In a statewide survey, Gaming Today found that 71% of Kentucky residents believe the legal age for sports betting in the state should be 21 instead of 18. Clearly, Kentucky residents don’t agree with lawmakers’ choice to make sports betting an 18-and-older industry.
This result overlaps with concerns about the accessibility of online gambling that comes with sports betting apps and the family of concerns that branch out of the prospect of underage gambling.
Kentucky’s sports betting bill sets the sports betting age at 18, which is uncommon but exists in other states, such as Wyoming and New Hampshire. However, major gambling companies like FanDuel, BetMGM Sportsbook, and Caesars Sportsbook have decided to make their apps available to bettors who are 21 and older nationwide.
DraftKings has varying age limits depending on state jurisdictions. For example, DraftKings is 18-plus in Wyoming and New Hampshire. DraftKings Sportsbook Kentucky has yet to definitively answer whether it will set its age limit at 18 or 21 when it launches in the state.
In the Gaming Today survey, 18% of respondents preferred the 18-year-old age limit and 11% had no opinion on the topic.
With increased scrutiny on responsible gambling issues, Kentucky will be the most visible battleground for hashing out the pros and cons of sportsbook age policies.
Kentuckians Concerned About Problem Gambling, Game Integrity
Kentuckians identified four risks that concerned them about sports betting legalization:
- Problem gambling (69%)
- Game integrity (38%)
- Abundance of sports betting advertising (27%)
- Impact on horse racing industry (27%)
The easy access to gambling will lead to increased rates of problem gambling. States that legalize sports betting have seen calls to problem gambling helpline double (Connecticut) and triple (Ohio). Many are mistaken calls, but others are on behalf of friends and family or inquiries about help controlling online gambling.
Maintaining game integrity is important, too.
Theoretically, a high-roller bettor could approach an athlete and ask that they adjust their performance for the bettor to win a player prop bet. That bettor could place a large wager and split the winnings with the conspiring athlete. This example was the template for several famous point-shaving scandals.
Often, regulated sportsbooks themselves are the ones who discover and report these scandals. Sportsbooks can flag an influx of money that coincides with a convenient change in an athlete’s performance. Operators can report these coincidences to the state gaming regulator and the relevant league.
Sportsbook Ads Flood Airwaves During Launches
National sports broadcasts have already exposed Kentucky residents to the high volume of sports betting ads in legal markets. Odds and point spreads from partner sportsbooks scroll at the bottom of major sporting events. NBA fans may have glimpsed the PointsBet Club at Ball Arena while watching the Nuggets win their first NBA championship.
That’s all without the welcome bonus offers that flood airwaves and social media feeds during new market launches.
Different jurisdictions have already taken action to regulate these welcome bonus ads. Ohio prohibited using “risk-free bets” to describe bonus offers that required bettors to risk their own money. Even before Ohio’s prohibition, sportsbook brands were phasing “risk-free” language from their bonus offers.
If Kentucky wanted to take the next regulatory step for the industry, it could address the frequency of these ads, which 27% of Kentuckians identified as a risk of legalizing sports betting.
13% Of Kentucky Gamblers Are Already Sports Bettors
According to the Gaming Today survey, Kentucky gamblers regularly participate in several types of gambling:
- Lottery tickets (52%)
- Casino games (26%)
- Horse racing (15%)
- Sports betting (13%)
- Daily fantasy sports (9%)
Of the regular sports bettors in Kentucky, 77% have bet money on sports in some way in the past year. Kentucky bettors have demonstrated an appetite for sports betting, whether they put money on out-of-state sportsbooks or daily fantasy sports.
By law, Kentucky sports betting must launch by Dec. 28, but Gov. Andy Beshear is on the record saying the state is “committed” to an NFL launch. An earlier launch would capture more revenue from the NFL season. According to Gaming Today projections, each month of sports betting during the NFL season could generate $2 million in state tax revenue.
