Legal Kentucky Online Sports Betting will Begin in Time for 2023 NFL Season

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Legal Kentucky Online Sports Betting will Begin in Time for 2023 NFL Season

Well, it's official: There will be legal online sports betting in Kentucky.

Indeed, The Bluegrass State has yet to finalize a rollout date for Kentucky online sports betting. But it is coming. And soon.

How soon? Almost immediately? This summer? This fall? Later?

Details of Kentucky's decision to legalize sports betting are still trickling out. But we're here to break down the latest developments.

Details of Kentucky Online Sports Betting

This latest news isn't a huge surprise to anyone who has been following along. Betting on horse races was already legal in Kentucky, which gave the state some semblance of precedent. The same goes for online lottery, skill games and daily fantasy sports. They have all been legal in the state for some time. This year's Kentucky sports betting also passed through the Senate Committee with a 90 percent approval rating. That step doesn't always augur what happens next, but an approval rating that strong was nothing if not a good sign.

In actuality, it turned out to be a great sign for sports betting enthusiasts. The bill made it through the full Senate with relative ease. Then, soon after, Governor Andy Beshear (pictured above) signed online sports betting into law on Friday, March 31.

Odds and ends are still being hashed out for the bill, which is known as HB 551. But the general framework has been set. You can see everything we know about legal Kentucky online sports betting so far below. The details come courtesy of 14 News:

  • Online sports betting will be legalized as part of HB 551; licensed casinos and race tracks will also have the ability to accept on-site bets
  • Online sports betting operators must partner with at least one of the state's race tracks
  • Taxes assessed on sports betting revenue will vary; on-site operators will be taxed at 9.7 percent while online providers will pay a 14.25 percent tax
  • HB 551 mandates that 2.5 percent of all tax revenue Kentucky collects will be distributed to a problem gambling fund
  • The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will oversee all rollout and compliance policies

The state has yet to release many specifics on how licenses will be doled out. But the process isn't expected to take long. Many of the top online sportsbooks already operate in Kentucky as providers of horse racing odds and betting apps, and the state's horse tracks and casinos already have a gambling license. Kentucky can simply agree to tweak terms and grandfather in entities that already have a footprint in the state.

How Much will Sports Betting be Worth to Kentucky?

These questions are always tough to answer before a state actually opens up shop. In Kentucky's case, however, "state officials estimate the new law will bring in $20 million in licensing fees and taxes each year," according to 14 news.

It's possible those projections end up being on the low end. We can almost guarantee it when looking at some of the best comparisons.

Consider sports betting in Louisiana. The Pelican State is almost identical in population (4.6 million in Louisiana, compared to 4.5 million in Kentucky). They legalized sports betting and rolled out the first gambling operator in October 2021. Since then, Louisiana has made close to $38.4 million in tax revenue from sports betting. That's an average of roughly $2.1 million per month.

If Kentucky follows the same curve, they're looking at $25.3 million per year in sports betting revenue. And that's before considering how much money they make off licensing fees.

There's also the chance Kentucky simply blows expectations out of the water. They already have an entrenched betting population thanks to the widespread interest in horse racing. That could mean residents will be more comfortable diving into legal online sports betting sooner and more aggressively. Ergo, don't be surprised if the average sports bet placed in Kentucky beats the national average from Day 1.

When will Kentucky Online Sports Betting Go Live?

Most of the time, the legalization of sports betting requires a lot of patience. States will pass a bill, put it on the next general election ballot and from there, it can take up to a year to roll out if voters approve it. Kentucky won't face these time constraints. They didn't need to put HB 551 on the next general election ballot, which isn't until 2024, because it doesn't require a constitutional amendment. Kentucky already has extensive gambling laws in place thanks to their online horse race betting market. 

Still, the state cannot debut sports betting overnight. They need to adjust their current systems to incorporate more sports beyond horse racing, and they will also need to license various online bookies while ensuring they set up partnerships with at least one track. And yet, even these steps aren't expected to take very long. “They have the horse race betting in place, and it’s just dividing that up, getting some tweaks done to get the sports in there,” John Wholihan, Director of Marketing for Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs, recently said. "They have the horse race betting in place, and it’s just dividing that up, getting some tweaks done to get the sports in there."

Some state officials are hoping Kentucky sports betting will go live in a matter of weeks. Others think that's a little soon. But even those who aren't sure when it'll be ready believe the wait won't be long. “[Our] Main goal is following the law, be ready in the summer, which really ties into football season,” Wholihan said.

So will Kentucky residents be able to bet on the 2023 NFL season in their home state? We're inclined to say yes.

At this rate, online sports betting in Kentucky might even be ready in time for the state to offer college football betting futures before the start of the 2023 NCCAF season.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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