The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the language in the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) on May 14, 2018, clearing the way for individual states to legalize and regulate sports betting. With a long history of gambling on the state’s several horse racing venues, Kentucky sports betting seemed poised to become legal shortly after the SCOTUS decision.
To date, it has not, despite some recent short-lived optimism.
Kentucky sports betting status
The Kentucky House returned from a long recess and took up HB 606 to legalize sports betting. On March 18, 2022, the bill passed 58-30 and moved onto the state Senate.
Reps. Calloway and Fugate voiced their opposition, saying sports betting is an irresponsible way to raise revenue; however, supporters of the bill say illegal Kentucky sports betting is already happening or people are just going across the border to place bets. Calloway wanted an amendment limiting daily losses to $1,000, but it was shot down.
Despite optimism after the House vote, Kentucky Senate president Robert Stivers said, “it creates no energy with me.” Support for it among Senate Republicans may not be there. “I think it’s much to do about nothing, basically,” he said.
History of sports wagering legislation
In the summer of 2017, State Senator Julian Carroll introduced a sports betting bill that would allow the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to regulate and oversee a sports gambling industry.
This early bill called for a $250,000 licensing fee and a 20 percent tax on the total amount of wagers handled. A few months later, a bill was introduced regarding the construction of casinos in Kentucky, clouding the issues surrounding sports gambling. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin went on record in his opposition of casinos within state borders.
Yet after the SCOTUS decision in May, Bevin said he expected his legislature to do more research on the possibility of sports betting in Kentucky.
The result: A nine-member legislative panel dedicated to “draft and file legislation to implement sports betting in Kentucky.”
Senator Carroll, who is on the panel board, continues to push for a sports betting industry with the Horse Racing Commission at the forefront of regulation. However, the 20 percent handle proposed on Carroll’s bill creates steadfast opposition.
House bill H 536 proposes allowing the Kentucky Lottery Corporation to regulate the industry, similar to the existing structure in Delaware.
While the current Governor remains publicly skeptical about sports wagering in Kentucky, all nine panel members support sports betting and the state’s highly successful horse racing tracks are also keen to expand the offerings at their facilities.
With its close proximity to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware – four of the quickest movers in terms of legalized sports gambling – Kentucky may be forced to act fast or lose a steady source of revenue to those neighboring states.
Sports Betting FAQ
When will sports betting be legal in Kentucky?
If HB 606 is passed in the state senate and signed into law, it will make some form of sports betting legal in Kentucky. From there, a state gaming commission would likely oversee the planning and implementation of legalized sports betting for the public. It is unlikely sports betting would launch in 2022, but the passage of HB 606 in the House sparks new optimism.
Where can I place sports bets in Kentucky?
Nowhere yet, as sports gambling is currently illegal in Kentucky.
Which Kentucky sports teams can I bet on?
Current legislation would allow betting on professional sports, and “possibly some limited instances of college sports,” according to a press release from the state in June. There are several popular collegiate programs within the state, including the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.
Who would oversee it?
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) would be one option to regulate and oversee the sports betting industry. Another option would be the state’s lottery commission to regulate the industry.
Can I get into trouble for placing bets with unregulated online sportsbooks in Kentucky?
Yes, in order for a sportsbook to be legal it must be sanctioned by the state and placing bets with an unregulated bookkeeper can result in fines and potential jail time.