And they’re off! Kentucky online sports betting officially launched at 6 a.m. ET on Thursday, September 28, allowing Bluegrass State bettors to legally wager on their favorite teams and sporting events.
This launch comes after HB 551 passed the Senate chamber by a 25-12 vote back on March 30 earlier this year, giving KY sportsbook apps the green light. KY Gov. Andy Beshear signed the sports betting bill into law the very next day, making Kentucky the 38th US state to legalize sports betting. The Bluegrass State got its first taste of legal sports betting when retail wagering arrived in the state on September 7. Bettors then only had to wait 3 weeks for Kentucky sports betting apps to go live.
Provided you’re aged 18 or over and located in Kentucky, you can reap the benefits of the state’s seven sportsbooks now available statewide. The full list of confirmed sports betting hosts was announced back in August, with BetMGM, bet365, Caesars, Circa, DraftKings, Fanatics, and FanDuel all ready for some Kentucky sports betting action. Yet, we can also look forward to Penn (ESPN Bet) making its way to the state later in November.
History of Gambling in Kentucky
Since the annulment of PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) in 2018, over thirty-five states across the US have launched legal sports wagering, either retail, online, or both.
To Kentuckians, it may feel like the state has been sluggish in the race to join in on the online sportsbook action. Yet, the wheels of progress have been in motion for quite some time. Let’s take a closer look at the Bluegrass State’s gambling history:
- 1881: Lotteries were approved in Kentucky to “fund public works such as roads and schools”, and months later, pari-mutuel wagering on horse races was authorized. However, a decade on, lotteries were prohibited (but pari-mutuel wagering remained legal).
- 1988: Over 100 years after being outlawed, state lotteries were re-approved, with the first legally authorized event taking place in 1989.
- 1992: The General Assembly amended the Constitution to allow charitable gaming such as bingo, pull tabs, non-cash prize wheels, raffles, and more.
- 2017: Senator Julian Carroll introduced a sports betting bill allowing the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to regulate and oversee sports betting operations.
- 2018: A month after the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA, KY lawmakers created a panel to study sports betting regulation, with the aim of drafting and filing legislation to implement legal sports betting in the state.
- 2021: None of the three pro-sports betting bills made it past the initial committee submission, and Kentuckians were made to wait another year to try again.
- 2022: A sports betting bill was submitted for the fourth year straight, passing by a vote of 58-30. Senate considers the bill but decides support is “not quite there,” allowing the bill to die without a vote on Sine Die.
- 2023: Following “cautious optimism” about his sports betting bill, HB 551, Kentucky Representative Michael Meredith finally gets his bill approved on the final day of the state’s 2023 legislative session. The new bill gives KY’s nine horse racing tracks sports betting licenses, with up to three online skins per track.
- 2023, July 10: Regulators announced that retail sportsbooks will launch on September 7, including popular racetracks Churchill Downs, Derby City Gaming, Newport Racing and Gaming, and more! Further, online sports betting was scheduled to launch in KY on September 28 with BetMGM, Caesars, FanDuel, DraftKings and Bet365 apps available.
KY Sports Betting Legislation
Following the abolishment of PASPA, Adam Koenig, a Representative of Kentucky District 69, drew up a house bill that quickly became a favorite – becoming the first sports betting bill in Kentucky to get a successful committee vote. Koenig’s ambitious bill touched all bases, striving to legalize sports betting, DFS (daily fantasy sports), and online poker.
However, with then-Govenor Matt Bevin being somewhat against sports betting, the requirement for revenue bills to reach 60% of required votes proved impossible. On this occasion, Koenig’s bill fell flat on its face.
He continued fighting the Bluegrass State’s law from then onward until he finally made headway in 2022 after submitting the infamous bill for the fourth straight year – with a few tweaks. Koenig dropped the “Kentucky Speedway” and an “in-person registration” requirement.
For the first time, the bill cleared a chamber in Kentucky. In fact, the House passed HB 606 by a vote of 58-30. However, Koenig found more opposition, this time from Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, who said the support was not quite there. While the Senate considered the bill, they ultimately allowed it to die without a vote on Sine Die.
This marked the deepest progress a Kentucky sports betting bill had made, which inspired optimism for future efforts. Thayer voiced his disappointment over the bill’s failure to pass but remained confident that the coming years would see the necessary support.
Finally, this year, KY’s perseverance paid off! Rep. Michael Meredith’s sports betting bill (HB 551) finally made its way over the finish line during the ultimate day of the state’s 2023 legislative session, bringing us where we are today!
The Future of Kentucky Gambling
Eager Kentucky sports bettors won’t be the only ones to benefit from the state’s new legal sports betting industry. The Bluegrass State itself is sure to rake in that revenue if neighboring states are anything to go by.
After all, the sportsbook business has truly been booming. According to the American Gaming Association (AGA), statewide betting revenue hit a jaw-dropping $7.5 billion in 2022, which was up 75% on the previous year. Flutter Entertainment PLC (parent company of FanDuel) reckons that the total US betting market will be worth more than $40 billion by 2030 – and Kentucky is sure to have some credit due by then.
Further, though no legislation was made in reference to iGaming in the state, we hope that the launch of online sportsbooks will serve as motivation to state legislators to consider legislative frameworks to set things in motion.