A look at the Ohio sports betting launch highlights some possible problems Kentucky could soon encounter.
When Gov. Andy Beshear signed HB 551 in late March, Kentucky became the 37th state to legalize sports betting.
But since then, it’s been a waiting game for those wanting to participate in the Kentucky sports betting market. And it will continue to be that way until Attorney General Daniel Cameron enacts the bill.
The law officially goes into effect June 28. From there, the state’s sports betting industry must launch before Dec. 28. In the meantime, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will decide on regulations and sportsbook licenses.
Could sports betting launch earlier? That’s what everybody in the Bluegrass State wants to know. Lawmakers and regulators are hoping to get things live by the NFL season.
Other states that recently launched sportsbooks show how that is — and isn’t — plausible.
Other states had a waiting period like Kentucky
It wasn’t identical, but Ohio had a waiting period after officials signed off in December 2021.
Ohio’s industry had to launch no later than Jan. 1, 2023, which is what ended up happening. But there was a brief period where some thought it could have launched earlier in August 2022.
When it came to Ohio, though, part of that waiting period concerned all the licenses surrounding retail, online and kiosk sports betting options. Ohio law allowed for 25 mobile sports betting apps and up to 40 retail sportsbooks for 65 total licenses.
In Kentucky, there are a maximum of 40 potential licenses — 30 online, 10 retail.
Is there a chance Kentucky’s sports betting industry launches before December?
Beshear wants to see the industry go live before December. As soon as September, in fact.
Less than a month after HB 551 passed in the Senate, Beshear noted that he’d like to see Kentucky sports betting kick off before the 2023 NFL season starts. Sen. Majority Leader Damon Thayer and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Chairman Jonathan Robinowitz want the same.
Kentucky officials’ desire to get the show running before the NFL season makes sense, considering how much gamblers wager on professional football. According to Legal Sports Betting, US bettors wagered $100 billion during the most recent NFL season. Prior to kickoff, the American Gaming Association predicted 46.6 million Americans would bet on the 2022-23 NFL season.
In an interview with Saturday Down South, Thayer said the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission could technically approve an early launch with emergency rules and regulations.
Kansas pulled off a similar feat last year
If you want to see a quick turnaround, look no further than Kansas.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed SB 84 into law in mid-May last year. On July 1, 2022, it officially went into effect. Kansas officially launched its sports betting industry a few months later on Sept. 8. That’s an even shorter turnaround than what regulators hope to achieve in Kentucky.
The launch just before the NFL season kicked off was a hit. Kansas residents wagered $160 million during the first month.
What does the 6-month hold mean for Kentucky sports betting?
It may seem like a long time from now, but this timeframe gives officials plenty of time to hash out various licenses and regulations.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission wants to get this right. Don’t expect a rushed approach by any means.
While there won’t be as many options as in Ohio (which accounted for a chunk of the launch delay), Kentucky residents will have plenty of betting options. HB 551 states that Kentucky’s nine horse racetracks and the Kentucky Speedway can operate retail sportsbooks.
Operators can also partner with the racetracks and speedway for mobile betting options. The locations can each partner with up to three online sports gambling operators, such as BetMGM Sportsbook Kentucky and DraftKings Sportsbook Kentucky.
Could there be possible problems in store?
There certainly will be sports betting in Kentucky. Any potential problems wouldn’t affect the legality of the activity. But there could be issues for regulators to complete the licensing process in the desired time frame.
Look at Ohio’s case. After officials signed off on sports betting in December 2021, it took more than a year until operators took the state’s first legal wagers.
Granted, there were more licenses from retail sportsbooks, but there were a similar amount of online operators compared to the maximum of 30 that Kentucky could allow.
Time will tell as different operators secure their licenses in Kentucky and which venues they partner with to offer an online betting experience. But don’t be surprised if sports betting isn’t up and running fully by the start of the NFL season in September.