Mark your calendars. Kentucky sports betting is scheduled to start on Sept. 7, with online wagering in the Bluegrass State to start three weeks later.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved temporary rules regarding sports betting at a special meeting Monday at the Red Mile in Lexington. Gov. Andy Beshear then signed the rules shortly after the meeting, meaning they will take effect as soon as the Legislative Research Commission receives them.
Beshear announced the scheduled date after he signed the temporary rules. It means brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at Kentucky’s horse tracks will be able to start taking bets on the same day as the NFL season begins. That had been the governor’s stated goal since he signed House Bill 551 into law more than three months ago.
“Certainly, we expect the tracks that are completely renovated (with a sportsbook) to be open on the 7th,” he told reporters after the signing ceremony. “Each of the tracks will have to go through the process, will have to secure the license, but we anticipate that that will happen certainly for the ones that are up and operating right now.”
Kentucky has nine licensed racetracks, two of which are under construction. Beshear said if those facilities – Cumberland Run in Corbin and Sandy’s Racing and Gaming in Ashland – have historical horse racing machines open at their sites, they can open a retail sportsbook.
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Kentucky Could Be Among the Quickest to Launch Sports Betting
If Kentucky meets its Sept. 7 launch deadline, it will become one of the quickest states to launch sports betting after legislative or voter approval.
Iowa’s first retail sportsbooks opened on Aug. 15, 2019, a little more than three months after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law legalizing sports betting. Indiana launched a few weeks later, less than four months after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an expanded gaming bill into law. Last year, Kansas also needed less than four months to go from bill signing to bet taking.
While Beshear signed the bill into law in late March, new laws in Kentucky without emergency clauses don’t take effect until 90 days after the session ends. That means Kentucky sportsbook apps can open in the state 71 days after the law went on the books.
Beshear, who is running for re-election this fall and ran on a platform to legalize sports betting four years ago, said he would be “excited” to make the first sports bet in the state.
HB 551 was a bipartisan bill that passed somewhat surprisingly on the final day of the session. It required bipartisan support, and key lawmakers who helped shepherd the bill through the legislature appeared at the signing ceremony.
“Today is a long-awaited day for Kentuckians, across the breadth and depth of the commonwealth, who have wanted sports wagering now for many, many years,” said state Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, the bill’s primary sponsor.
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Kentucky Sports Betting Application Window Starts Tuesday
When Kentucky’s first sportsbooks open, the state becomes either the 35th or 36th state – depending on what happens with litigation surrounding Florida’s tribal gaming compact – plus the District of Columbia to go live.
Currently, only one operator – Kentucky Caesars Sportsbook – has formally announced its plans for the state. However, with the temporary rules finalized, the KHRC can begin taking applications from interested tracks and operators starting Tuesday.
Tracks will pay $500,000 for their license and $50,000 annually to renew. Operators will pay $50,000 for theirs and $10,000 annually.
In addition to approving the temporary rules, the commission unveiled the permanent rules it will use to oversee sports betting. Those regulations will not take effect immediately but will undergo a review process while the emergency regulations are in effect.
An ‘Intense Process’ Behind the Scenes in Kentucky
It’s been a whirlwind three-plus months in Kentucky since the General Assembly passed House Bill 551 on March 30, its final day in session. Beshear signed it into law that night.
The law gave the KHRC a six-month window starting late last month to establish a licensing and regulatory structure for sports betting. However, commission staff and other state officials began working immediately behind the scenes to prepare the state for Monday’s meeting. They met with regulators from Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Ohio to learn about their processes and also met key stakeholders and gaming consultants to help devise Kentucky’s rules.
The work began daily in April, KHRC Chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz told BetKentucky.com after Monday’s meeting. He was involved daily, juggling his chairman duties with his day job as the managing partner at Morgan & Morgan in Lexington. However, for staff members at the commission and the state’s Public Protection Cabinet, it was a day and night effort with some weekend work, too.
“It has been an intense process,” he said. “One that our team has not stopped and won’t stop because now we have the applications coming in. I will tell you it’s taken the total (KHRC) team. It’s taken members from the PPC, and it’s going to take more people coming in to get us through the whole process.”
The commission has already said it plans to hire 14 new staff members to oversee sports betting. In addition, KHRC Executive Director Jamie Eads told BetKentucky that the agency will likely utilize about six employees from the PPC, its parent agency, to help get ready for the September launch dates. Beshear has also pledged to provide more support if it becomes necessary.
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