Down The Stretch They Come: Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Moves On To Senate

Written By Matthew Kredell on March 14, 2023
apps online kentucky sports betting legalization

The Kentucky House once again passed Kentucky sports betting legislation Monday. Now it’s up to the Senate to take the bill across the finish line.

House bill 551 passed the House easily by a vote of 63-34.

“I’m very excited about the outcome of the vote today,” Meredith told PlayUSA. “It was almost exactly what I expected from my conversations with colleagues.”

But Kentucky sports betting also passed in the House last year. The Senate never called it for a vote.

Kentucky sports betting details

Here’s the key details of HB 551:

  • Authorizes retail and online sports wagering for licensed Kentucky horse racetracks.
  • Nine racetracks could partner with up to three mobile sports wagering providers for a maximum of 27 Kentucky sports betting apps.
  • Simulcast facilities can have retail sports betting using the partner of their parent racetrack.
  • Regulated by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
  • The KHRC must promulgate regulations to establish a fully functional sports wagering system within six months of the act’s effective date.
  • Allows wagering on professional sports, college sports, amateur sporting events (not including events with individuals under 18 years of age), international sporting events including the Olympics and World Cup Soccer, and esports.
  • Minimum age requirement of 18 to wager on sports.
  • Sports wagering licenses cost $500,000 the first year and $50,000 annually thereafter.
  • Service provider licenses cost $50,000 the first year and $10,000 annually thereafter.
  • Tiered tax rate of 14.25% for online wagers and 9.75% for sports wagers placed at racetracks.
  • 2.5% of taxes collected go to a problem gambling fund. The bulk goes to supporting the state’s pension system.
  • Adjusted gross revenue excludes federal excise taxes but not promotional credits.
  • Any person tampering with the outcome of a sporting event is a Class C felony.

Sponsor adds problem gambling funding

Kentucky has a long tradition of legal horse wagering and added slot-like historical horse racing at racetracks in recent years.

But the Commonwealth has never had dedicated funding for problem gambling.

House Bill 551 could change that. With House floor amendment five, Meredith specified that 2.5% of tax revenue goes to a problem gambling fund.

Meredith said that Rep. Al Gentry asked for the problem gambling language.

Two unfriendly amendments fail

Rep. Josh Calloway tried two amendments that failed.

The first would have banned the use of credit cards to fund a sports wagering account.

Meredith argued that giving Kentuckians the option to use credit cards provided greater protections than forcing them to attach their bank account to an online account. The amendment failed on a voice vote.

Calloway also wanted to raise the minimum age for Kentucky sports betting from 18 to 21.

Meredith said that all other gaming in Kentucky had a minimum age of 18. This includes horse wagering, HHR machines and the lottery. He argued that the sports betting age should be 18 for consistency. The amendment was defeated 39-48.

Calloway said he wouldn’t support sports wagering as an expansion of gambling in Kentucky.

“I will never ever ever stop fighting for Kentuckians and fighting for things that have the ability to destroy people’s lives,” Calloway said. “I firmly believe this is one of them. There is so many people that cannot control this in our society, and we just don’t have to have it.”

Meredith argued that the bill didn’t expand gambling in Kentucky because sports wagering already happens in the Commonwealth. He presented that the American Gaming Association estimated $1.1 billion is illegally wagered annually within Kentucky.

He added that GeoComply reported 181,000 people attempting over 5 million bets in neighboring states during the NFL season. Six of the seven states bordering Kentucky have some form of legal sports wagering. In Ohio alone, 58,000 people in Kentucky tried to place over 1 million bets during January. It was the state’s first month of offering legal sports betting.

Kentucky sports betting Senate prospects

House passage of Kentucky sports betting was expected. The bill did gain five supporters from the 58-30 vote last year.

The issue lies in the Senate, where President Robert Stivers opposes legalizing sports wagering. Kentucky sports betting does have a champion in Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer.

Meredith believes HB 551 is within a few votes of having Senate support. As this is an odd year, passage requires three-fifths support or 23 votes. But votes don’t matter if there’s not Republican support to bring it to the floor.

Meredith said he has had conversations with the Senate since the bill’s passage indicating that the bill might get a committee hearing Wednesday.

The Kentucky Senate will take a veto recess after this Friday. But Meredith said that, since sports betting has the support of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, it doesn’t need to be done this week. The Senate could pass the bill when it returns for two final days March 29 and 30.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about our chances in the Senate,” Meredith told PlayUSA. “[I] continue to work to secure the final votes needed to get it passed on the other side of the Capitol.”

Photo by PlayUSA
Matthew Kredell Avatar
Written by
Matthew Kredell

Matthew's reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and

View all posts by Matthew Kredell
Privacy Policy