Kentucky Sports Betting On Hold Until At Least 2023

Kentucky Sports Betting On Hold Until At Least 2023

The Kentucky Derby is still one of the hallmark sporting events — not just in the Bluegrass State but across the United States. Horse racing might not have the mainstream allure it once did (when it was arguably the second- or third-most popular sport in the country), but the prestige of the "Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports" remains. 

The 2022 event will happen on Saturday, May 7. It will draw a huge volume of sports bets — but legally speaking, none from the state it's actually happening in. That's because sports betting remains banned inside Kentucky. That has cascading effects across the state, as we'll explain.

End of Session Dooms Sports Betting Bill

In the four years since the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal law barring gambling on sports, more than 30 states have legalized sports betting in the USA. One of the outliers that haven't legalized it? Kentucky — but vast efforts have been made to change that. 

Most of those efforts have come from one man, Adam Koening, who sits on the House of Representatives for the state. Koening recently got a sports betting bill to clear the House — the furthest a similar bill a had gone — and into the Senate. However, the betting bill would die here, failing to drum up enough support to take formal action (with the blame for lack of interest going to the chamber's Republicans). This marked the fourth failure of a sports betting bill inside the Bluegrass State.  

The failed HB 606 bill would have legalized statewide digital and retail sports betting, in addition to online poker and daily fantasy sports. By Koening's estimates, the state could generate upwards of $22 million in yearly tax revenue from legalized sports wagering. Neighboring states of Kentucky — Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio — have passed betting laws, which give local residents an out in case they want to gamble by crossing state borders. Major cities such as Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville, Charlotte, and St. Louis are within driving distance to many Kentucky residents.

When's Kentucky's Next Chance To Pass Sports Gambling?

When HB 606 died, so did Kentucky's chance of legalizing sports betting in 2022. However, 2023 is a fresh opportunity — and you can almost "bet" Koening will be leading a new gambling bill. If you ask the House representative, legalizing within state borders is a matter of when not if. He was quoted as saying: "it’s postponing the inevitable. It’s going to happen soon."

Despite coming up short with HB 606, Koening said he was proud of the bill's progress in ending up on the Senate floor to begin with. He also noted it was only up for discussion for four weeks — which ended up being detrimental as it wasn't nearly enough time to conjure up serious discussion and support.

Koening also said he's not sure whether the 2023 bill will differ from the 2022 iteration. According to him, it was not the language or details of the bill which led to it failing. Rather, it was about the willingness of fellow lawmakers. "If it was a secret ballot, it would pass 28-10," Koening said in a mic-drop-esque comment.

While Kentucky might not have a pro sports team, it's not like there's not a huge betting appetite among the population of sub-5 million. As we said earlier, major cities with pro teams are within driving distance and there is the Kentucky Wildcats — which is the state's "home" team by a mile. 

Churchill Downs Exits Sports Betting Scene

If Kentucky ever legalizes sports wagering, one of the biggest beneficiaries will undoubtedly be Churchill Downs, the track which hosts the Kentucky Derby. However, those benefits will come from sponsorships — not operating its own sportsbook and casino.

Churchill Downs, which is a publically-traded company, had its own betting platform (which it acquired from BetAmerica), but it will seize to exist in the months that follow. The news was tucked into its Q4 earnings report back in February.

The company cited the industry's competitive landscape for bowing out before the betting market fully matured. "Many are pursuing maximum market share in every state with little regard for short-term or potentially even long-term profitability," said CEO CEO Bill Carstanjen, taking a not-so-subtle jab at some of the industry's top platforms.

So as you can tell, the past few months have been big blows to Kentucky sports bettors. But not all hope is lost — and we're not talking about waiting for a 2023 betting bill. Nope, if you're in Kentucky and want to bet right now, you could always go the offshore betting route. We've listed the "cream of the crop" offshore bookies in the underneath table. You'll find up-to-date sportsbook reviews in the table too. Pick one to your liking before the Kentucky Derby to get in on the gambling action.