Hoist your mint julep in the air! After multiple attempts, Kentucky sports betting legislation was passed and signed into law on March 31, 2023, by KY Governor Andy Beshear. In a matter of weeks, Kentucky House Bill 551 sped through the legislative halls in Frankfort enabling Kentuckians to pump their collective brakes on burdensome trips to neighboring states to place legal wagers. Legal sports betting in Kentucky is now a reality.
If you live in or plan to visit the Bluegrass State, SportsHandle is here to break down all you need to know about sports betting in Kentucky.
Sports betting is legal in Kentucky
Legal online sports betting is signed, sealed, but we’re still technically awaiting delivery in the state of Kentucky. Governor Beshear’s pen hit paper to cement sports betting law in Kentucky on March 31, however, the law does not take effect until June 28, 2023. Additionally, time is needed for the best online sportsbooks to prepare for entry into the state. So while legal, the big question surrounds when KY betting apps will become available for use.
When will online sports betting launch in Kentucky?
An official Kentucky sports betting launch day has not been set. However, the Governor himself has come out in favor of a swift rollout, targeting football season, or Q4 2023. Having watched this same process unfold in other states this seems like an ambitious, but potentially achievable goal. While betting in KY may not be available for Week 1 of the NFL, the Playoffs are certainly a possibility.
Is sports betting legal in Kentucky?
Yes. HB 551 legalizing sports betting was signed into law on March 31, 2023. Mobile sportsbooks are expected to launch in the state before or during the 2023 football season.
What is the minimum age to bet on sports in Kentucky?
18! Kentucky’s new sports betting law requires participants be just 18 years old. Generally speaking the industry standard is 21, so this represents a break from the norm.
Can I bet on a Kentucky online sportsbook app from out of state?
No, you can’t. Kentucky specifically has legalized online sports betting and the legal KY betting apps will only service customers physically located in the state. That being said, most of Kentucky’s neighbors have also legalized online betting so if you exit the state on the ground you will have new betting options available. Only Missouri to the West has yet to approve online sports betting.
Which mobile sportsbook apps are available in Kentucky?
All the biggest sportsbooks will most likely be available in Kentucky, including FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, betPARX, Betfred, WynnBET, Hard Rock Sportsbook, and many more.
Can I claim a Kentucky sports betting bonus now?
Not yet. As soon as pre-launch offers are available in the state we will have them for you. KY sportsbook bonuses are coming soon.
Can I deposit to a Kentucky sportsbook app with a credit card?
Yes – Kentucky online sportsbook apps will accept deposits through both credit and debit cards.
Is online casino legal in Kentucky?
No. HB 551 authorizes sports betting in the state but legislators decided not to legalize online casino games. Right now online casino gaming is only available in five states.
Is online poker legal in Kentucky?
No, online poker is not legal in Kentucky yet. Currently only online sports betting has been approved by the KY government. Additional legislation would need to be passed to allow online poker in Kentucky.
HB 551: Kentucky’s sports betting bill
So what exactly is covered in HB 551, the bill that ultimately became law in KY? Let’s cover the details of what it includes, and what the sports betting market in Kentucky will ultimately look like.
- Kentucky sports betting launch date: TBD – we’ll keep you posted on this
- Legal sports betting age in Kentucky: 18
- Regulation: Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC)
- KY sports betting tax rate: 9.75% (in-person), 14.25% (online)
- Licensing: Each horse racing facility can host 3 online sports betting skins
- Maximum number of KY sports betting apps: 27 (9 tracks x 3 betting skins each)
- Betting on college sports: Yes! Betting on college sports is permitted.
Regulation: KHRC takes the lead
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) will serve as chief sports betting regulator. With 114 years of experience in the field of gambling regulation, they should do a great job keeping things in line. Notably, it is somewhat unusual for a state’s horse racing regulator to perform double duty for sports betting. Currently Arkansas is the only state to have done so. For a state where horse racing is so integrated into the betting landscape, this makes sense for Kentucky.
Kentucky sports betting age: 18+
In what potentially could be a gamble itself, HB 551 set the legal age to place a bet at 18, joining only two other states (Wyoming and New Hampshire) in enabling high school-aged kids to bet. All other states are 21, but 18 year-olds can already wager on horse races in KY so it made sense to extend that same privilege to sports betting.
Notably, Caesars has announced that it will only serve persons that are 21+ in the state of Kentucky.
Kentucky sports betting tax rate
The adjusted tax rate will be 9.75% on in-person wagers and 14.25% for online wages, which is similar to other states. Most importantly, Kentucky has avoided a potentially harmful tax situation like those found in New York and Pennsylvania where exceedingly high rates can affect pricing and promotions.
