Kentucky Sports Betting Lower Age Limit Creates Question For Sportsbooks

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Kentucky sports betting

As in-person Kentucky sports betting went live last week, it became one of the rare states to allow 18-year-olds to place bets. 

The 18-and-up age limit stays in line with the Bluegrass State’s horse racing industry, but it is not a cut-and-dry issue for Kentucky sportsbooks. While several operators will opt to allow bettors 18 and older, most are sticking with the more common 21-and-up rule.

The regulations might say one thing, but sportsbooks can choose how to deal with the situation, including potential responsible gaming ramifications. Online Kentucky sports betting launches September 28.

Which Kentucky sportsbooks allow 18-year-olds to bet?

Churchill Downs Inc. and its six in-person books are 18 and up for sports betting. That keeps them in line with its horse racing track age limits.

DraftKings will follow the 18-year-old mandate at its in-person sportsbooks as well as its online sportsbook. The sportsbook operator allows users 18 and up in New Hampshire and Wyoming.

“DraftKings is committed to following the age restrictions set forth by each individual jurisdiction,” said Griffin Finan, DraftKings senior vice president and deputy general counsel.

Likewise, bet365 will allow 18-year-olds to place bets when it launches later this month. The UK-based operator is familiar with the age limit, as many global jurisdictions follow it.

Kentucky sports betting 21 and over at these books

Multiple sportsbooks said they will keep their age limit at 21, which aligns with many other US sports betting markets.

“We’re not saying DraftKings or bet365 are wrong,” National Council on Problem Gambling executive director Keith Whyte said. “But operators who chose to stay at 21 are reducing the risks and concerns, and with that likely comes some internal company benefits.”

Sportsbooks preparing for the September 28 online launch and keeping their age requirement at 21 include: 

Kentucky sports betting age not alone

While unusual, Kentucky is not alone, as other states set their legal sports betting age at 18. Other markets following the age limit: 

“You can bet in the lottery at 18. You can play bingo, everything else is 18. I don’t understand what’s special about 18,” said former state Rep. Adam Koenig, who sponsored sports betting bills for several years that helped form this year’s legislation. “As best I can tell, almost everyone will keep it at 21 anyway. I’m a less-government guy, I wouldn’t make them do 18. If they want 18, they can. If you think there are 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds using offshore sportsbooks, it’s all the same arguments to include legalizing the 18 to 21 cohort.”

Sports betting age a responsible gaming issue

Whyte said the younger the person, the more likely they are to develop a gambling addiction.

“Strictly in terms of problem gambling, the earlier they start, the more likely they are to have a problem,” Whyte said. “We know gambling literacy in the 18 to 24 group is the lowest of any age group. We also know 18 to 24 has the highest amounts of participation and the highest rates of substance use and abuse. There is a lot of risk-taking that clusters in that group.

“Delaying onset by even three years probably has a downstream effect.”

The NCPG, however, has not called for a national minimum age for sports betting, Whyte said. He said more research regarding the subject would be helpful for responsible gaming and that operators hold “all of the keys to confirming our suspicions or disproving that theory.”