Kentucky Sports Betting

Welcome, Kentucky sports bettors. If you are a resident of the Bluegrass State, you know that gambling is all around you. However, as popular as the Kentucky Derby and other horse races are in your area, you also know that you have to cross state lines if you want to place a legal bet on the NBA, NFL, MLB, the Wildcats at UK, or the Cardinals at Louisville. There’s no doubt it’s frustrating, but there may be some good news on the way for legal Kentucky sports betting.

Kentucky came awfully close to legalizing sports betting in 2020. A House bill seemed ready to pass both chambers of the Kentucky Legislature, and Gov. Andy Beshear has consistently voiced his support for expanded gambling in the Bluegrass State. The bill only failed due to some political gamesmanship from a small group of dedicated opponents. However, the main takeaway is that the will to bring legal sports betting options to Kentucky seems to be there, so you may not have to travel too much longer to bet.

This page is designed for you. We will keep you up to date on all the latest developments with regard to sports betting in Kentucky.

Is sports betting legal in Kentucky?

No, sports betting is not legal in Kentucky. Kentucky gambling law is quite broad in its prohibition of almost every type of gambling. In fact, Chapter 582.020 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes renders most bookmaking inside the state a Class D felony. You can even get in trouble for possessing betting sheets or other paraphernalia associated with sports betting.

Does Kentucky have legal online sportsbooks?

No. There are no legal online sportsbooks in Kentucky. However, a quick web search on the matter likely reveals a radically different picture. Not only are there online sportsbooks available in Kentucky, but they (or other affiliate sites) claim that online sports betting is legal in the Bluegrass State. So, what are we even talking about? Well, the key word in that question is “legal.” When we say legal, we mean that they are registered and licensed under state law and are entities in good standing with the state government. Since Kentucky does not allow sports betting at this time, it obviously has not issued any licenses or maintained any oversight over the options that you can find.

What you’re actually seeing are sites based outside of the US. These sportsbooks, sometimes called “offshore” books, accept players from Kentucky but are not legally allowed to do so. In truth, many of these sites are very slick. They have the look and feel of a legitimate online sportsbook, so you might figure that they are good for playing. However, there are several problems that may crop up if you look outside the borders of the US.

  • Lack of protection and oversight: If you get crossways with the site, there may not be much in terms of legal remedies available to you.
  • Web security: A hacker is always looking for something juicy, and your bank account and personal details would likely qualify. So, even if a site looks to be a safe and honest place to play, be wary about moving your money beyond the FDIC and the other protections of banking that we take for granted.
  • Fairness and trustworthiness: A legal online sportsbook comes with all the oversight of a state regulatory agency and is reviewed on fairness, site maintenance, and safety standards. An unregulated, offshore site cannot promise you a fair experience and is not to be trusted with your personal information.

The bottom line is that any online sportsbook that you see active in Kentucky right now is neither legal nor regulated. Playing on one of them is an extra level of risk that we simply cannot recommend you undertake.

When will Kentucky regulate sports betting?

We’re not sure, but potentially fairly soon. As we mentioned above, legal sports betting appeared to be on track for Kentucky as recently as February 2020. Rep. Adam Koenig’s HB 137 would have made sports betting, both online and live, legal in the state. The bill would also have given the legislative green light for online poker and daily fantasy sports (there was no mention of online casinos in Kentucky). The scuttlebutt was that Koenig had the votes sewn up in both the House and Senate, and Gov. Andy Beshear’s steadfast support for the issue meant that a signature and transition to law would have been likely.

The momentum for the bill came to a screeching halt from an unlikely source: Koenig’s own party. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Kentucky House by a 3:1 ratio and in the Kentucky Senate by almost 4:1. Koenig is a Republican, so he would seem to have no issues. However, within the Republican Party, there is considerable disagreement between the more libertarian members, like Koenig, and more traditional Republicans who advocate for social conservatism. Members of this latter subset fought back against the bill in two ways. First, they attached nearly a dozen amendments to the bill that presented several untenable conditions for the bill to pass. Then, they made sure to be unavailable during crucial votes for the bill, denying the necessary quorum of members to proceed. Thus, after trying for weeks to get a vote scheduled, the bill returned to the Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee and died quietly as the 2020 session ended.

