What’s happening in Kentucky sports betting right now

Is sports betting legal in Kentucky?

No, sports betting is not legal in Kentucky at this time. There have been attempts to legalize it every year since 2018, but all of them have fallen short. Proponents in the Kentucky General Assembly were at it again in 2022 but fell shy of finishing the job.

The status of Kentucky sports betting

The Kentucky General Assembly passed HB 606 out of the House on March 18, 2022. Senate leadership was able to keep the bill alive until the last day of the session, but could not corral enough support for a final vote.

Kentucky is surrounded by sports betting, though. Almost every state that shares a border with the Bluegrass State allows sports betting. Even Missouri is considering measures for sports betting. Kentuckians have options to place a sports bet in almost any direction they choose to drive.

Meanwhile, public opinion inside Kentucky is in favor of legalizing sports betting by nearly a two-to-one margin. This margin held firm through multiple years of surveys. Almost half the eligible population has placed a bet on a sporting event. Even Gov. Andy Beshear publicly voiced support for legalization in the past.

However, the Kentucky General Assembly has repeatedly resisted calls to expand gambling in the state, and it is dragging its feet with sports betting. The stream of Kentuckians going elsewhere to bet might be the only way to change the minds of Kentucky lawmakers on the issue.

When will online sports betting launch in Kentucky?

2023, maybe. That is probably the earliest that Kentuckians could see online sportsbooks launch, and it would probably be later in the year. However, with things at a standstill in the Senate, it will more likely be closer to 2024.

There is always a delay between legalization and sportsbooks launching due to the logistical and regulatory issues that the state must settle beforehand. That delay often lasts several months. This means that Kentuckians should plan to keep driving across state lines to wager for at least another year.

Sportsbook apps that could launch in Kentucky

Predicting the sportsbook apps that might launch in Kentucky is not an easy task. At the moment, outside of Churchill Downs, major gambling companies own no locations in the state.

Churchill Downs presents another problem for discerning which companies might figure into sports betting in Kentucky. The company recently announced that it would be withdrawing from the online sports betting business. The most obvious candidate to offer a Kentucky sportsbook is now no longer a sports betting company.

There are still some companies that seem likely to be part of Kentucky online sports betting. However, any future sports betting industry in Kentucky will license sportsbooks according to the law and the regulations. As such, the list below is subject to change.

  1. DraftKings: As it does in most states, DraftKings has long been part of the culture in Kentucky because of its daily fantasy sports contests. People in Kentucky would gain access to an innovative and distinct sportsbook app. The book customizes each bettor’s experience through its betting carousel, which suggests likely wagers based upon your stated preferences and history. DraftKings also offers betting pools.
  2. FanDuel: FanDuel is another book commonly among the early arrivals in new sports betting states. It has established ties to most states, including Kentucky. FanDuel’s navigation is smooth and intuitive. FanDuel also prominently offers same-game parlays, where a bettor can construct a combination wager with legs from a single game.
  3. BetMGM: BetMGM Sportsbook is the sports betting brand for MGM Resorts International and Entain, two massive gambling companies that operate it as a joint venture. A sticking point is that MGM does not currently have a location or partner in Kentucky. BetMGM has a deep set of sports and betting options. However, the real standout at BetMGM Sportsbook is the “edit my bet” function, which dramatically expands upon the now-ubiquitous cash-out option.
  4. Caesars: Caesars also does not have a partner in Kentucky for launch, yet. If it does launch in the state, users can expect to find a full lineup of promotions and bonuses as well as competitive odds. It also offers a solid lineup of odds boosts and bet variety.
  5. BetRivers: BetRivers Sportsbook represents Rush Street Interactive, which maintains its headquarters in neighboring Illinois and owns casino locations in Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York, as well as its online sportsbook in multiple states. If and when it launches in Kentucky, users will have access to the iRush Rewards program, which provides perks and benefits to returning customers.

Latest Kentucky sports betting news

KY sports betting bills

The aforementioned sports betting bills were not the only measures under consideration in the Kentucky General Assembly, but they are the most prominent ones. HB 606 is the only one to clear a chamber, however. Four bills during the 2022 legislative session that could have made sports betting a reality in Kentucky:

It’s important to realize that this list is only a snapshot. At any point, new bills with more support and momentum could drop into the queue.

Most popular sports to bet in Kentucky

College basketball is king in Kentucky with two prestigious programs in the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.

Fortunately, it no longer looks like sports betting in Kentucky will be prohibited on in-state collegiate teams. Koenig removed that clause from his bill in committee after hearing from many complaints from legislators with the common sense not to outlaw what will be the most popular bets made in the state.

There are no major professional sports teams in Kentucky.

Legal sports betting options in Kentucky

Aside from betting on horse racing, there are no legal sportsbook websites that accept bets from anyone within the state of Kentucky.

There are illegal offshore websites that offer sports betting in Kentucky. They do not hold a license from any US jurisdiction to legally accept bets from residents.

Without regulation from the state, these offshore betting apps can’t be counted on to pay out winnings and have been known to disappear with people’s money. The only safe and protected way to bet on sports in the United States is to do so with a licensed operator.

Kentucky is not home to any casinos of any kind and its legal gambling footprint is limited to horse betting, the lottery, historical horse racing, and charitable gaming. Most sports betting bills in the state license online skins via the state’s racetracks with oversight from the Kentucky Lottery Commission.

Kentucky and daily fantasy sports

Major daily fantasy sports sites such as DraftKingsFanDuelYahoo! and Fantasy Draft operate in an unregulated environment in Kentucky.

