Kentucky Sports Betting’s 18+ Age Restriction Shouldn’t Cause Problems

Written By Steve Schult on April 11, 2023 - Last Updated on June 28, 2023
Kentucky lets 18-year-olds bet on sports

Kentucky is the front-runner to be the next state to launch a legal sports betting market. And it’s doing so as one of the few states to allow 18-year-olds to wager.

At the end of March, Gov. Andy Beshear signed Kentucky sports betting legislation into law. The move legalized online and in-person sports betting for anyone 18 and over.

Most states require sports bettors to be at least 21 years old. However, Kentucky joins a small group of states that allow its residents to wager when they are voting age.

What does that mean for sports betting in the Bluegrass State?

Anti-gambling advocates will cringe at the prospects of 18-year-olds betting legally. But after looking at other markets, it doesn’t look like anything to be scared of.

Four other states share Kentucky’s age restrictions

Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Wyoming and Montana allow 18-year-olds to bet on sports online. Additionally, Washington, DC also permits older teenagers to wager online.

On the other hand, Washington State gave 18-year-olds the ability to bet on sports. But functionally, the state only has in-person betting.

Furthermore, online sports betting in Montana and the nation’s capital only offer online sports betting through the state lottery.  As a result, the only meaningful comparisons can be drawn from Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Wyoming.

Problem gambling didn’t change when sports betting launched in 18+ states

The most common concern when allowing younger people to bet is a spike in problem gambling. But of the three states that are a viable comparison, the available data doesn’t bear that out.

The National Council on Problem Gambling conducted a nationwide survey in 2016. At the time, the national problem gambling rate was about 1.1%.

Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Wyoming all reported a 2.2% rate of gambling addiction among their residents.

Yes, those figures are double the national average. And the NCPG conducted the survey two years before the Supreme Court overturned a federal sports betting ban outside Nevada.

But most states were above the 2% mark and the state’s gambling landscape doesn’t appear to affect that number.

For example, Hawaii and Utah are the two states in the country without any form of legal gambling. Yet somehow, those states also reported a 2.2% problem gambling rate.

Six years later, WalletHub conducted a study on which states are most addicted to gambling. All three states finished in the middle of the pack.

The study, published after all three states launched online sports betting, listed Wyoming 15th, Rhode Island 29th and New Hampshire 37th.

By comparison, the NCPG survey reported Kentucky had a 1.1% rate of gambling addiction. The WalletHub study ranked the state as the 44th on its list.

Kentucky’s gambling history indicates a bright future for responsible gaming

The key difference between Kentucky and the other states is the Bluegrass State’s deep history of gambling. Specifically, its relationship with horse racing.

Kentucky legalized pari-mutuel betting on horse races in 1906. Moreover, it is home to horse racing’s most prestigious event – the Kentucky Derby.

Thus, Kentuckians aren’t being exposed to a gambling market for the first time. The addition of sports betting and apps like DraftKings Kentucky, BetMGM Kentucky and FanDuel Sportsbook KY will technically be gambling expansion, despite the lack of options outside the horse track.

They won’t be drawn to sports betting simply because it’s new. There are several Kentucky horse racing apps that anyone in the state can use to wager as soon as they turn 18, including the FanDuel Horse Racing Kentucky app.

This is in stark contrast to Rhode Island, which has the longest history of gambling of the other trio of states.

Rhode Island introduced a lottery in 1973 as its first form of legal gambling. Then, it added horse racing and bingo. Finally, The Ocean State legalized casino gaming in 2012 and sports betting in 2019.

New Hampshire and Wyoming have an even shallower gambling history than that.

If young people in these states aren’t developing gambling habits at an alarming rate, it’s incredibly unlikely that Kentuckians would.

News Update: In a momentous leap forward, March 2023 witnessed the legalization of sports betting in the state of Kentucky. Follow the link provided to find all the exclusive Kentucky sportsbook bonus offers and enticing promotions that await post-launch.

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Steve Schult

The Managing Editor of PlayKentucky, Steve Schult is a veteran of the gambling industry with more than a decade of experience covering the space. After earning his journalism degree from Marist College, the New York native began covering high-stakes poker tournaments and the U.S. gambling industry for various outlets. Following stints as a writer for Card Player Media, Bluff Magazine and the World Series of Poker, Schult joined Catena Media and has managed coverage for a handful of states.

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