Kentucky is world-famous for the Kentucky Derby horse race, which attracts millions of dollars in pari-mutuel bets every year. Now, sports betting is legal both in retail locations and online.
The first attempt to pass sports betting legislation was in September 2017, before the US Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). That bill, BR 155, suffered a fate shared by many attempts at launching legal sports betting in the Bluegrass State by failing to pass before the end of the legislative session.
Bills in 2019, 2020, and 2021 all met the same result. The latest attempt to pass sports betting legislation was not approved by the end of the 2022 legislative session, meaning bettors in KY had to wait until the 2023 session for any progress on legalizing sportsbooks.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has come out in favor of passing sports betting, which boded well for the 2023 legislative effort.
In March 2023, Kentucky Sports Betting was passed into law, and users in the Bluegrass State are now able to bet on sports from the 7th of September 2023 in Retail Locations, and then from September, 28th on mobile sports betting apps.
If you want to learn more about Kentucky sports betting, and legal options in neighboring states, read our complete guide below.
September 20, 2017: Senator Julian Carroll introduces Kentucky sports betting legislation to allow the Horse Racing Commission to regulate a sports gambling industry. BR 155 would come into effect when federal law allows states to create sports betting legislation, but fails to pass.
May 14, 2018: The US Supreme Court overturns PASPA, allowing states like Kentucky to pass sports betting legislation.
June 18, 2018: After the overturning of PASPA, the Kentucky General Assembly forms a committee to examine legalizing sports betting.
April 15, 2019: Another sports betting bill, HB 175, fails to get the 60% of House votes it needs to pass. The bill proposes legalizing sports betting, Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), and online poker.
April 15, 2020: Another sports betting bill, HB 137, fails to pass before the legislative session ends. The bill had passed the Committee stage and had the support of Gov. Beshear but could not pass the House.
January 9, 2021: Representative Adam Koenig introduces HB 241 to legalize sports betting, but it does not gain enough support to make it through the Committee on Committees.
February 23, 2021: Two other bills legalizing sports betting in Kentucky, HB 531 and HB 594, are also referred to the Committee on Committees but fail to pass.
April 1, 2021: Gov. Beshear criticizes lawmakers for not passing sports betting legislation and missing out on the revenue from legalization.
April 15, 2022: A fourth attempt by Rep. Koenig to legalize sports betting, HB 606, fails. The failure occurs as Senators fail to call a vote after the House passed the legislation. The 2022 legislative session ends without the approval of a sports betting bill.
March 30th, 2023: Gov. Beshear announced that House Bill 551 was passed, as lawmakers voted 25-12 in favor of the Kentucky sports betting bill to be passed in the Bluegrass State.
September 7th, 2023: Retail sports betting went live in Kentucky, so users could bet in person ahead of the start of the new NFL season.
September 28th, 2023: Online sports betting went live in Kentucky, meaning users can now bet on desktop betting sites and mobile sports betting apps, in addition to betting in person. Seven operators are taking bets in Kentucky, including popular sites like DraftKings and FanDuel Sportsbook.
With no major league sports teams in Kentucky, college sports tend to be the most popular with local fans. Especially with two of the best college basketball programs in NCAA history based in KY. However, plenty of sports will attract sports bets in the Bluegrass State regardless, with the most popular listed below.
Pro football had a presence in Kentucky in the early days of the NFL. The Louisville Brecks, who played as an Independent from 1899 to 1920, joined the league for a $25 franchise fee in February 1921. The history of the team was chaotic, disappearing in 1924 & 1925 and only winning a single game in four years of play.
In the present day, there are no NFL teams in Kentucky, but still plenty of fans. If sports betting launches in KY, bettors will be able to back markets like moneylines, totals, and futures for every NFL team.
While there is no team in the NBA from Kentucky, the Bluegrass state has a long history with pro basketball. The Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association (ABA) were one of the most successful organizations in the competition. However, the team failed to join the NBA in the NBA-ABA merger and folded in 1976.
Since then, despite the strength of college basketball in Kentucky, there hasn’t been an attempt to bring pro basketball back to the state.
Several stars of the Kentucky team have gone on to play in the NBA, like Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. If the Bluegrass State introduced sports betting, interest in former college players would be high and could bring lots of interest in NBA betting.
Due to its proximity to several baseball teams, baseball has many fans in Kentucky. It is also a popular national betting market, with many bettors looking to place wagers on the outcome of the World Series.
Now sports betting has launched in Kentucky, interest in baseball betting will be high. Markets such as futures, player props, and over/under could be popular among KY bettors.
College sports in Kentucky are king thanks to the state’s two prestigious college athletics programs, the ACC’s University of Louisville Cardinals and the SEC’s University of Kentucky Wildcats.
The Cardinals and Wildcats compete most ferociously in basketball, with the rivalry between the two schools standing as one of the most storied in collegiate sports. The two also have prominent football programs, with Louisville having recent success due to its Heisman Trophy-winning QB, Lamar Jackson.
