On Monday, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission held a special meeting to release and approve sports betting regulations.
The commissioners unanimously passed emergency and ordinary regulations. The emergency regulations allow Kentucky sports betting to launch on Sept. 7.
Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks can accept wagers on that day, in time for the first game of the NFL season. On the other hand, Kentucky online sportsbooks will launch three weeks later on Sept. 28. That online launch is just shy of six months from when Gov. Andy Beshear signed the Kentucky sports betting bill into law on March 31.
That six-month turnaround from bill signing to online launch is one of the fastest in US sports betting history.
No state goes from legalization to launch quicker than Kentucky
Few other states in US history have moved that quickly since PASPA was repealed in 2018 and sports betting started to spread across the country. Massachusetts, the most recent state to launch sports betting, was also fast — seven months, from its governor signing the bill on Aug. 10 to apps launching March 10.
But Kentucky will be faster by a month.
Kentucky’s legislation mandated the industry launch six months after the bill was enacted. That timeline set up an end-of-December launch date. However, Beshear wanted sportsbooks operating for this year’s football season. So the time between the bill actually being enacted in late June to the planned online launch in late September is just three months.
That was only possible by passing emergency regulations.
Otherwise, the regulatory process would’ve taken much too long for a launch by Beshear’s desired start date.
In an exclusive interview with PlayKentucky, one of the foremost authorities in gaming law, Jeff Ifrah, said that emergency regulations were the only way for a Kentucky launch to coincide with the NFL season.
It’s not uncommon for states to take more than a year to launch an industry. Michigan, for instance, spent 10 months establishing its online sports betting system after retail sportsbooks launched. In Maryland, that process took 11 months.
In Kentucky, it will take 21 days.
Emergency regulations are just temporary
Regulators passed an emergency set of rules simply so the market could launch by the fall. But these regulations are temporary.
Initially, operators will adhere to the emergency regulations. In the meantime, the KHRC will go through the standard regulatory procedure and craft a final set of rules.
These “ordinary regulations” will be up for public comment and could be amended by regulators after they receive feedback from citizens, operators and experts in the coming weeks. Therefore, the rules sportsbooks are using this fall could be different when spring rolls around.
What is in the emergency regulations?
The short answer is we don’t know yet. Regulators haven’t released the emergency regulations on the KHRC website yet.
But during the meeting, there was a short discussion about the regulations. So we have some idea about what to expect.
There will be rules on advertising and promotional language. Other states have banned the phrase “risk-free bet” and implemented other rules surrounding advertising aimed at minors. Kentucky will have something similar in its regulations.
Additionally, on the responsible gaming front, there will be a self-exclusion list for problem gamblers to ban themselves from betting. Services will also be available to help those suffering from a gambling addiction.
From a licensing standpoint, there are three types of licenses. An operator’s license is for racetracks with a retail sportsbook, a service provider license is for the sports betting partner of those tracks, and an occupational license is for the employees of those companies.
There are 14 eligible venues for an operator’s license, owned by nine separate license holders. Each operator can partner with up to three service providers, meaning there will be up to 27 licensed online sportsbooks in Kentucky.
Lastly, there are two types of occupational licenses. A race and sportsbook employee license is for those workers on the ground level of the operation. A key employee license is necessary for someone making “critical decisions” for the sportsbook.