Kentucky Regulators Take Important Step Toward Launching Sports Betting

Written By Derek Helling on July 7, 2023 - Last Updated on February 16, 2024
puzzle pieces with regulations and rules and the outline of kentucky on them

To invoke an analogy using one of Kentucky’s greatest exports, bourbon, Kentucky’s gambling regulators are ready to strain the liquid off the fermented mash. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) has announced it will review proposed regulations for legal sports betting in the state on Monday.

As the analogy suggests, that is a significant step toward sportsbooks in the state taking bets from Kentuckians. However, there are still many parts of the process remaining before the bourbon of legal sports betting is ready for residents to enjoy.

Kentucky sports betting regulations ready for official review

The KHRC’s Thursday announcement that it will review draft rules for sports betting is significant for all parties involved. It means the KHRC can cross a major item off its list needed for the inevitable launch of legal sportsbooks.

It also means that Gov. Andy Beshear’s hopes of having sportsbooks available by the beginning of the 2023-24 NFL season are more realistic. With regulations in place, sportsbook operators can ensure their processes and products conform.

If the KHRC approves the rules on Monday, those operators can do so with confidence. The approval also likely would mean they can start working on licensure applications. Once the KHRC receives those applications, it can start reviewing and making decisions on them.

Should the KHRC table the rules instead, that could endanger the prospect of sports betting apps being live in Kentucky before the next NFL season begins. As previously mentioned, regulators still need to take many other steps beyond the approval of the regs.

A rapid rollout of legal sportsbooks in Kentucky that goes down as smoothly as the state’s best bourbon could be a signal that the state is ready for other forms of online gambling.

Could sports betting cause online gambling to rise in Kentucky?

If launching sports betting goes off without a hitch in Kentucky, that could act as the yeast to make more forms of online gambling in the state rise. There have been “small batch” experiments with online gambling expansion in the state.

Last year, more of an omnibus gaming expansion bill received approval from the Kentucky House of Representatives. That proposal included real-money online poker games. The bill would have potentially allowed Kentuckians to join interstate pools with players from Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey.

That bill did not receive requisite support from the Senate, however. This year’s legislation that ultimately passed was narrower, focusing on sports betting. It could take time for proponents to drum up enough support in Frankfurt for even more authorized online gambling.

So far, the process of making legal sports betting in Kentucky a reality has lent toward creating that support. The KHRC could keep that process moving along with no issues on Monday. If Kentucky is to ever legalize real-money online casino play, the mash could already be fermenting.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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