The stars seemed aligned for Kentucky sports betting legislation to pass in 2020 but the Bluegrass State still does not have a legal option.
A KY sports betting bill introduced by Rep. Adam Koenig had everything going for it: a call for passage from the governor, public support of Senate leadership and enough votes to pass in the House.
The future of Kentucky sports betting
Odd years are more difficult to pass legislation in Kentucky, setting up rougher terrain for a bill to navigate in 2021.
A KY sports betting bill will only have 30 days to pass in 2021, and it will need to clear a 60% vote in both legislative chambers rather than the simple majority of even years.
It’s also possible thatz Kentucky convenes a special legislative session at the end of 2020 to address economic issues related to the coronavirus, and Gov. Andy Beshear asks for gambling expansion to be included.
When will online sports betting launch in Kentucky?
Rep. Adam Koenig‘s bill includes seven online KY sports betting licenses tied to the state’s horse racing tracks and the Kentucky Speedway.
Kentucky is looking to tax online wagering at a higher rate of 14.25%, compared to 10.25% for land-based betting. The latest proposal required people to register for online sports betting accounts in-person for the first 18 months.
If sports betting in Kentucky does pass during the 2021 session, which would likely happen in March, it would give the state six months to launch online sports betting by the NFL season.
Recent Kentucky sports betting news
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.
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.
Kentucky and Daily Fantasy Sports
Major daily fantasy sports sites such as DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo! and Fantasy Draft operate in an unregulated environment in Kentucky.
If Koenig’s bill passes, it will legalize daily fantasy sports. The proposal to regulate fantasy sports in Kentucky sets a $5,000 initial license fee renewable annually for the greater of $5,000 or 6% of adjusted gross revenue in the previous calendar year.
The minimum age requirement to participate in fantasy sports would be set at 18.
Is horse racing legal in Kentucky?
The first leg of the Triple Crown at Churchill Downs in Louisville is one of the most bet-upon sporting events in the world each year. It’s also one of the longest-running sporting events in the country, going on annually since 1875.
Kentucky has a rich tradition of horse racing. The first official track in the state opened in 1805. Churchill Downs isn’t the only important race track in the state. Keeneland in Lexington is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Other racetracks in Kentucky are The Red Mile in Lexington, Turfway Park in Florence, Ellis Park in Henderson and Kentucky Downs in Franklin.
While there are no casinos in Kentucky, the six racetracks offer instant racing betting machines that use the results of historical races to mimic a slot machine.
Online horse betting is permitted in Kentucky through TwinSpires, which can be accessed through a mobile app.
Kentucky sports betting timeline
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.
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.
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.”
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
Is sports betting legal in Kentucky?
No, right now there are no legal options for sports betting in Kentucky.
Who would oversee sports betting in Kentucky?
The Kentucky Lottery Commission would handle regulation of sports betting, online poker and daily fantasy sports under Koenig’s bill.
Will mobile sports betting be allowed?
Yes, Kentucky is looking to allow seven online sports betting licenses tied to the six horse racing tracks and the Kentucky Speedway. The most recent proposal required in-person registration for the first 18 months.
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.