Kentucky Approves Sports-Betting Catalog Ahead Of Launch

September 1, 2023
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As Kentucky prepares to launch retail sports betting next week, bets on pickleball and slap fighting competitions were not included in a catalog of permissible wagers that received initial approval from the state’s sports wagering council.
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As Kentucky prepares to launch retail sports betting next week (September 7), bets on pickleball and slap fighting competitions were not included in a catalogue of permissible wagers that received initial approval from the state’s sports wagering council.

The Kentucky Sports Wagering Council (KSWC) on Thursday (August 31) unanimously approved the state’s sports-betting catalog, with wagers on numerous esports competitions set to be allowed but other sports off-limits, at least initially.

Jamie Eads, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC), had previously approved the catalog, which is now subject to ratification by the full commission.

The three-page sports-betting catalog was publicly released following the council’s meeting.

“The catalog will be used to create a unique market for those wanting to place a legal wager in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Hans Stokke, director of sports wagering for the state racing commission.

The catalog does not include horse or dog racing, or any events that are not considered sporting events, such as the Academy or Emmy Awards.

A sport’s governing body can request that specific events be limited or excluded from wagering.

Among the list of permissible sports for wagering on in Kentucky are the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Women’s National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball.

The catalog also lists U.S. college baseball, softball, football, and hockey among the approved events. The more unique sports on the list included Cornhole, events sanctioned by the International Table Tennis Federation, Snooker, Americas Cup sailing, and Netball leagues in New Zealand and Australia.

James Edwin Worley, a member of both the KHRC and KSWC, said he assumed that the catalog of approved wagers was modeled after other jurisdictions and includes what is available to operators who participate in those states.

“We did consider several other jurisdictions’ catalog and what they represent,” Stokke said. “There are some omissions in this catalog that will not be allowed in Kentucky that you might find in other jurisdictions, particularly dog and horse races.”

Stokke made it clear that wagering on injuries, penalties, and anything that is an outcome of a replay review, or disciplinary proceedings, were not allowed.

“That’s the kind of thing that has been omitted along with some leagues and wager types that are available in other jurisdictions that we decided weren’t right for our initial offering here in Kentucky,” he said.

Worley then asked Stokke if he was sure that the list would meet the needs of “our market, as well as the third-party providers as to what they want to offer.” 

“We did have some proposals from the service providers that were more extensive than the catalog,” Stokke said. “For our initial offerings, we chose those sporting events that were governed by a governmental body that we felt comfortable with the research that we have done.”

Stokke said there will be an opportunity for some additional sports to be added to the catalog in future.

Several council members asked about potential events not being included in the initial sports-betting catalog, including council member Jonathan Blue asking about the potential for pickleball to be included at a later date.

“I think it is the fastest growing sport in the world right now,” Blue said.

Stokke agreed it was an exciting sport but said once the commission was more comfortable with the governing bodies that pickleball tournaments are subject to, it could be something considered in the future.

“Our research so far hasn’t allowed us to get that for pickleball, but it is something we would like to see on the catalog going forward.”

Waqas Ahmed, deputy director of the KHRC, expressed his concerns about wagering on international esports competitions.

“I’m assuming that this isn’t just a group of friends getting on an Xbox, streaming this to Twitch or other platforms and a service provider is coming in and offering wagering on that,” Ahmed said.

Stokke assured him that the approved esports tournaments need to be regulated and sanctioned events to make it into the catalog.

Currently, there are eight sanctioned international esports tournaments among the list of approved events, including the Call of Duty League, League of Legends, and NBA 2k League. 

Stokke said any one-off contests with individual governing bodies, along with their betting operators, will have to come to the commission and “ask us to list that particular contest.”

The commission last week authorized BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, and DraftKings to conduct both retail and mobile betting, as well as awarded mobile betting licenses to FanDuel, bet365, Fanatics, Circa and Penn Entertainment’s Barstool Sportsbook, which is expected to ultimately become ESPN BET.

Seven horseracing tracks were authorized to conduct retail betting, including the historic Churchill Downs track in Louisville, the home of the Kentucky Derby.

The commission also approved a temporary retail license for Kambi to provide the technology for several of the racetracks to offer land-based wagering, including Churchill Downs.

Retail betting is set to launch on September 7, while online wagering is slated to follow on September 28. 

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