Since then, neither Koenig nor any other Kentucky lawmaker has made another strong push for sports betting, and it’s not clear when they’ll come back around to it. However, given the fact that sports betting came so close to becoming a reality in the Bluegrass State, it seems likely that it will come around again before too long.

Can you play daily fantasy sports in Kentucky?

Yes. Daily fantasy sports contests are available for play throughout Kentucky. Oddly enough, they remain available despite the fact that Koenig’s bill to legalize DFS in 2020 came up short. Prior to the bill, the government had allowed DFS to proceed, anyway, and had placed the industry under the purview of the state attorney general’s office. Koenig’s bill would have created a more formal DFS industry in the state, but as it stands, contests continue to happen and will continue to happen, albeit in a legal gray area.

Who will regulate Kentucky sports betting?

In all likelihood, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Kentucky is one of several states that does not have a dedicated gambling commission. In those cases, another agency typically becomes the de facto gambling commission in the state. Many times, that responsibility goes to the state lottery. While it is possible that the Kentucky Lottery might be tapped for the job, Kentucky’s deep history with horse racing makes the racing commission the more likely home for sports betting regulation. HB 137, the recent bill that nearly made sports betting legal in Kentucky, identified the commission as the regulator for the new industry.

How old do I have to be to bet on sports in Kentucky?

Kentucky’s distinct slate of gambling offerings — pari-mutuel betting, the lottery and charitable gaming — all require players to be 18 or older. There are no casinos in the state whatsoever, so, as strange as it sounds, there is no tradition of gambling locations requiring older players in Kentucky. Koenig’s failed 2020 bill would have set the gambling age for sports betting and online poker in Kentucky at 18.

Online sportsbooks that could launch in Kentucky

First and foremost, we don’t know, because there is no online sports betting law on the books in Kentucky. So, bear in mind that our selections below are nothing more than speculation. However, we are able to make some educated guesses based upon these companies’ historical behavior and their proximity to Kentucky in other states. Here are the most likely candidates to come to Kentucky if online sports betting becomes legal.

  1. DraftKings Sportsbook: Always a favorite to launch in new sports betting states, the company has often been one of the first to debut, no matter which state was opening its doors, and it has secured a virtual monopoly in some places. Part of DraftKings’ inside track is its DFS business, which makes the brand a known commodity among the people in a state well before sports betting gets going. Kentucky is no different, having played host to DraftKings’ daily fantasy sports contests for several years. DraftKings is also active in five states bordering Kentucky — Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee — so it’s quite likely that the company in black and green wants to fill in the Kentucky-shaped donut hole in this part of the country.
  2. FanDuel Sportsbook: FanDuel is as likely to show up in Kentucky as its archrival DraftKings. FanDuel has been one of the more aggressive sportsbooks in terms of expansion, and there’s no reason to suspect that it would pass on a Kentucky location. FanDuel also has the same type of brand recognition in Kentucky as DraftKings. Namely, it is also a current provider of DFS play for Kentuckians, so there won’t be any need to get people used to the name. FanDuel is also active in the sports betting states that surround Kentucky, so a move to the middle of that area makes sense.
  3. TwinSpires Sportsbook: The sportsbook owned and operated by the largest and most prestigious horse track in Kentucky is likely a lock to launch in the Bluegrass State if it becomes able to. In fact, it would not be a shock to see some sort of concession or special privilege from the state for TwinSpires, since it is a homegrown brand. Needless to say, TwinSpires is a known commodity throughout Kentucky and could offer a distinct combination of services to people in the state. The ability to place horse bets and sports bets in the same location makes a lot of sense in this part of the world, and with no other company does it make quite as much sense to place those bets.
  4. BetMGM Sportsbook: Obviously, BetMGM would have a chance to launch in Kentucky based upon its pedigree alone. The sportsbook representing a joint venture between two of the world’s largest gambling companies (MGM and Entain) is always an option to show up in a new market. However, BetMGM is also quite active in the states surrounding Kentucky. It serves customers in Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee.
  5. Caesars Sportsbook: The Caesars name alone would be a decent reason to speculate about this sportsbook and Kentucky. However, Caesars Entertainment’s merger with Eldorado Resorts and purchase of William Hill US makes it even more likely. Caesars can now credibly claim to have sports betting operations in almost every state with legal betting. Caesars Southern Indiana is also just across the Ohio River from Louisville and is unquestionably the nearest casino location to Kentucky, so there’s plenty of brand recognition for Kentuckians, too.

