Kentucky eyes legal sports betting, DFS and online poker

12 February 2019

Kentucky lawmakers are to consider a new bill that would legalise sports betting, fantasy sports games and online poker in the US state.

Sponsored by 15 Representatives, House Bill 175 would enable racetracks and sports venues in Kentucky to offer in-person, online and mobile sports betting, with players required to first register for an account at the venue.

Sports betting licences would cost an initial $1m (£776,400/€885,400), plus an annual renewal fee of $50,000.

Tax rates for sports wagering would differ depending on how players place their bets, with all tax due monthly. In-person wagering would be taxed at 10.25% on adjusted gross revenue of sports wagers, while online or mobile bets would be taxed at a rate of 14.25%.

Should the bill pass, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would regulate the state’s sports wagering market, across land-based, online and mobile platforms.

Fantasy sports licences would set operators back $5,000, with an annual renewal fee of either 6% of adjusted gross revenue for the prior calendar year or a flat fee of $5,000.

The bill did not specify any tax rates for fantasy sports contests, but it did state all operators that meet the state's requirements must be registered by January 15, 2020.

In terms of online poker, consumers aged 18 or over would be able to take part in games, differing from the age restriction of 21 that has been proposed or adopted in other states. Poker would be available via desktop and mobile devices. 

Licences to offer online poker would cost $250,000, with an annual renewal fee set at $10,000. Operators would face a tax rate of 6.75% of net poker revenue, payable on a monthly basis.

In terms of which poker games would be legally available online in Kentucky, the bill defines poker games as: “including, but not limited to five-card draw, seven-card stud, and Texas hold’em”.

The bill is now with Kentucky’s House Licensing, Occupations & Administrative Regulations Committee for further consideration. The state’s current legislative session is due to conclude on March 29.

Kentucky has a somewhat chequered past in terms of online gaming, having been involved in a long-running lawsuit with PokerStars that saw the brand issued with a fine of $870m for illegal activities in the state between October 2006 and April 2011.

However, the Kentucky Court of Appeals recently quashed the ruling, saying it would “lead to an absurd, unjust result”.

Image: Andreas Faessler