Kentucky Prepares to Launch Sports Betting When NFL Season Starts on September 7

Grant Mitchell
By:
Grant Mitchell
07/13/2023
News

Highlights

  • Kentucky is targeting the first day of NFL season for the launch of retail sports betting
  • Nine local racing facilities can partner with up to three sportsbooks each
  • Kentucky estimates $23 million in annual tax funding through sports betting

The path to legal sports betting licensing in Kentucky has been revealed as Gov. Andy Beshear revealed a timeline to get the state’s sports wagering market up and running by September. 

Beshear was joined by local lawmakers and the Horse Racing Commission in his announcement that is sure to make sports bettors rejoice. Kentucky finalized the legislative adoption process on March 31 and has maintained a firm interest in having sportsbooks at operational status in time for football season.

The window for applications for interested sportsbooks opened on Tuesday. Two books have already partnered with local racetracks, and Kentucky hopes to have 10-12 options available by fall.

Imminent change

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) is in charge of vetting and deciding on which sportsbook applications will lead to licenses. It is unknown if FanDuel and Caesars, the two betting companies partnered with local horse racing tracks, have applied for independent operators licenses.

Retail sports betting will launch on September 7, the day of the NFL season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Detroit Lions. Online sportsbooks will be allowed to begin operations on September 28.

“This is a historic day for our commonwealth – sports wagering will open for the first time in Kentucky in less than 60 days,” Beshear said Tuesday. “Bringing sports wagering to the state not only gives Kentuckians a much-anticipated new form of entertainment but also brings money to the state to support pensions, freeing up money that can be used to build a better Kentucky through the funding of education, economic development, disaster recovery and other necessary projects, like providing cleaner water, building roads and high-speed internet.” 

Only Kentucky’s nine racetracks, with the help of up to three sportsbook partners each, can apply for retail sports betting licenses. If approved, the sportsbook partners will receive temporary operators’ licenses.

The state expects the racetracks and their satellite locations to all launch retail sports betting facilities. 

The starting points for sports betting were approved in an emergency order signed by Beshear on Tuesday at the Red Mile, a local gaming and racing facility. The emergency order also fast-tracks licensees to receive full approval when the online market goes live near the end of September.

Preparing for the launch

Local facilities interested in hosting retail sports betting must pay a one-time fee of $500,000 and an annual stipend of $50,000. They must also adhere to the guidelines established by the KHRC. 

According to an impact statement submitted with the emergency order, the KHRC estimates initial costs of $2.4 million to get the sports betting market in operation. That is offset by Gov. Beshear’s estimates that a legal sports betting market will create an extra $23 million in annual funding via tax payments to the state.

The KHRC announced earlier this year that it would undergo a hiring process to help prepare for its new responsibilities as the overseer of Kentucky sports betting. A total of 14 positions are still available. 

Kentucky was the 37th state to legalize sports betting in America. Like many other states, it is preparing to launch in the fall because that is when the NFL season, also the time of highest sportsbook traffic, is in progress. College football will also be in full swing, as will the NBA and college basketball in the next couple of months.

American sports bettors have already wagered more than $220 billion on different events since it became legal in a 2-18 federal court decision. Although Kentucky does not have local professional sports teams to drive its market, it has a rich history of gambling thanks to the Kentucky Derby and is next to several other states with prosperous markets.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.