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Kentucky to launch legal sports betting on September 7


Kentucky will launch legal retail sports betting on September 7, with online wagering to follow on September 28.

The schedule was agreed yesterday (July 10) by Governor Andy Beshear, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and state lawmakers. This means Kentuckians can begin placing legal sports bets in less than 60 days.

This followed a KHRC meeting where members unanimously approved emergency administrative regulations to govern sports betting. Governor Beshear immediately signed off on these at Red Mile, a gaming and racing venue eligible to apply to be a sports betting location.

The September 7 launch date for retail comes just days before the start of both the 2023 NFL and collegiate football seasons.

“This is a historic day for our commonwealth,” Governor Beshear said. “Sports wagering will open for the first time in Kentucky in less than 60 days.

“Bringing sports wagering to the state gives Kentuckians a much-anticipated new form of entertainment. It also brings money to the state to support pensions, freeing up money that can be used to build a better Kentucky.”

Passing House Bill 551

Governor Beshear approved legal betting by signing off on House Bill 551 in April. This came after several previous attempts to legalize sports wagering in the state failed.

The bill will make nine racetracks eligible to offer on-site retail sports betting. Each track will also be able to partner with up to three online operators. This means up to 27 licenses may be issued by the KHRC.

The bill establishes a two-tier system to taxation. Online operators will be taxed at 14.25% of gross gambling revenue, while retail’s rate was set at 9.75%. A license will cost a racetrack $500,000, and an online operator $50,000 to partner with.

However, the bill did not contain any tribal provisions. Neither of the state’s two tribes – the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky and the Ridgetop Shawnee Tribe of Indians – are recognized by the US Department of Interior. Therefore, they do not qualify for state gaming compacts under the Federal enabling law for tribal gaming the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

“We have worked hard to deliver sports wagering to Kentuckians with regulations designed to protect bettors,” Public Protection Cabinet Secretary Ray Perry said. “Kentuckians can be sure that their bets are safe, their money is protected and there is effective oversight and enforcement if the law is not followed.”

KHRC chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz added: “The conversations we had with regulators and industry experts laid the groundwork for these clear and responsible regulations. The KHRC has a long history of pari-mutuel wagering integrity and is uniquely positioned to protect Kentucky bettors.

“Wagering integrity was the top priority of these regulations. We also considered the importance of flexibility to meet the changing demands of the industry.”

Licensing process launches

In May, the KHRC announced it was hiring additional staff to prepare for the sports wagering launch. The commission will fill 14 new positions, with job titles ranging from management to auditing and compliance.

The licensing process commences today (July 11), with this open to all licensed horseracing facilities. Each venue can apply for a retail sportsbook at their main location or at a licensed satellite location.

The state anticipates each facility will open a retail location and many will be ready to launch on September 7.

Licensed facilities can also partner with up to three marketing platforms for mobile betting, as set out in the bill.

“Our wagering compliance team is experienced and well-suited to lead this new area of wagering,” KHRC executive director Jamie Eads said. “Our next step is to open licensing and start reviewing applications.”