There is currently no NHL team based in Kentucky. However, teams from surrounding states, like the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators, regularly garner interest from the KY sports fans.
Premier ice hockey events like the Stanley Cup Series will likely attract some interest from bettors alongside markets like futures, over/under, totals, or puck lines.
Many states bordering KY offer legal betting, including Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, and Tennessee.
Indiana launched sports betting in May 2019 when Governor Eric Holcomb signed HB 1015. The first retail sportsbook opened in September 2019, and online sportsbooks went live a month later. The Indiana Gaming Commission regulates sportsbooks in IN. There are 13 online sportsbooks operational and fifteen retail sportsbook locations, with top operators including BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel.
Bettors can place wagers on all major professional leagues in Indiana but cannot bet on in-state college teams and NCAA games taking place within the state. You also cannot bet on eSports or any athlete younger than 18.
Anyone over 21 and within state lines can place a bet on sports unless they are criminally barred from betting, on a self-exclusion list, or affiliated with a sporting organization. You do not have to be a resident to wager. Just within Indiana’s borders.
Illinois legalized sports betting in June 2019, and its first retail sportsbooks opened in March 2020. The first online sportsbook opened in June 2020, when BetRivers launched its app. Other online operators include DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet. The Illinois Gaming Board regulates sports betting.
Sports betting is available to anyone 21 or older and within state lines. You do not have to be a resident to bet in Illinois. Until March 2022, you needed to register at a land-based facility to enjoy online betting, but lawmakers reversed this requirement. However, you must place a pregame wager in person to place a bet on in-state college teams.
Passing sports betting legislation before the repeal of PASPA, West Virginia was ready to go when federal law changed regarding sports betting. Retail sportsbooks launched in September 2018, with online operators going live in December 2018. The West Virginia Lottery Commission regulates sportsbooks in WV, and major operators like FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM are currently available.
Unless you are self-excluded or criminally barred, the legal gambling age in West Virginia is 21. You can bet on professional and college sports, but players can only place bets within state lines.
Tennessee launched sports betting in November 2020 after lawmakers passed legislation in 2019. 11 sportsbook apps are currently operational. As there are no casinos in the state, TN is an online-only market for sports betting.
The Tennessee Education Lottery initially regulated sportsbooks, but since January 2022, the Sports Wagering Advisory Council has oversight of operators.
You can place sports bets within state lines and over 21. It is legal to bet on professional and collegiate sports, but Tennessee does not allow prop bets on college athletes.
Several companies were interested in launching in Kentucky when sports betting was legalized. Here are the main operators you can place wagers with, in Kentucky.
Commonly among the first new arrivals in states that legalize sports betting, FanDuel is well known to players in Kentucky due to its popular DFS contests. They are now live in Kentucky and will rival all operators to be the #1 operator in the Bluegrass State.
DraftKings is another popular DFS operator in Kentucky, and the brand has launched its sportsbook in Kentucky now as well. DraftKings will no doubt be one of the most popular operators in the Bluegrass State.
The online sportsbook operated by MGM Resorts International and Entain, BetMGM, was previously operational in fifteen US states and that number has now become sixteen, thanks to the launch in Kentucky.
Caesars Entertainment, which runs fifty gambling properties across the United States, is the operator of Caesars Sportsbook. The sportsbook had previously launched in sixteen US states and is now live in Kentucky as well.
Bet365 expanded its reach to a sixth state, adding to sportsbooks in Colorado, Iowa, New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia, when it launched in Kentucky on September 28th, 2023.
Bet365 is one of the world's most popular online sports betting companies, and they will continue to show that in the Bluegrass State.
There are currently no major league teams in Kentucky, despite KY teams like the Kentucky Colonels and Louisville Brecks featuring in early professional leagues in the US. However, Kentucky sports fans still get behind teams from nearby states, and we’ve listed some of the most popular below.
Racing Louisville FC is an expansion team in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) that plays at Lynn Family Stadium. It received its NWSL franchise in October 2019 and has its inaugural season in 2021.
The city’s USL Championship side, Louisville City FC, owns the team. Louisville City and Racing Louisville share Lynn Family Stadium, a soccer-specific facility opened in 2020.
Racing Louisville has had limited success in the NWSL, failing to qualify for the playoffs in its first two years. However, the side beat four-time German champions Bayern Munich in the 2021 edition of The Women’s Cup, a pre-season event.
Due to its proximity to Kentucky, the Cincinnati Reds are one of the most popular MLB sides in the state. The original Cincinnati Reds, one of the charter members of the senior circuit, were expelled from the league over a dispute about selling beer at ballparks. However, the Reds reformed after a nine-year hiatus in 1890.
The Reds are one of the most successful teams in professional baseball, winning five World Series titles, nine NL Pennants, and ten divisional titles. The team plays its home games at Great American Ball Park, which opened in 2003. The team also has a Triple-A International League affiliate in the Bluegrass State, the Louisville Bats.
Playing in Paycor Stadium in nearby Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Bengals are another popular professional team in Ohio with many fans in Kentucky. Legendary Ohio coach Paul Brown founded the team when the American Football League (AFL) granted him a franchise in 1967. The Bengals had its inaugural season a year later.
