As Kentucky Sports Betting Stalls, Here’s the History of Gambling in the State

As Kentucky Sports Betting Stalls, Here’s the History of Gambling in the State

Currently, the only option for Kentucky residents to bet on sports is to travel to one of its five border states that have legalized sports wagering.

But how close was Kentucky sports betting from being legalized during the 2022 legislative session?

In March, House Bill 606 — sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig — which would “legalize, regulate and tax sports wagering in Kentucky” passed in the state House of Representatives, 58-30. The bill calls for a 9.75% tax rate for in-person bets and a 14.25% tax-rate online, according to the Lane Report.

On April 13, HB 606 was reassigned to the Economic Development/Tourism/Labor Committee, per John Cox, the Kentucky Chamber’s director of public affairs.

Two days later, without a vote in the Kentucky Senate, the sports betting bill died during the final day of the 2022 legislative session. Any hope of there being legal Kentucky sports betting apps for the 2022 NFL season was gone.

Kentucky Gambling Timeline

Here’s how Kentucky got to this point and what gambling (think Kentucky Derby) does exist in the state:

May 17, 1875

The inaugural Kentucky Derby is held in front of 10,000 spectators at the Louisville Jockey Club.

May 23, 1883

“Churchill Downs” is first used to mark the racetrack of the Kentucky Derby.

November 1988

More than 60% of Kentucky voters approve a state lottery. One month later, the Kentucky Lottery Corp. (KLC) was established.

April 4, 1989

The first Kentucky Lottery tickets are sold. The state offered a pair of instant games. Retailers earn a 7% commission, 6% is spent on operating costs, while the State Treasury is transferred 28%, with the majority going to state education. Lottery sales begin with over $68 million in sales.

July 2010

Kentucky’s racing commission modified its definition of pari-mutuel wagering (bets are pooled and split among winners) to allow slot-like historic racing machines, or instant racing, at Kentucky tracks. Instant racing, played on HHR machines, use a “previously run horse race to determine spin results,” according to Spectrum News.

Sept. 1, 2011

Kentucky Downs, located on the Tennessee border, becomes the first to install instant racing terminals.

Nov. 4, 2013

The Kentucky Lottery begins to offer Keno, with an “expected windfall to the state of $14.5 million a year,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. The first full week of keno sales, offered at more than 400 outlets statewide, totals nearly $700,000.

April 18, 2016

Kentucky becomes the third state to sell lottery tickets online, joining Michigan and Georgia, in an attempt to attract more young adults, according to the Courier-Journal.

May 14, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court rules, 6-3, to eliminate a 1992 Federal Law that banned sports gambling in the majority of states. States are now able to decide whether they will legalize sports betting or not.


Four sports betting bills are introduced, including one that calls for the regulation of Daily Fantasy Sports wagering and online poker. No bills gain serious traction.

September 2020

The Kentucky Supreme Court rules that Historical Horse Racing machines are unconstitutional in Kentucky because they do not fit the definition of pari-mutuel wagering.

February 2021

The Kentucky General Assembly passes Senate Bill 120 by a 22-15 vote, which secures the legality of HHR machines.

March 18, 2022

Rep. Adam Koenig’s House Bill 606, which would “legalize, regulate and tax sports wagering in Kentucky” was approved by the state House in a 58-30 vote. The bill calls for a 9.75% tax rate for in-person bets and a 14.25% tax-rate online.

April 15, 2022

The state Senate doesn’t vote on the House sports betting bill, leaving those interested in legal sports betting to travel to one of Kentucky’s bordering states.

March 31, 2023

Andy Beshear signed HB-551 to officially legalize sports betting in Kentucky and designated the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to regulate sports betting in the state. Retail sports betting is set to launch on September 7th and Online sports betting will launch on September 28th. 

August 28, 2023

Pre-registration for online sports betting apps kicks off with 4 of the top operators in the industry offering exclusive Kentucky sportsbook promos to new users who sign up before the September 28th, 2023 launch of online sports betting. 

September 28, 2023

Kentucky sports betting kicks off with Governor Andy Beshear placing the first formal sports wager on September 7th. Kentucky sports betting apps officially launched on September 28th, marking the official online launch in KY. 



Shelby Dermer is a report & journalist for Shelby has been a sports reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer for the last five years and now lends his expertise to the Kentucky sports betting market. He grew up in Waynesville, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio University.

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