Licensing KY sportsbook apps
Online sportsbooks in Kentucky must attain a license in order to accept legal bets within the state. New sportsbook licensing will be limited to the nine horse racing facilities, including famed tracks Churchill Downs and Keeneland. HB 551 enables each of the nine tracks to partner with up to three online sports betting entities, which could lead to having 27 sportsbooks available online in the state of Kentucky, though the final number will likely be lower.
Each racetrack that applies for temporary or permanent licensing will be charged an initial fee of $500,000 and a recurring annual fee of $50,000. For online sportsbooks, the initial licensing fee is just $50,000, with $10,000 due annually for renewal.
Available betting markets in Kentucky
All of the most important betting markets will be fair game for Kentucky online sportsbooks. This includes:
Wagering on college sports will be allowed, which is great news for all the rabid UK and UL fans in the state. Betting on college basketball in Kentucky will be very popular in KY.
Approved betting options in KY
HB 551 has set the stage for Kentucky online sportsbooks to accept a variety of popular wagers. These include moneyline bets, totals, spreads, parlays, single-game parlays, props, futures, and more. If you can dream it, Kentucky sportsbook apps will provide a way to wager on it.
Kentucky online sportsbooks
The online sports betting market in Kentucky is starting to take shape. Below we’ve compiled a list of the brands that have confirmed their intentions for Kentucky betting, and who they will be partnering with for access. Remember: there are nine race tracks in the state and each one can house up to 3 sports betting skins.
|KY Sports Betting App||In-State Partner(s)||Launch Date|
|Caesars Sportsbook||Keeneland, Red Mile||TBA|
Sportsbooks we expect to see in Kentucky
Although no partnerships have been confirmed yet, we expect the following brands will also target Kentucky.
- Barstool Sportsbook
- Hard Rock Sportsbook
- Fanatics Sportsbook
- Betfred Sportsbook
- Superbook Sports
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) owns a majority of the horse racing facilities in Kentucky. Its namesake track is, of course, the home of the Kentucky Derby and the company has been in the casino and racetrack business for over a century. What CDI does not have is a mobile sportsbook app. It used to; CDI-owned TwinSpires, which evolved from a horse betting app to a sportsbook app, launching in several states before shutting down in 2021 due to a lack of interest among sports bettors.
CDI still manages a few retail sportsbooks, but they have moved on from the sportsbook app game. This means that they have a bunch of app licenses to dole out, and there is no doubt that all the biggest sportsbooks will be interested in partnering with the company to enter the Kentucky market.
But which sportsbooks will actually end up launching in Kentucky? We won’t know for sure for several months, but we aren’t above a little speculation here at SportsHandle. The above sportsbooks are available in many states with legal mobile sports betting and are expected to launch in Kentucky whenever sports betting becomes available in the state.
The Latest Kentucky Sports Betting News
Kentucky Sports Betting By NFL Season? State Officials Aren’t Saying
Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has six months from the late June effective date to develop rules and license operators.
Kentucky Senate Sends Legal Sports Betting Bill To Governor
The state could have up to 27 digital platforms tethered to horse tracks, and retail sportsbooks will be legal, too.
Massachusetts Votes To Take Horse Track Applications Whenever They’re Ready
Representatives from Raynham Park, Suffolk Downs are seeking sports betting partners and clarity on fees, but won't open in January.
History of gambling in Kentucky
Wagering is almost as synonymous as Daniel Boone and bourbon to the Bluegrass State. With the nascent professional baseball leagues not arriving until the 1870’s, it would not be too farfetched to surmise that some of the 10,000 spectators at the inaugural Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875, were also the first gamblers at a major American sporting event. With coast-to-coast interest, pageantry and parties now surrounding the first Saturday in May each year, it also would not be surprising to find many Americans’ first memory of gambling was at their local Derby party or racetrack.
KY Lottery, limited casino games, historical horse racing
Outside the betting on the ponies, it took some time for gambling to pick up in Kentucky. The 1988 election saw voters approve and establish the Kentucky Lottery Corporation, with 55% of the proceeds going to the state education system. In addition to the KY lottery, the state has a handful of casinos with slots and limited table game options. Through the years, small adjustments such as the installation of instant racing terminals and Keno and online lottery sales were introduced.
The push for sports betting in Kentucky
In 2019, four sports betting bills were raised, but none of them gained serious traction. Three years later, in 2022, legislation to legalize sports betting in Kentucky made it through committee and passed the house in a 58-30 vote. Unfortunately, it stalled in the state Senate and died at the end of the 2022 legislative session. Supporters of legal sports betting felt like they had momentum on their side, and they eagerly introduced HB 551 in 2023. Their efforts were finally rewarded when the bill passed and was signed into law by the Governor.
