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Kentucky has joined the growing list of states offering legal sports betting. The state officially launched live retail betting Thursday morning, with online wagering coming on board later this month on Sept. 28.
The Bluegrass State becomes the 35th state to allow sports betting in some form, either at live betting locations, online, or both.
After several attempts by state legislators since 2020, a bill legalizing betting passed in the spring with Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signing the bill.
Betting in the state is regulated by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the state made a fairly quick turnaround in going from passage to launch compared to some other states. Kentucky has a deep history in horse race wagering, but now residents can wager on other sports as well.
Unlike most states that set the legal betting age at age 21, Kentucky bettors can wager at the age of 18, which stays in line with the age to bet on horses. However, some operators, including FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars Sportsbook, have chosen to keep the age at 21 on their own platforms.
The addition of sports wagering matches most of the neighboring states that have also legalized the practice, including Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. That will help keep Kentucky residents’ money in the state and increase tax revenue. Some have estimated that figure to range from $20 to $30 million annually.
Getting Betting Underway
Gov. Beshear reportedly made Kentucky’s first bet on Thursday morning at Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby since 1875.
“We have a historic day ahead of us, Kentucky!” the governor noted on Twitter. “After years of hard work, sports betting is legal in the commonwealth – and I am proud to be placing the first bet at 10 a.m. EDT at Churchill Downs.”
The governor bet the over on the University of Kentucky and Louisville football wins, as well as the under on rival Duke’s total wins. The timing of the bet was later contested by State Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer®, who claimed on social media to have made the first bet 75 miles away at a Lexington racetrack.
So funny that not only is there dispute over who gets credit for legalizing sports betting, but it appears there’s now disagreement over who made the first legal bet – Dem Gov. Andy Beshear or Senate GOP Leader Damon Thayer pic.twitter.com/ks6xhM9Ln9
— Austin Horn (@_AustinHorn) September 7, 2023
Regardless of who placed the first bet, with the college and pro football seasons now getting underway, there should be considerable interest from sports fans in the state.
Kentucky is home to several gaming facilities and horse tracks. Some of those were set to begin offering betting on Thursday with more set to open in the coming weeks. Those ready to take bets include Churchill Downs, Derby City Gaming, Ellis Park, The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland and Cumberland Run, Newport Racing & Gaming, Oak Grove Racing, The Red Mile, and Turfway Park Racing & Gaming.
Sports wagering across the country became legal in 2018 when the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection, a law that originally created a virtual ban on sports betting outside Nevada. The issue is now left to states to decide on, which has led to legalization efforts across the country.