The Bengals struggled for many years, despite reaching the playoffs three times in its opening decade. It played in its first Super Bowls in 1981 and 1988, losing both times to the San Francisco 49ers.
After winning its wildcard round game against the Houston Oilers in 1990, the team waited another 31 years before winning another playoff game, advancing to Super Bowl LVI. However, the Bengals lost this game to the LA Rams.
Playing in Kentucky’s neighboring state of Tennessee, the Memphis Grizzlies have many fans across Kentucky. The Grizzlies arrived in Memphis in 1995, with the team relocating from Vancouver. The team now plays in the Southwest Division of the NBA’s Western Conference, with home games at FedEx Forum.
The Grizzlies had to wait until 2022 to win a first divisional title, but have made twelve appearances in the NBA playoffs. Memphis reached the Conference semifinals in 2022 but lost to the Golden State Warriors, the eventual champions.
Again, due to its proximity to Kentucky in Tennessee, the NHL’s Nashville Predators are one of the most popular ice hockey teams in KY. The team was founded as an expansion franchise in 1998, joining the Western Conference, and plays home games at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville is a member of the Central Division and has won this division twice, its conference once, and the President’s Trophy once. Despite not winning a Stanley Cup yet, the team reached the Finals in 2017/18 and the playoffs in every year from 2018 to 2022.
Even without any major league sports teams, Kentucky is host to one of the most famous sporting events globally, the Kentucky Derby. In addition, there are also plenty of other sports events for fans to enjoy. Check out some of the most popular below.
The Kentucky Derby is an iconic horse racing festival held annually at Churchill Downs, Louisville. It is often called the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” , and is the best-attended horse racing event in North America. The event is the first leg of the American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, running through May and June.
Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack hold the record for most wins by a jockey, with five apiece. The fastest horse in race history was Secretariat in 1973, who went on to win the Triple Crown.
Kentucky has hosted two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events. The first was UFC on Versus 3, held at the KFC Yum! Center in March 2011. A crowd of 8,319 watched as Diego Sanchez defeated Martin Kampmann on a unanimous points decision.
The second event held in KY was in November 2013. The US military base Fort Campbell hosted UFC: Fight for the Troops 3. The event was the fourth UFC event hosted at a US military base. The card featured several US army veterans, including headliner Tim Kennedy, who defeated Rafael Natal by knockout in 4:40.
Regarded as one of the best college rivalries in the US, games between the University of Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville University Cardinals men’s basketball teams are held each year in late December or early January.
As of 2022, Kentucky is the second-most winningest program in Division I basketball, while Louisville is sixth. Because of this, the rivalry is exceptionally intense. Both schools have produced many NBA players, with 46 first-round NBA draft selections for Kentucky and 24 for Louisville.
The teams first met in 1913 but only played twelve times between 1913 and 1983. The rivalry was dormant until the two met in the 1983 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.However, the teams have met annually ever since. The deepest-ever March Madness meeting between the two was a Final Four meeting in 2012, with the Wildcats defeating its rivals on the way to its seventh national championship.
The Governor’s Cup is an annual college football game between Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals, held on-campus in alternate years between Lexington and Louisville.
The schools held the first game in 1912, and Kentucky won the first seven games with blowout scores. The Cardinals failed to score a single point in each game! Soon after in 1924, games between the schools stopped.
The two teams resumed the rivalry 70 years later in 1994, and after 83 years, the Cardinals beat the Wildcats in September 1995. The game was low scoring at 13-10. Initially taking place early in the season, since the Cardinals re-joined the ACC in 2014, the game moved to Thanksgiving weekend.
Kentucky sports betting is now live. Retail sports betting was legalized on September 7th, 2023, and online sports betting followed on September 28th, 2023.
Yes, betting on horse racing is legal in Kentucky, which is not surprising since the state holds the Kentucky Derby. You can visit a horse racing track to place pari-mutuel bets, or you can use an online horse racing betting site. TwinSpires is one of the most popular options, and is operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated, organizers of the Kentucky Derby.
Yes, you can bet on BetMGM Sportsbook in Kentucky, as online sports betting is now live in the Bluegrass State, and BetMGM are one of the approved operators.
Yes, Caesars Sportsbook were among the seven operators to go live with online betting in Kentucky on September 28th, 2023.
DraftKings Sportsbook is now live in Kentucky, as of September 28th, 2023. This means you can now place sports bets with DraftKings, as well as play DFS in the Bluegrass State.
Through the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, DFS competitions are considered games and skill and not chance. This means you can play DFS games in Kentucky with operators like FanDuel and DraftKings.
The legal betting age for horse racing and the lottery in Kentucky is 18 and older, and they have kept it that way for sports betting as well.
Most operators however are requiring new users to be 21+ to stay in line with their legislation in other states across the US.
Yes, FanDuel Sportsbook are among the seven operators currently live in Kentucky, after online sports betting was legalized on September 28th, 2023.
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