Other possibilities include apps like PointsBet, BetRivers and Barstool Sportsbook. None of these sportsbooks has any particular brand recognition or connection to Kentucky at this point, but each one has plenty of money for expansion and has shown a propensity for going wherever sports betting pops up in the US. Obviously, there could be some surprises, but this list of books almost certainly includes the first apps to debut in Kentucky should the state allow online sports betting.

Where can I legally bet on sports near me?

Kentuckians are not able to place a legal sports wager from home just yet. However, they do have several options for doing so in neighboring states. Depending on where you live or are in the Bluegrass State, sports betting may only be a few minutes away. In fact, most of the major metro areas in Kentucky are within half an hour’s drive from a location with some form of legal sportsbooks up and running.

Here is where things stand right now in states bordering Kentucky, as of 2021:

  • Missouri: No sports betting, but activity in the Legislature.
  • Illinois: Online and in-person sports betting available.
  • Indiana: Online and in-person sports betting available.
  • Ohio: No sports betting, but activity in the Legislature.
  • West Virginia: Online and in-person sports betting available.
  • Virginia: Online sports betting available.
  • Tennessee: Online sports betting available.

And, based purely on the distance you must drive to place a sports wager, here are the nearest options to bet on your favorite team from Kentucky’s five largest cities.

Louisville

Cross the Ohio River into Indiana anywhere you like. Indiana has online sports betting options and you don’t have to visit a casino to register for an account. If you prefer a retail sportsbook, however, the nearest option is Caesars Southern Indiana, which is available if you cross the Sherman Minton Bridge and head south on Indiana Route 111 for about 14 miles.

Lexington

Lexington residents will have a bit more of a drive to reach a sports betting location than other large towns in Kentucky. Like Louisville, your nearest option is Indiana. However, you can choose between one of two casinos that are roughly equidistant from Lexington. Caesars Southern Indiana is one of them, and is available via a straight shot on Interstate 64. Belterra Casino Resort is a riverboat in the Ohio River north-northwest of Lexington. You can reach it (and the online sportsbooks in Indiana) by heading north on I-75, then heading west on Kentucky Route 467 and I-71, then north again on Kentucky Route 1039. It’s about a 90-minute drive, but probably better for traffic than going to Caesars Southern Indiana to the west because you avoid driving through Louisville.

Bowling Green

Bowling Green residents have a relatively easy time getting to a sports betting location. Just get in the car, drive south on I-65 until you cross into Tennessee, and have at it. You can even stop off at Kentucky Downs on the way, if you like. All you need is a mobile device and a Wi-Fi connection, so either use your data plan, or head to one of the McDonald’s in Portland. Tennessee offers online-only sports betting, however, so if you prefer to bet through a retail sportsbook, you’re going to have to head to the Tropicana Evansville in Indiana. The trip to the northwest is about two hours, so it’s probably best to make a weekend out of it.

Owensboro

Owensboro denizens may have the easiest-to-reach sports betting options of any major metro area in Kentucky. A quick drive northward on the Glover Cary Bridge puts you in Indiana. If you’re bound and determined to bet in person, then the Tropicana Evansville is the nearest option you have. It will take about 45 minutes to get there, but there are a couple of ways to go, so you can vary it for some variety. You can even stop off at Ellis Park if you go west through Henderson.

Covington

Covington has a variety of nearby gambling options. Not only is Newport Racing and Gaming a few miles away, but there is a full-service casino just across the bridges in Cincinnati and another racino to the east at Belterra Park. However, none of these locations offer sports betting just yet. Ohio is likely to legalize sports betting sometime in the next year or two, but until then, the best option for Covington residents will be a 30-minute drive to the west into Indiana. A quick trip down I-275 will put you across the Ohio River and into Indiana. If you want a physical sportsbook, you’d need to take a left on US Route 50 and head to the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg.

Note: All this information is subject to change as more states, including potentially Kentucky, legalize sports betting. However, considering that some states have no sports betting and no neighbors that allow sports betting, Kentucky can feel quite fortunate that there are legal options for many residents less than an hour away.

