Is Sports Betting Legal in Kentucky?

Great news for sports enthusiasts in Kentucky! You can now legally bet on your favorite teams with the recent passing of HB 551 in March 2023.

According to the new law, sports betting must go live in December, within six months of June 28, 2023, which is when the law becomes effective. Once the market is up and running, you'll be able to place bets on both professional leagues and collegiate sports. Only high school sports are excluded.

As long as you're 18 years or older and within state lines, you'll be able to enjoy sports wagering both online and at retail locations.

Kentucky does not have any casinos, even though this is the home of thoroughbred racing and pari-mutuel wagering. Its gambling options are primarily centered around horse betting, the lottery, historical horse racing, and charitable gaming.

Once sports betting is launched, the Kentucky Lottery Commission will oversee the sports betting industry, working in conjunction with the state's racetracks.

Those who wish to bet on the Kentucky Wildcats in March Madness or the neighboring Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL don't need to wait until December: you can always join top-ranked online sites like Bovada, right now.

State government has finally passed legislation like other jurisdictions allowing sports betting, and Kentucky will now join the 35 states that have now legalized sports gambling.

Kentucky Derby


Betting Laws in Kentucky

Almost 4.5 million people live in the state of Kentucky, a southeastern state bounded by the Ohio River in the north and the Appalachian Mountains in the east. Frankfort is the state capital, while Louisville is the largest city with a population of more than 600,000 residents.

Gambling laws in Kentucky — whether it's the betting on the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs or playing in an office pool on March Madness — are regulated at the state level.

All legalized gambling in Kentucky is limited to the following areas:

  • Sports betting
  • Pari-mutuel wagering
  • Lottery
  • Social gambling
  • Charitable gambling

The minimum gambling age is 18 years old for all legal forms of gambling, including the lottery and horse racing.


There are three racetrack casinos in Kentucky that offer some form of casino gambling. However, there are no traditional slot machines in these venues as they are illegal within the state. Instead, they all offer instant racing betting machines.

Some would say they're just bending the strict rules against casino gambling, but these gaming machines were approved not by law but by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that deemed that they are legal as long as they are somehow based on pari-mutuel wagering.

Four out of Kentucky's eight pari-mutuel wagering racetracks — including the iconic Churchill Downs — offer a total of 2,734 skill-based electronic gaming machines.

Horse racing

Horses have been an important part of Kentucky since the early frontiersmen came on horseback through the Cumberland Gap. Early on, the settlers began racing and breeding their horses.

The first horse races in the territory ran in the 1780s in Lexington and Louisville, despite the lack of formal tracks at that time.

Today, Kentucky takes center stage on a global scale on the first Saturday in May. The Kentucky Derby — often called the most exciting two minutes in sports — has been held at Churchill Downs since 1875.

Thirteen Triple Crown winners — including Secretariat in 1973 — have started the journey to racing glory at the famous racetrack with its twin spires.

Churchill Downs is one of the state's eight racetracks, featuring thoroughbred and harness racing. While the Louisville track is the most famous of the group, thousands of fans also travel to Lexington's Keeneland Racecourse for many other prestigious races.

The Red Mile, also in Lexington, is home to some of the fastest miles in harness racing. Always B Miki set the all-time world record of 1:46 in October 2016. The speedy mile red clay track hosts Grand Circuit events in the fall with simulcast wagering year-round.


The Kentucky Lottery began in April 1989 after a November 1988 vote in which more than 60 per cent of voters cast ballots in favor of it. Sales soared over $5 million on the first day of play with the first two games consisting of scratch-off tickets.

The lottery has grown to multiple in-house draw games and scratch tickets. The state is also part of multi-jurisdictional games such as Lucky for Life, Mega Millions and Powerball.

Kentucky Sports Betting Laws

Representative Michael Meredith's sports betting bill successfully passed in the Senate with a 25-12 vote on the last day of the 2023 legislative session. The Governor then signed the bill less than 24 hours after its passage. With the law taking effect on June 28, 2023, the state has six months to launch the industry. Governor Beshear has expressed his desire to have sports betting available before the start of the NFL season.

The legislation grants sports betting licenses to the state's nine horse racing tracks, with the possibility of up to three online platforms per track. This means there could be a total of 27 online sportsbooks available to you, along with licensed websites and apps. Under the new law, online operators will be subject to a 14.25% tax, while in-person sports betting revenue will be taxed at 9.75%.

Although sports betting is now legal across the Bluegrass State, those living in Kentucky will have to wait a little longer before the law becomes effective and both online and retail sportsbooks are able to accept their first bets.

See below the top sportsbooks where you can wager online from anywhere in Kentucky and choose the best one for you:

Kentucky's Favorite Sports Teams

While Kentucky doesn't have any major professional sports teams of its own, the university teams in Louisville and Lexington draw a ton of interest.

The Wildcats and Cardinals have made many deep runs in the NCAA basketball championships with the University of Kentucky winning the second-most titles ever with eight.

If residents of Kentucky want to take in a pro game, there are plenty of options just over state lines.

There are three NFL teams just across the border, with the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts all competing in the AFC.

There are three NHL teams — St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets — plus two MLB teams in the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals a short drive away.

Useful Links

'Sophisticated' illegal gambling machines are being found in Ky