Since Gov. Andy Beshear signed sports betting into law in Kentucky on March 31, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has been keeping any news close to the vest. But Tuesday, commission Chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz opened a regular meeting with an announcement that draft rules are being circulated among stakeholders and that the KHRC is “tentatively planning” an early July meeting to review and approve those rules.
That timing leaves open the possibility that bets could be taken as soon as football season, which Beshear has been pushing for since he the signed the bill. It would be a tight timetable to approve potential operators, but given that most jurisdictions need between six and 12 months to approve rules and Kentucky appears poised to do so in three, it’s not impossible.
The law requires that wagering be live by Dec. 28.
Rabinowitz shared that his staff, the commission, and members of the Public Protection Cabinet have spent the last several months meeting with “regulators from other states, industry experts, service providers, and licensed associations with the goal of drafting clear and concise administrative regulations to govern sports betting.” Among the regulators that the KHRC has consulted with are those from Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Ohio. Both Massachusetts and Ohio launched legal sports betting this year, while regulators in the three other states have overseen live wagering for at least three years.
Up to 27 platforms will be allowed
Rabinowitz said his peers from other states offered “good guidance and tips from real-world experience.” The KHRC is likely now getting feedback from stakeholders in preparation for voting on the regulations. Should those regulations be approved in early July, it would give the KHRC about 60 days to vet potential operators.
In March, I signed sports betting into law.
Finally after we pushed for years, the people of Kentucky got what they wanted, and because of it, our commonwealth will get better roads, bridges, and schools for everyone. That’s a win-win.
— Andy Beshear (@AndyBeshearKY) June 20, 2023
Kentucky’s new law will allow for up to 27 digital platforms tethered to existing horse racetracks. Each track would get three skins and also be entitled to one brick-and-mortar location. Caesars Sportsbook in May announced partnerships with Keeneland and Red Mile Gaming & Racing for retail sportsbooks, which also likely gives the operator market access for at least one digital platform. In 2022, FanDuel announced a partnership with Churchill Downs, meaning that at least two of the biggest operators in the country already have market access.
It’s likely that the remaining biggest operators, including Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM, and DraftKings, will announce partnerships in the coming months and be among the first to apply and launch. It’s equally likely that with 27 licenses available, many smaller operators like Circa, SuperBook Sports, and Tipico and European entries like bet365 and SBK will ultimately be available in the market.
Legal age is 18 to match parimutuel wagering
Kentucky’s new law is a departure from most in that it makes the legal age 18. Lawmakers argued that in a state where parimutuel wagering is part of the culture, it did not make sense to have an older age for sports betting. Lawmakers did, however, commit 2.5% of tax revenue to responsible and problem gambling initiatives. The tax rate is 14.25%, and betting on college, esports, Olympics, and professional sports will be allowed.
The KHRC announced Tuesday that it had contracted with Gaming Laboratories International for consulting and training, and that it would be adding 14 new positions to manage and oversee legal sports betting.
Since Kentucky legalized in March, governors in both North Carolina and Vermont have made wagering legal in their states, while a Rhode Island bill that would legalize online casino is waiting for action from Gov. Daniel McKee.
When Beshear signed wagering into law, it capped a five-year effort in the state, and was the second time since 2021 that the Bluegrass State expanded gaming. Lawmakers approved historical horse racing in 2021.