Kentucky became the 37th state to legalize sports betting after Gov. Andy Beshear signed legislation into law last Friday.
Kentucky sports betting became a reality after the Senate passed HB 551 by a 25-12 vote late Thursday. As a result, the bill went to the governor’s desk. As a vocal advocate for gambling expansion, Beshear was expected to sign the bill.
In 2019, one of his campaign promises was to expand the state’s gambling options. In 2020, he pushed lawmakers to pass an internet gambling bill. Then, last year, he was outspoken in his belief it was time for Kentucky to legalize sports betting.
“After years of urging lawmakers to legalize sports betting, we finally did it!” Beshear tweeted after signing the bill. “Today’s result shows that hard work pays off. Kentuckians will soon be able to place their bets here, and for the first time, we are going to keep those dollars to support our roads and bridges, schools and communities.”
Online and retail betting coming to Kentucky
Under HB 551, Kentucky sports bettors can wager both online and at state-licensed retail sportsbooks. The bill was passed by the House earlier this month.
The state’s nine horse racetracks and the Kentucky Speedway can operate retail sportsbooks. Additionally, the tracks and speedway can partner with up to three online sports betting operators to offer mobile betting.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will oversee the new industry. To obtain a license, it will cost the tracks and speedway $500,000. Afterward, they will pay a $50,000 annual renewal fee.
Kentucky sportsbooks can accept wagers on professional and college sports. Amateur events are eligible for betting as long as it doesn’t include participants under 18 years of age. International sporting events and esports competitions will be listed as well.
Here are the racetracks eligible for sports betting licenses:
- Churchill Downs
- Ellis Park
- Keeneland Association
- Turfway Park
- Kentucky Downs
- The Red Mile
- Oak Grove
- Revolutionary Racing (not yet open)
- Louisville Downs
Kentucky joins a few other states in allowing 18+ bettors
One of the more interesting aspects of the bill is that it allows those 18 and older to place sports bets online. Kentucky becomes the fifth state in the country to implement that rule, joining Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Montana, and Wyoming.
Washington, D.C. is the only other jurisdiction in the country that allows gamblers in their teens to place online wagers.
On the other hand, Washington State only functionally allows in-person sports betting. But it also allows 18-year-olds to wager.
The bill is sparse in regard to tax details. It has a 14.25% rate for online sportsbooks and 9.75% for retail revenue.
The only mandate in the bill was that 2.5% of the state’s total revenue must be used for a problem gambling fund. Most of the remaining revenue will help fund the state’s pension system.
Could KY sports betting launch before the end of the year?
The bill gives regulators six months after the effective date of the law to have a functional sports betting market. In other words, Kentucky wants to launch its new industry as soon as possible.
The effective date of the legislation is 90 days after the attorney general enacts it. However, the attorney general hasn’t enacted HB 551 yet. As a result, a deadline date isn’t set in stone.
If the attorney general enacts the law within the next few weeks, the effective date would be sometime in May or June. Depending on the exact date, Kentucky might be betting on sports before 2024.
The worst-case scenario for Kentucky gamblers is an early 2024 launch.