How will sports betting work in Kentucky?

Many thought the sports betting bill would never make it out of the state Senate, but Thursday night, it passed in a 25 to 12 vote.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 4:18 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, KY. (WKYT) - Many thought the sports betting bill would never make it out of the state Senate, but Thursday night, it passed in a 25 to 12 vote.

Friday morning, Governor Beshear signed the bill into law.

It will take effect in June, but it could be longer before sports betting actually begins in the Commonwealth.

“After years of urging action, sports betting is finally gonna be legal in Kentucky,” Beshear said. “We made it happen.”

House Bill 551 will go into effect in late June. From there, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has six months to set up a sports wagering system in Kentucky.

“You could potentially see the first bet taken at the tail end of 2023 or, at the latest, the start of 2024, and ya know, it’s sort of the culmination of two years of hard work here, and it’s finally gotten done in the Bluegrass State,” said XL Media Sports Betting Regulatory Reporter Robert Linnehan.

Horse racing tracks will be able to operate as sports betting facilities, but they must pay a fee. Bets will be allowed in-person and online. Kentuckians will no longer have to cross state lines to place their bets.

“more than 1.2 million attempts were made in the state of Kentucky to place bets on sporting events since march 1,” said Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Director of Public Affairs, John Cox. ”these are people that have registered in a state where sports betting is currently legal, and they’ve tried to make a bet within the border of Kentucky.”

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce says the passage of House Bill 551 will make Kentucky more competitive.

“This is just one more form of entertainment to help get people in here, and six of our seven border states have passed similar legislation in recent years, so just kind of a no-brainer for us,” Cox said.

The bill allows each of Kentucky’s nine tracks to partner with up to three online betting partners.

Tracks would pay a $500,000 initial license fee and $50,000 for annual renewals. Operators would pay $50,000 initially and $10,000 annually thereafter. Retail sportsbooks would pay a 9.75% tax on revenues, while online operators would face a 14.25% tax rate.

The vote means Kentucky will join 36 states and the District of Columbia in legalizing sports betting. It joins four states and D.C. in allowing people to bet on sports at the age of 18, according to the American Gaming Association.

It’s expected to spark an industry that books more than $2 billion in annual wagers and generates about $23 million in annual tax revenue for Kentucky. It would divert 2.5% of that tax revenue to a new fund to combat problem gaming. The remainder funds gaming regulatory expenses and Kentucky pensions.