Sen. Damon Thayer: Kentucky Sports Betting “Has To Be Launched” By End Of Year

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Written By Giovanni Shorter | Last Updated
Sen. Damon Thayer

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed sports betting bill HB 551 into law on March 31. Since then, there has been much anticipation for the Kentucky sports betting market launch. Lawmakers have been vocal about targeting a 2023 NFL season launch to be live in time for football betting. But how realistic is this launch window? We spoke with bill sponsor Sen. Damon Thayer. He gives more clarity on the potential launch of the local sportsbooks in Kentucky.

Sen. Damon Thayer Reveals Optimism In Commission

When asked how realistic the football season launch is for sportsbooks, Thayer gave insight on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. According to Thayer, Chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz is still focused on that target launch.

“I got an update last week from the chairman of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission,” said Thayer. “And he still feels pretty optimistic that football season is a real possibility.”

We then asked Sen. Thayer if the launch window was targeting the season start or simply during the season. Thayer went on the explain that as of now, that is up in the air.

“I think that’s to be determined,” continued Thayer. “Whether sports betting would be ready to go for the opening of the NFL season or some point during the season is to be determined.”

Potential Hurdles For The Launch

In some markets, the target launch window gets delayed due to unforeseen hurdles. We asked Thayer about said hurdles that could potentially pause efforts for a launch.

“From what I understand, there are a lot of quote-unquote back-of-the-house operations related to the app and geofencing….age verification and you know the odds setting,” said Thayer. “All of those details. But from what Chairman (Jonathan) Rabinowitz told me is they are working on best practices from a number of the other states.”

Kentucky is aiming to learn from the mistakes of other markets in order to avoid such hurdles. This should help lawmakers in sticking with the current launch window.

“One of the benefits of Kentucky being one of the last states is we can learn from what all the others before us have done,” continued Thayer. “And hopefully learn from any mistakes that were made and follow some of the best practices that were out there.”

Alternative Launch Window

Finally, we asked Thayer if there were any alternate options for a launch timeline should any hurdles arise. Namely potentially launching ahead of the Super Bowl. Thayer explained that no matter what, sportsbooks should be live before the New Year.

“It would hopefully be long before that,” expressed Thayer. “Because the legislature gave the racing commission a six-month window…and it has to be launched by the end of the year.”

The bill allocates six months from the date that sports betting is legal to when betting must launch. This would see sportsbooks in Kentucky live no later than December 2023. Sen. Thayer explained that the commission has already begun working toward the launch, giving more credence to them reaching the launch window.

“So, it becomes legal on June 29,” continued Thayer. “And we give them six months in the bill to set up the regulatory framework and launch it. Of course, they started as soon as the governor signed the bill into law so they even have a little bit of a head start on that six-month period.”