Kentucky Could Be on the Brink of Legalizing Sports Betting

Kentucky highlighted on map

Four states have already opened their sportsbooks offerings, and a few more have sports betting bills in the works. Many other states are looking at the pros and cons to decide whether it would be a good fit. Kentucky is the latest state that appears to be on the brink of legalizing sports betting.

History of gambling in Kentucky

Kentucky has traditionally had strict gambling laws. It is one of the leading states for horse breeding and racing, so the main exception to its tough anti-gambling stance has been for horse race betting.

A state lottery began in 1988, and the state has rules allowing multi-state lotteries such as Mega Millions to sell tickets to Kentucky people. Only recently could lottery tickets be sold online. Non-profits are allowed to use bingo and raffles to raise funds.

Casinos have always been illegal in Kentucky, which means that residents have been forced to travel out of state to get their fix.

Bills were proposed to change this stance in 2010 and 2012, but they were both strongly rejected by the state legislature. One of the main reasons that Kentucky hasn’t been in a rush to embrace casino gambling is the large sums of revenue from horse race betting.

Gambling revenues reach almost $840m annually in Kentucky, and approximately $310m of that goes to the state in taxes.

The state has seven significant racetracks, including the Churchill Downs course, which hosts the world-renowned Kentucky Derby every year. Instant-to-win gaming machines are available at the race tracks; they are similar to slot machines.

Sports betting for Kentucky?

Rumblings coming out of Kentucky point toward sports betting being adopted in the very near future. It was revealed by the state senate’s majority floor leader, Republican Damon Thayer, that a bipartisan bill is currently being developed that will be ready at the beginning of the legislature’s 30-day session on January 8, 2019.

He said that they are aware that the revenue derived from sports betting would not reach the levels if slot machines or casinos were legalized, it would still be a significant sum.

It seems that the Democrats and Republicans will be able to work together to have a sports betting bill passed.

There are three Democrat and three Republican representatives pushing this bill alongside two Democrat senators and a single Republican senator. Senator Julie Raque Adams is leading the push in the Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans, and Senator Morgan McGarvey is pushing it with the super minority Democrats.

They want Kentucky to be one of the first ten states in the country to legalize sports wagering, and they want to continue to show their support for this in the horse racing sector. Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, and West Virginia have already launched sports betting.

Sports betting is potentially a very lucrative market. An estimated $150bn (£115bn) is wagered illegally on sports events in the US every year, according to the American Gaming Association

Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New York currently have sports betting bills waiting to be implemented, and another 14 states are considering bills.

If a bill is passed in Kentucky, only offline options would be available. There would be no provision for online gambling or mobile offerings.

Midterm elections in November could see a significant changing of the guard. If this is the case, it could jeopardize sports betting bills that have yet to be passed in different states, so it will be interesting to see what happens.