Kentucky’s Sports Betting Legislation Nears Conclusion as Legislators Conclude Session

As the Kentucky General Assembly reconvenes in Frankfort for the concluding two days of their 2023 session, much attention will be focused on whether legislators can pass a sports betting bill before time runs out. Sources have intimated to that they are close to gathering the 23 votes necessary to pass House Bill 551 in the Senate. This critical step was achieved recently when the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee approved the bill with a 9-1 vote.

If the requisite votes are obtained and the bill is not amended, it would be sent to Governor Andy Beshear’s desk, which the Democratic leader has already declared he would sign. The session is scheduled to conclude on Thursday night.

In light of the close proximity of the vote, both FanDuel and DraftKings have encouraged Kentuckians to contact senators and urge them to pass the bill. These two major sports betting operators, in tandem with BetMGM and Fanatics, are part of the Sports Betting Alliance that seeks to legalize sports betting across the US.

The American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller sent a letter to legislators in the chamber, expressing that Kentucky has “an important opportunity” to join the 36 states and District of Columbia that have already regulated sports betting. Miller also pointed to a GeoComply report that revealed nearly 300,000 geolocation checks by more than 23,000 Kentucky-based accounts during the first week of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

House Bill 551 would enable the state’s nine racetracks to offer sports betting at their establishments and partner with up to three online operators each, offering Kentuckians up to 27 options. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) would be responsible for licensing and regulation, and tracks would pay an initial license fee of $500,000 and $50,000 for annual renewals, while operators would pay $50,000 initially and $10,000 annually thereafter. Retail sportsbooks would be subject to a 9.75% tax on revenues, while online operators would face a 14.25% levy.

Most of the revenue generated would be allocated to the state’s public worker pension plans, and 2.5% would go into a problem gambling education and assistance fund, marking the first time Kentucky has established such a program. As opposed to other neighboring states, Kentucky will only allow individuals aged 18 and over to engage in sports betting, which is the same age requirement for horse racing and other legal gambling options in the state.

Should the bill pass, the KHRC would have six months from the day the law takes effect to create and implement regulations for sports betting. Bills signed into law in Kentucky officially take effect 90 days after the session ends.