If Eventually Approved, What Could Legal Kentucky Sports Betting Look Like?

If Eventually Approved, What Could Legal Kentucky Sports Betting Look Like?

Last month, a forecast from the American Gaming Association estimated that Americans would legally wager over $1 billion on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament — $0 came Kentucky sports betting.

Sure, Kentucky residents currently have a bevy of legal sports-betting options, but only if they’re willing to travel across state borders.

Five of Kentucky’s seven border states (Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia) have legalized sports wagering, allowing Kentucky residents to travel across the border to place bets.

But Kentucky could be inching closer than ever to joining those states in the sports-betting arms race.

On March 18, the day the second round of the March Madness tournament tipped off, House Bill 606, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, to “legalize, regulate and tax sports wagering in Kentucky” passed in the House by a 58-30 vote. Unfortunately, it failed in the Senate, failing to get to the chamber’s floor for a vote.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican, said after the session, according to reports, that the sports betting bill didn’t come up for a formal vote in committee or on the Senate floor because not enough senators would have voted for it.

That’s still the closest that Kentucky has come to legalizing sports betting. It could help give the state a chance to finally approve sports betting in the legislature next year.

A Glimpse of What Kentucky Sports Betting Could Allow

So, what would sports gambling look like in Kentucky?

The legislature calls for a 9.75% tax rate for in-person bets and a 14.25% tax-rate for wagers made online. The bill includes the legalization of online poker and daily fantasy sports in addition to sports wagering.

Though Kentucky does not have a professional franchise in one of the four major sports leagues — NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL — the state does have two of the most valuable college basketball programs, which would draw a hefty sports-betting appetite.

A 2021 report by Yahoo states that the University of Louisville has the richest college basketball program in the country with a total basketball revenue of $48.5 million. The University of Kentucky was No. 3 with a total basketball revenue of $39.2 million.

Kentucky has six Division I college football programs and eight Division I men’s college basketball programs.

What Else Could You Bet On?

Louisville City FC plays in the USL, one league below the MLS. The franchise had the highest attendance in the USL in 2021.

Northern Kentucky sports bettors would also be able to bet on the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals and MLS club FC Cincinnati, located just a stone’s throw away across the Ohio River.

Earlier this month, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce released data from GeoComply that showed that Kentucky residents made over 530,000 attempts to bet on sports in March, with 85% trying to access legal sportsbooks in Kentucky’s bordering states in Tennessee, Virginia and Indiana.

The data also revealed over 40,000 sportsbook player accounts in Kentucky, which can only be accessed if the bettor travels to a state where sports betting is legalized.

Retail Options Could Exist

If HB606 is approved by the Senate and signed into law, there would be brick-and-mortar sports-betting options for patrons at Kentucky horse tracks like the Kentucky Speedway and Churchill Downs. Kentucky has no land-based casinos, only six commercial casinos with HHR machines that offer instant racing.

Kentucky residents would also be able to wager on sports on online platforms such as DraftKings Kentucky and FanDuel.

Koenig, a northern Kentucky native of Covington, says HB606 would generate around $20 million per year for Kentucky, according to Spectrum News.

The state rep could try again next year, but Kentucky will have a shortened legislative session (odd years in the legislature have 30-day sessions) and require a higher percentage of the majority to pass bills.



Shelby Dermer is a report & journalist for BetKentucky.com. 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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