Should Kentucky Rush to Launch Its Industry?
However, sports betting tax revenue is low, and the consequences of states rushing regulators are greater than the benefit of a few million dollars. Regulators must study each applicant’s financials to determine whether each sportsbook will have the money to make payouts. Understanding whether a sportsbook’s technical specifications are sufficient for the online era is also crucial for sportsbook regulators. Those two issues alone present regulators with sufficient challenges.
Those regulatory challenges also don’t include the long-running issue of out-of-date regulations. Several states, including New Jersey and Colorado, still require sportsbook executives to disclose “scars, tattoos [sic], or other distinguishing marks.”
Now that the mob no longer runs gambling nationwide, this method of identifying criminals is outdated and wasteful. Whether Kentucky regulators have the insight to address these issues instead of copying other states’ mistakes remains to be seen.
Kentucky Residents Most Aware of 8 Sportsbook Brands
Kentuckians’ familiarity with different sportsbook brands lines up with but doesn’t quite match market share:
- DraftKings (62%)
- Caesars (58%)
- FanDuel (50%)
- Tipico (38%)
- BetMGM (36%)
- Bet365 (36%)
- Barstool (32%)
- BetRivers (29%)
About 90% of the sports betting market share is held by FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM, in that order. These apps have among the best betting interfaces. They’re among the least glitchy and have some of the best marketing lists for national signups. So, the brands that Kentuckians are most familiar with might not be the ones they flock to.
Brand awareness for Tipico, in particular, is high compared to its national footprint in the sports betting industry. Tipico is only available in Colorado, Ohio, Iowa, and New Jersey. By comparison, market leader FanDuel is available in 23 states. To discover more about the FD sports betting choices available for bettors in Kentucky, take a look at our FanDuel Kentucky Sportsbook review page.
While Kentuckians can bet at any legal sportsbook in 2024, they still feel uncertain about how positive sports betting’s legalization will be for the state and its sports. How effectively concerns will be addressed won’t be known until the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission releases its sports betting regulations.
Adding shared wallets and horse racing to sportsbook apps will be a new technical challenge that regulators will have to prepare for. If regulators lack the expertise to create guardrails that protect bettor information and money in shared wallets and parimutuel pools, they’ll create room for fraudsters to siphon money from sportsbook customers.
In the meantime, Kentuckians can only hope that regulators will do their due diligence leading up to the launch.
Residents: Sports Betting Good for Kentucky, Less So for Sports
Kentuckians believe that sports betting will be better for the state than for sporting events. According to the Gaming Today survey, 56% of Kentuckians believe that sports betting will be good for Kentucky, and only 27% are unsure. In contrast, just 47% of Kentuckians believe that sports betting will be good for sports, but 34% are unsure.
Sports betting’s benefits for Kentucky are straightforward. It will create a new source of tax revenue without imposing new taxes on residents. (Although, lawmakers could undermine that benefit by reducing tax rates elsewhere.) Legalizing sports betting also makes a popular form of entertainment available in surrounding states for several years.
However, sports betting also requires regulators and Kentuckians to grapple with new issues. Addressing increased problem gambling rates and preserving game integrity are two important issues for customers of any online sports betting market.
These issues can impact financially vulnerable student-athletes and potential targets for modern point-shaving scandals. While rare, these events invite scrutiny on the gambling industry and create pressure for regulators to take action against sportsbooks, whether they’re principally at fault or not.
University athletic departments in other states have had to grapple with this issue. They’ve approached this issue by prohibiting athletes and other officials from participating in sports betting as professional leagues have done.
They’re issues with a degree of separation from the state but which impact sports more directly.
Horse Racetracks May Boost Kentucky Retail Sports Betting
Kentucky’s horse racing industry is a unique wrinkle in its sports betting industry. Horse racing has historical roots in Kentucky, which has led to Kentucky becoming the leading horse-racing state. Of the survey respondents who said they currently bet on sports, 71% indicated that they also bet on horse races at Kentucky racetracks.