Popular sports to bet on in Kentucky

There are no major league professional sports teams that call Kentucky home. However, there are plenty of nearby options.

NFL betting

There are two NFL teams in neighboring states:

  • Cincinnati Bengals: Paul Brown Stadium, 1 Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH 45202
  • Tennessee Titans: Nissan Stadium, 1 Titans Way, Nashville, TN 37213

Betting on NFL games is fairly straightforward. There are a multitude of individual and team statistics that can become fodder for a variety of wagering options. Notably, every single NFL game can offer point spread and totals wagers due to the high scores of most games. Football games are also jerky and episodic in terms of their action, which gives online sportsbooks time to offer various live betting options during the game.

NBA betting

There are no NBA teams that are terribly close to any spot in Kentucky, unfortunately. The nearest team is just under two hours away from Louisville, which sits on Kentucky’s northwestern border. So, we understand that the following teams may not be where your loyalties lie. However, the NBA offers so many potential bets that we’d be remiss if we left it out of the discussion.

  • Indianapolis Pacers: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 125 S. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, IN 46204
  • Memphis Grizzlies: FedExForum, 191 Beale St., Memphis, TN 38103

Like football games, basketball has plenty of statistics. This diversity leads to a number of betting options for each game, although the pace of basketball might mean fewer live bets than with football. NBA games usually see each team score around 110 points or more per game, so there will always be options for betting based on that statistic alone.

MLB betting

Of all the major sports leagues, Major League Baseball has the team closest to Kentucky. In particular, Kentuckians who live in the Covington area can credibly root for the team across the river.

  • Cincinnati Reds: Great American Ball Park, 100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Because baseball games feature so much less scoring than football or basketball, traditional bets like the point spread are much tougher to offer. Thus, sportsbooks typically offer a wager called the “run line” for baseball games. The default spread is 1.5 runs, but the payout ratios vary much more than in a typical point spread. The result is a bet that falls somewhere between point spreads and moneylines in terms of how it functions.

NHL betting

For NHL action, Kentuckians are most likely to turn their attention to the south. With online sports betting available in Tennessee, a bet on Tennessee’s hockey team probably makes more sense than any other hockey option.

  • Nashville Predators: Bridgestone Arena, 501 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203

Like baseball, one of hockey’s features is a relatively low amount of scoring. So oddsmakers devised the “puck line,” which is essentially the hockey version of the run line. It works the same way, with a standard 1.5-goal line and variable payouts. You can also find some great proposition wagers for NHL games.

Colleges (NCAA)

In states without major sports teams, it is not uncommon for the major colleges to be the main rooting interests. Kentucky is one of these states, to be sure. Basketball and football games with these schools are almost a religion in the Bluegrass State:

  • University of Louisville: 2301 S. Third St., Louisville, KY 40292
  • University of Kentucky: 410 Administration Drive, Lexington, KY 40506

Now, for the moment, you can bet on both of these schools and other large Kentucky colleges and universities from Indiana, and you can wager on any of them from Tennessee, so long as you make the bets before the game. In all likelihood, you’ll be able to bet on your favorite university teams if Kentucky legalizes sports betting, too. However, some states have put restrictions on their sports betting industries regarding wagering on colleges — particularly in-state ones. So, hope for the best, but don’t be surprised if lawmakers decide not to allow wagering on in-state schools to protect student-athletes.

What’s next for Kentucky sports betting

At this point, it’s still looking likely that Kentucky will legalize sports betting sometime soon. As close as HB 137 came to passage in 2020, and with so much support behind it, another bill to make it legal would seem to be a given. However, we don’t have anything terribly promising to report just yet. In the meantime, with so many options in surrounding states, Kentucky sports bettors are not left in the lurch. For now, they may just have to drive a bit.

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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a senior evergreen content writer for PlayUSA. He’s been writing and reporting on the gambling industry since 2013. Prior to working for PlayUSA, Shirley was a feature writer for QuadJacks, a site covering issues in poker. He also writes for BonusCodePoker, a poker satire site that lampoons the lighter side of card games. Shirley is a graduate of the MBA program at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business and has a degree in English from Texas A&M University. He grew up in Houston, TX, and lives in Katy, just west of Houston. Shirley is also a former high school teacher. He is married, has one daughter, and practices Brazilian jiu jitsu in his spare time.

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