online and retail sports betting space, with dozens of leather recliners and three cinema-size screens. “We livestream everything we can – all the horse races and college and pro sports,” Martin said.
The casino’s name is inspired by the area’s Big Sandy and Little Sandy rivers. The blue, green and purple color scheme of the casino is a nod to the Kentucky moonbow – a rainbow created by the light of the moon and reminiscent of the Northern Lights.
Construction of Sandy’s involved more than 300 local workers, and there are currently 250 people working in player services, security, IT, maintenance, and food and beverage. Live music, including dueling pianos, takes place every Thursday through Saturday nights, with special weekly events such as First Responders Night (Tuesday) and Ladies Night (Thursday).
Kitchen & Spirits is a dining option featuring burgers, flatbreads and other fare, with all the meat locally sourced from AW Meat House in Argillite. On the beverage side, you’ll find Sandy’s Ale, a craft beer only available at Sandy’s, as well as Restoration Rye, a special blend from Castle & Key distillery in Frankfort.

Kristina George of Boyd County is Sandy’s Food & Beverage Manager. She supervises a staff of 60 people from all over the Tri-State. “This is such a great place to work. I’m very, very happy to be a part of it,” said the married mother of three, who previously had to work multiple jobs to make the same wages and now also enjoys having health insurance and a 401(k)-retirement plan. Contributing to the local economy through good-paying jobs is something Sandy’s is most proud of, said Martin, an Ashland native who was excited to return home after earning her marketing degree and working in Lexington and Louisville for several years. “People can make a career here,” she said.

The company is also committed to giving back to the local community. In 2023, Sandy’s provided more than $80,000 in donations to community groups in the Tri-State region, including $30,000 in donations during the holiday season to places like Ashland Community Kitchen, Hillcrest-Bruce Mission and Facing Hunger Foodbank.

If you go: Sandy’s Gaming is located at 10699 U.S. 60 in Ashland. It is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
You can follow Sandy’s on Facebook and Instagram.