The horse racing industry also lobbied for the sports betting bill, ensuring horse racetracks would maintain control of the industry. Up to 27 mobile sportsbooks can partner with horse tracks, which will also open new retail sportsbooks. This will keep retail and online sports betting from cannibalizing horse track revenue.
The horse tracks will have a priceless opportunity to cross-sell horse racing and sports betting when sportsbooks go live. The industry’s lobbying efforts have secured that opportunity, and all that’s left is to reap the rewards of those efforts.
Top Reasons Given to Bet on Sports …
Kentuckians identified two major reasons to bet on sports: to win money (58%) and for entertainment (37%). In addition, 36% identified “excitement” as a reason to bet, which is synonymous with entertainment.
Having fun and winning money sounds ideal for a new pastime. However, that combination becomes dangerous when bettors treat sportsbooks as investment platforms instead of entertainment apps. That can lead to loss-chasing, in which bettors place more wagers to compensate for their losses. Chasing losses is also a sign of problem gambling and potentially a gambling addiction.
Loss-chasing isn’t a bad strategy. It’s a symptom that demands professional attention.
The high number of Kentucky bettors motivated by monetary gains points to a need for public education about the realities of sports betting and gambling before, during, and after sports betting’s launch.
… Top Reasons Given to Not Bet on Sports
Kentuckians’ reasons for avoiding sports betting include concerns about:
- Losing money (63%)
- Addiction concerns (37%)
- Not knowing how to bet (25%)
Losing money was the most significant concern about sports betting, but behavior in other markets suggests this concern can be easily overcome. Welcome bonuses offer credit for first deposits and first wagers. These ease new bettors into sportsbooks to see how easily wagers can be placed.
Concerns about losing money and addiction are not as easily dismissed. Gambling companies will profit in the long run. Long-term losses will reliably offset wins by customers. It’s difficult to become a sharp bettor who bets correctly often enough to profit from sports betting. It’s even harder to wager like a sharp without having bet limits imposed by operators.
Sportsbook apps have responsible gambling tools, most notably time and wager limits. The state problem gambling helpline can also direct callers to resources for themselves or loved ones.
Funding a pipeline for responsible gambling resources is critical for launching a modern, responsible sports betting industry. New Jersey is home to the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University, the only gambling studies center in a school for social work in the US. Massachusetts had one of the best-funded problem gambling programs in the country even before it launched sports betting.
So, other states have found ways to engage with the challenge of problem gambling in a world with easier access to gambling.
Unfortunately, putting the necessary infrastructure to meet that standard is out of Kentuckians’ control. Kentucky’s sports betting bill has already addressed the broad contours of the state’s responsible gambling framework. The bill sets the responsible gambling funding structure and the age requirement.
Regulators will decide how they’ll evaluate sportsbooks, conduct the investigations and police the state’s new sports betting industry. The standard regulators hold Kentucky sportsbooks to and the thoroughness with which they perform their duties will be more formative for the industry than the high-level boundaries set by the sports betting bill.
Gaming Today sent a Pollfish survey to 613 Kentuckians surveying their attitudes about sports betting. Of the respondents, 74% were female, and 26% were male. The age demographics broke down as follows:
- 18-24, 16%
- 25-34, 22%
- 35-44, 22%
- 45-54, 19%
- >54, 21%
Questions 1 through 8 were open to all 613 respondents. The 78 respondents who selected sports betting as one of the types of gambling they regularly participate in answered questions 9, 10, 12, 13, and 14. Question 11 was open to the 60 respondents who answered “yes” to whether they bet on sports in some way in the past year. Finally, Question 15 was open to the 55 respondents who answered “yes” to whether they bet on horse races at Kentucky race tracks.
Fair use statement: When using this data and research, please attribute by linking to this study and citing Gaming Today.