Sports betting legislation was filed for five consecutive years in Kentucky before it finally got done. Persistence has paid off.
Sports betting around Kentucky
With around six months to go until mobile sportsbook apps are fully operational, Kentucky bettors will have to continue to travel to one of its six neighboring states to place wagers. As residency is not required for sports betting in the United States, one must only need to be physically present in the state where betting is legal. Luckily Kentuckians have many options when exiting the state by land.
With Cincinnati located just across the Ohio river from Kentucky, this makes for a very convenient trip for those living in Northern Kentucky. Having only opened their sports gambling doors in January, there are already 17 mobile sportsbooks in the Buckeye State.
One of the earlier adopters to sports gambling, Indiana currently has 15 sports betting operators. Similar to Cincinnati, Evansville, IN is perched right across the river from Kentucky for wagers to be placed.
The Land of Lincoln hosts 10 mobile betting operators since opening up in 2020. No land-based sportsbooks are convenient for Kentucky residents, but you can exit the state to the northwest via car and place bets as soon as you cross into Illinois.
Kentucky’s neighbor to the East, West Virginia, currently houses 8 mobile sportsbook operators and 5 retail sportsbooks. Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Cross Lanes, which offers a Betly retail sportsbook, is a 50 minutes drive from the Kentucky state line.
Sportsbooks opened their (virtual) doors in the Old Dominion in 2021 and now have 15 operators available. Virginia is currently an online-only sports betting state, though retail books are anticipated to start opening in the coming years.
Sharing the biggest border (and sometimes biggest sports rivalry), the Volunteer State was an early adopter of online sports gambling. There are no in-person sportsbooks, but they do have an ample selection of mobile sportsbooks for visitors from Kentucky to pick and choose the best lines from.
Sports betting is not legal in Missouri, but legalization efforts have been considered by the state legislature. Until Missouri finally gets its sports betting market sorted, the state may be sending revenue to Kentucky as border-adjacent bettors will be able to cross into and bet in the Bluegrass State.
Banking for Kentucky online sportsbooks
Bettors in Kentucky will be happy to know that whatever sportsbook they choose will be regulated by the state government and will have many safeguards in place to protect customer deposits. Whatever banking method you choose for sports betting, your money will be safe at a legal, regulated sportsbook. Here are the most common ways Kentuckians will be able to fund their sportsbook accounts:
- Credit + Debit Cards
- Online bank transfer
- Prepaid Play+ Cards
- Paper checks
Popular sports and teams in Kentucky
The last time a major professional sports team called Kentucky home was in 1976 when the ABA’s Colonels took the court at Freedom Hall in Louisville. Since then, Kentucky sports fans have had to rely on many of their border states for pro sports allegiances. College sports, remain King in Kentucky.
College Sports – Wildcats basketball, football are king
What is big in Kentucky is college sports, specifically college basketball. As mentioned, UK and UL are by far the most popular teams of any sport in the state. Practically everyone in Kentucky bleeds either Kentucky Wildcats Blue or Louisville Red, but never both. Because of this, while some states do not allow betting on collegiate sports, the sponsors of HB 551 made sure college sports would be included in the legislation so fans can wager on their favorite teams.
NFL betting in Kentucky
When it comes to America’s most popular sport, Kentucky is as diverse as it comes. Northeast Kentucky is Bengals orange, a sliver out west supports the Chiefs, and the rest of state represent different shades of blue in the Colts, Titans, and Bears.
MLB betting in Kentucky
The Reds are far and away the most popular baseball team in Kentucky. With a minor league affiliate in Louisville and the Great American Ballpark literally closer to Kentucky than it is to downtown Cincinnati, the Reds get most of the love with a little bit of Cardinals affection mixed in.
NHL betting in Kentucky
The Predators in Nashville are the closest NHL team to Kentucky, but there is no real buzz for hockey in the state. There might be a few St. Louis Blues fans in the western part of the state, but overall hockey isn’t very big in Kentucky.
Horse Racing in KY: Kentucky Derby
Not surprisingly, horse racing is the sport that generates the most revenue in Kentucky. Home to the most famous race of the Triple Crown and arguably the most famous racetrack (Churchill Downs), thoroughbred racing is not only popular, but an economic steamroller. The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association estimates the equine industry generates $6.5 Billion in annual economic activity! Compare that to the neighboring Cincinnati Reds, Bengals, and FC Cincinnati (MLS) which generate $550 Million annually COMBINED. A true juggernaut.