Kentucky Sports Betting to Launch in 2023 NFL Season
Written by Jessica Aletor
July 21, 2023

Kentucky Sports Betting to Launch in 2023 NFL Season

After extensive deliberations among stakeholders, the Kentucky government has resolved to launch sports betting activities in September 2023. The Bluegrass State was the first of the three states to legalize sports betting this year, bringing the total tally of jurisdictions where commercial wagering is legal to 37.

Kentucky’s new legislation now requires that retail sports betting goes live on September 7, 2023 while the launch of online betting is scheduled for September 28. This timing means that sports betting will be available in Kentucky during the early days of the upcoming NFL season.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Approves Sports Betting Emergency Administrative Regulations

The journey towards the legalization of sports betting in Kentucky was a considerably long and arduous one. In 2019, Rep. Koenig introduced the first sports betting bill in Kentucky, coming off the back of the landmark Supreme Court judgment that overturned the PASPA a year prior.

Unfortunately, the bill failed to clear the house as would two other similar bills introduced between 2020 and 2021. Another bill was introduced on the floor of the House in 2022, scoring a 58-30 vote. Kentucky finally joined the league of states where sports wagering was legal in March 2023 after Gov. Beshear signed HB 551 into law.

Sponsored by Rep. Meredith this time, the sports betting bill secured a 63-34 vote in the House to send it to the Senate where it was passed by a vote of 25-12. Empowered by the provisions of the new law, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission wasted no time to prepare regulations ahead of the launch.

Under the new law, players can engage in retail sports betting at licensed racetracks and gaming facilities. Racetracks holding retail wagering licenses are also allowed to partner with independent mobile sportsbooks to deliver an online sports betting experience to Kentuckians.

There are currently nine racetracks in the state and expectations are high that all of them would be operational by September 7. Each racetrack is allowed to partner with as many as three mobile sportsbook operators, with Caesars being one of the first brands to secure a deal.

The online sportsbook will be mobile wagering partners with Keeneland Race Course and The Red Mile in the months to come. Talks are also ongoing between FanDuel and Churchill Downs, but there have been no final arrangements on the deal at the time of this report.

Governor Beshear Instrumental to Ensuring Record-Breaking Launch Timeline

Although the legislation specifically recommended that sports betting begin in the state before the end of 2023, Governor Beshear appeared to have been more enthused by a quicker timeline. Many stakeholders believe that pressure from the governor was pivotal to the KHRC clearing sportsbooks to launch in September.

“We’re not re-inventing anything. There are so many examples out there we’ve watched in these last couple of years. We’ve had a number of prime examples of how to get it done. There was significant communication between the various companies that are going to be a part (of this),” Gov. Beshear said in a press conference, reacting to suggestions that the launch date was too soon.

“I will be excited to make the first bet in the commonwealth of Kentucky. I’ve been for sports betting since I began running. I believe we can do this responsibly. I believe this administration and general assembly can get it done. I’ll be proud to make that first bet.”

The regulations released by the Horse Racing Commission were signed into law as emergency regulations. This step was necessary to allow them to come into effect as soon as they are filed with the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission. In addition to the emergency regulations, ordinary regulations have also been filed, albeit allowing for a period of legislative review and public comment.

As it stands, licensed racetracks can now apply to have an affiliated retail sportsbook in anticipation for the September 7 launch date. According to the KHRC, the three-week interval before the launch of online sports betting will allow the regulator to ensure that licensees meet technical requirements.

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