Last updated: June 1, 2020
Status: Kentucky’s state lawmakers have made moves to legalise sports betting in the state and a bill is being drafted, which will be filed before the start of the 2020 legislative session
ETA: If the bill passes smoothly, sports betting could be up and running in the state in 2020.
After the Supreme Court opened the door to sports betting with their ruling in May 2018, Kentucky legislators immediately began to explore the possibility of bringing sports wagering to the Bluegrass State. Democrat and Republican representatives and senators from both urban and rural areas were chosen to sit on a panel with the intention of drafting a bill that would address all forms of sports wagering.
Two earlier bills that had been filed in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision failed to progress as the matter had not been properly discussed. Both of the bills took a different approach to legalization and it is hoped the latest bill’s more comprehensive nature will satisfy the lawmakers.
As the state constitution already has an exemption for lotteries, it is hoped that sports betting can be brought into law with just a statutory change. There has been some vocal opposition but if the state’s acceptance of horse racing betting is a benchmark then sports betting should eventually get the green light.
Charitable bingo was the first legalized form of gambling in ConnWhile Kentucky’s gambling laws have traditionally been rather strict, the state is renowned for its thoroughbred horse racing, with the Kentucky Derby held annually in Louisville. Pari-mutuel betting on horse and dog races were exempt from the state’s constitutional gambling laws first drafted in the 1800s. The first Kentucky Derby was held later in 1875. As well as horse racing, harness racing is also held in the state and betting on and off track is permitted on races at the state’s six racing tracks.
In 1988, the first notable change in gambling laws occurred when the lottery act was passed. The state lottery proved to be hugely successful, with profits going to many good causes including local education. This prompted an extension of the law in 1992 to include charitable gaming such as bingos and raffles.
With no commercial or tribal casinos in Kentucky, residents who want to enjoy casino gambling must cross the border into neighboring states.
Sports betting will remain illegal in Kentucky until the sports betting bill is passed through the house and signed off by the governor. This is not expected to happen until mid/late 2020 at the earliest.
As there is no sports betting in Kentucky right now, there is no body in control of operations. In the future, it is expected that sports betting will fall under the jurisdiction of the state lottery regulators.
The minimum gambling age for horse racing in Kentucky is 18 and the proposed sports betting bill has set the same limit.
As of the end of Q1 2020, only betting on horse and dog racing is permitted in the state. The proposed sports betting bill would open the door to betting on all professional and college sports.
There are no current operators or licence holders in Kentucky. If the bill goes ahead, sports betting could be controlled by the state lottery regulators and licences issued as soon as 2020.
With the bill still not filed, there are currently no operators offering legal sports betting in Kentucky.
The sports betting bill covers all forms of sports betting including online and mobile. If the bill passes in 2020, betting via mobile applications will be allowed.
It has been estimated by state representatives in favour of sports betting that revenue of between $20 and $48 million could be generated for the state.
The sports bill includes a 10.25% tax for retail sports betting and a 14.25% tax on internet sports betting.
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