Kentucky has emerged as the latest state in America to officially authorize legal sports betting.
On Friday, Gov. Andy Beshear signed House Bill 551, which legalizes both online and retail sports betting in the Bluegrass State. The enactment of HB 551 comes after the bill, which was introduced on February 22, passed in Kentucky’s Senate by a 25-12 vote on Thursday. Earlier this month, the state’s House of Representatives voted 63-34 in favor of the historic betting bill.
Kentuckians will soon be able to place their bets here, and for the first time, we are going to keep those dollars to support our roads and bridges, schools and communities. ^ AB 2/2— Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) March 30, 2023
HB 551 — chief sponsored by Rep. Michael Meredith — makes Kentucky the 37th jurisdiction in the U.S. to legalize sports betting, but authorizing wagering in the state was a difficult process.
Kentucky lawmakers had introduced pieces of legislation related to sports betting since 2018, but those bills failed to receive the support that they needed. Last year, the state’s House passed House Bill 606 by a 58-30 vote, but the bill failed to receive enough votes in the Senate.
Clearing the hurdle
Despite coming up short in previous years, Kentuckians will now have sports betting that is offered by the state’s nine-horse racing tracks with wagering regulated by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Each track across Kentucky is authorized to partner with up to three online sports betting sites for a maximum of 27 operators. The tracks will each pay a $500,000 licensing fee and an annual renewal fee of $50,000. Online sports betting operators in Kentucky, which have yet to be named, will pay a $50,000 licensing fee and an annual $10,000 renewal fee.
Kentucky stands to also profit from sports betting with its varying tax rates. HB 551 requires wagers placed at retail sportsbooks to have a tax rate of 9.75%, while online bets will be taxed at a 14.25% rate.
According to Rep. Meredith, sports betting in Kentucky is estimated to generate roughly $23 million in annual revenue. About 2.5% of all revenue will go toward a state problem gambling fund.
Here to compete
Kentucky’s neighboring states — Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Ohio, and West Virginia — have all legalized sports betting and have partnered with some of the largest sportsbooks in America.
FanDuel — the No. 1 sportsbook in the U.S. in terms of market share at 50% — could potentially receive a license in Kentucky as it has gained market access to all of its neighboring states. Boston-based DraftKings could also be a major player, and a new market could provide an opportunity for a state-specific sportsbook to emerge to compete with the top operators.
Sports fans in Kentucky will waste no time taking in the action with a bevy of sports teams in the state. Even though Kentucky has no professional sports team in any of America’s four major sports leagues, the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky athletic programs provide a promising opportunity for sports bettors.
Kentucky is also home to the NWSL’s Racing Louisville FC and other college athletic programs, including Murray State University and others.