Why 21+, Credit Card Sports Betting Amendments Failed In Kentucky

Written By Chris Gerlacher on May 10, 2023 - Last Updated on June 21, 2023
failed 21+, credit card amendments for sports betting in Kentucky, from playkentucky.com

Kentucky House of Representatives members defeated two amendments to the bill allowing sports betting in the Bluegrass State before it reached the governor’s desk.

Those amendments would’ve significantly altered the legal landscape of Kentucky sports betting. One amendment would have increased the sports betting age from 18 to 21. The other would have prohibited sportsbooks from accepting credit card deposits.

Rep. Josh Calloway, R-Irvington, introduced both amendments and faced opposition from sports betting bill sponsor Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland.

Both state representatives discussed how those defeats occurred with PlayKentucky.

Increasing sports gambling age from 18 to 21

Kentucky horse tracks allow customers to bet at the age of 18. Eighteen-year-olds can also buy lottery tickets and play on historical horse racing machines.

“Eighteen is the age that you can do any of those other forms [of gambling] in Kentucky,” Meredith told PlayKentucky. “Eighteen is the age that we consider to not be a minor anymore. … You are an adult for all intents and purposes with the exception of being able to use alcohol and, recently, the use of tobacco products, and … that’s a consistency thing for me, too.”

Calloway argued that the 18-year-old sports betting age in Kentucky was inconsistent with potentially addictive products. In Kentucky, products “that have addictive properties such as tobacco or alcohol … you have to be 21 to partake in those things.”

Requiring sports bettors to be 21 is also consistent with most other states that have legalized sports betting. So, Calloway seemed to have a case for his age requirement amendment. It was defeated, in part, because the amendment was proposed so late into the legislative process.

“There was widespread support for it had it been a part of the original bill,” Calloway told PlayKentucky. “People get nervous in the Legislature a lot of times about amendments of things once they hit the floor just because … a lot of times there’s already agreement on the Senate side or the House side … as to how they will accept it.”

Ultimately, the Legislature was swayed by the consistency of the argument for a lower gambling age rather than a higher age for a potentially addictive product.

Banning credit card deposits at sportsbooks

The second amendment Calloway introduced was to ban credit card deposits at sportsbooks. He has grounds to propose this amendment, too. Banning credit cards for sportsbook deposits is a responsible gambling policy in five states:

  • Iowa
  • Tennessee
  • Rhode Island
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire

Calloway’s concerns about using credit cards to bet are derived from his fear about the impact expanded gambling will have on people in poverty.

“They’re spending living money to gamble with and so I just felt … if we could block the credit card use of it, we could at least keep people from spending money they didn’t have for gambling, and that becomes a state responsibility at some point again,” Calloway said.

Meredith’s main argument against banning credit cards was the inherent benefits of credit card use instead of debit card use.

“I very rarely ever link my bank account directly to anything that has online access to it because if someone were to be able to hack into the interface and gain access to my account, my money is gone,” Meredith said.

Fraudsters who successfully log in to someone’s sportsbook account can’t access that customer’s bank account. According to DraftKings’ December 2022 data breach notification, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and financial account numbers aren’t stored locally.

However, a fraudster who secures debit or credit card information can make purchases with someone else’s money. Stolen debit cards take customers’ money on hand from their checking accounts. With credit cards, there’s a delay between when the funds are deducted and when the customer’s money is owed. That’s extra time that a customer can report the fraud before losing the cash.

Meredith’s security concerns, the widespread use of credit cards and the convenience of credit cards won the Kentucky Legislature.

Kentucky’s unfinished sportsbook amendment

Kentucky’s sports betting bill passed before Calloway could introduce a third amendment, which would’ve ensured that all sports wagers were placed in person. Calloway wanted “places set up, whether it be the venue where it’s going on or places set up that somebody could go in person, place that wager, and that way we knew for sure that we could card people.”

This proposed amendment stemmed from a concern about youth access to sportsbooks. Commercial sportsbooks do a good job of verifying identities and blocking VPNs.

“These sports wagering systems have great great systems as far as identity checking in their systems,” Meredith said. “But even the best systems out there from time to time have a hack in them.”

Meredith was principally concerned about the security of customers’ bank accounts and personal funds. However, the concern about underage gambling is universal among lawmakers.

An emerging question for the industry is how advertising affects people old enough to have debit cards but too young to access licensed sportsbooks. There is no data on whether successful sportsbook advertising sends young people to offshore sites, which don’t verify bettors’ ages. This is an area ripe with research opportunities and regulatory innovation.

All of these issues can’t be addressed in one bill passing. Kentucky’s sports betting policies must evolve continually, incorporating best practices from other states and tackling emerging challenges.


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Chris Gerlacher

Christopher Gerlacher is the lead writer for PlayKentucky. He is a versatile, experienced writer with a portfolio that ranges from political and legislative pieces to sports and sports betting. Gerlacher is a devout Broncos fan, for better or for worse, living in the foothills of Arvada, CO.

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