The bill that almost cleared both chambers in 2022 legalized sports betting as well as daily fantasy sports and online poker. At this time, DFS exists in a gray area in Kentucky.

Horse racing in Kentucky

Of course there’s horse racing in Kentucky. No state has a deeper connection to horse racing. The Kentucky Derby, likely the country’s most prestigious and famous horse race, takes place each year at Churchill Downs. It has run — with only a few exceptions — annually since 1875 and serves as the first leg of the thoroughbred Triple Crown.

Legal horse racing has been part of Kentucky since 1805. Although Churchill Downs gets all the press, there are several other prominent tracks in the state. One of them, Keeneland, would be the top track in almost any other state, and some experts consider it on par with or even ahead of Churchill Downs, Pimlico, Belmont or any other track in the US.

There are also several other important tracks in the state, including the Red Mile in Lexington, Turfway Park in Florence and Ellis Park in Henderson. In particular, the Red Mile hosts the Kentucky Futurity, which is the first leg of the Triple Crown of harness racing for trotters.

Each track in the state is home to several historical horse racing machines. These devices are the closest analog to slot machines in the state and use the results from past horse races to determine their winners.

Finally, Kentuckians can use their mobile devices and computers to place horse bets online. Top sites like TVG and Kentucky’s own TwinSpires have options for simulcast wagering on races at tracks around the country.

Kentucky sports betting timeline

2022: Hitting new territory

Rep. Adam Koenig brought a sports betting bill for the fourth-straight year, with a few adjustments. He dropped the Kentucky Speedway and an in-person registration requirement. As in a few past years, the bill cruised through Koenig’s own committee.

For the first time, however, the bill cleared a chamber in Kentucky. The bill is still alive as the Senate considers the bill, but it is an uphill battle as Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said the support is not quite there.

The bill finished the session without a final vote in the Senate. The momentum could lead to a successful effort in future years.

2021: Another strikeout

Gov. Andy Beshear lends his support to the notion of sports betting in Kentucky once again. In January, he speaks on a program titled “Governor Andy Beshear: First Year Reflections” and states that the time to legalize sports betting in the Bluegrass State was years ago, and laments that nearly every (Republican) state around Kentucky is benefitting from Kentuckian sports bettors.

Emboldened by the governor’s statements, several members of the Kentucky House of Representatives bring forth three measures to legalize sports betting. Among the entries is another edition of Rep. Adam Koenig’s legislation, which has become something of a tradition. Unfortunately, none of the three bills makes it past its initial committee submission, and Kentuckians must wait at least another year for sports betting legislation.

2020: So close yet so far

Optimism ran high for sports betting in Kentucky after the progress of 2019 and with 2020 being a budget year.

Gov. Andy Beshear made Kentucky the favorite of any state to pass sports betting legislation this year when he came out in his State of the Commonwealth address and said, “Rep. Adam Koenig has filed a sports betting bill. I fully support it, and we should pass it.”

A day later, Koenig moved H 137 through his committee. But first he made two key changes in removing the ban on in-state college betting and adding an 18-month sunset to what was previously an indefinite requirement to set up online wagering accounts in-person.

Koenig was confident that his bill would quickly through the House, but that didn’t happen. The legislation languished for a month. Sen. Majority Leader Damon Thayer spoke out that he was in full support of the bill, but that didn’t spark the House to send it over.

Then came the filing of 11 proposed amendments, many of which would have killed the bill with exorbitant fees. Koenig said he didn’t know about the amendments before they were filed.

The legislature adjourned April 15 without passing a bill.

2019

Four sports betting bills were introduced, with Koenig’s offering emerging as the favorite and becoming the first sports betting bill in the state to get a successful committee vote.

Koenig’s bill not only attempted to legalize sports betting but also daily fantasy sports and online poker.

However, with then-Gov. Matt Bevin lukewarm on sports betting and the legislature traditionally resistant to gambling expansions, the requirement for revenue bills to get 60% of the votes in non-budget years proved impossible to overcome.

2018

A month after the US Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), Kentucky lawmakers created a panel to study sports betting regulation.

The nine-member panel was given the task to “draft and file legislation to implement legal sports betting in Kentucky.”

2017

In the summer of 2017, Sen. Julian Carroll introduced a sports betting bill that would allow the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to regulate and oversee a sports gambling industry.

This early bill called for a $250,000 licensing fee and a 20% tax on the total amount of wagers handled.

Kentucky sports betting FAQ

Who would oversee sports betting in Kentucky?

The Kentucky Lottery Commission. Although horse racing is the primary form of wagering in Kentucky, the lottery commission is better suited to manage sports betting, poker and other types of gambling that might appear in Kentucky.

What is the legal gambling age in Kentucky?

If sports betting becomes legal in Kentucky, the minimum gambling age is almost certainly going to be 18. The bills under consideration in the Kentucky General Assembly set the age at that mark, which would make Kentucky one of the few states not to mandate that bettors be 21 or older. Although it’s not clear or explicit, the reason behind the 18-year-old requirement is likely the dominance of horse racing and wagering in the state, which only requires bettors to be 18.

Will mobile sports betting be allowed?

If a sports betting bill passes, then the answer appears to be yes. All of the bills under consideration provide for both retail and online sports betting in Kentucky.

There are some sports betting websites that say they accept bets from the United States. Are those legal options?

No. There are currently no sportsbook operators that are licensed at the federal level, which means all US sportsbooks are licensed at the state level. Any website that suggests betting from anywhere in the US is allowed is a website that operators offshore. It is not legal for those sites to accept bets from US citizens and those sites offer no protection to those who bet on them.

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