Concerns Over 18+ Betting Issues Not Enough to Change KY Law, Expert Says

The Kentucky sports betting industry will be under the national microscope when it launches in September thanks to its legal age limit. If you’re 18, you can bet on sports in Kentucky. In most other US states, the legal age limit is 21.

In fact, 71% of Kentucky residents want 21 to be the legal age, not 18, according to a recent Gaming Today survey.

With 4.6 million people, Kentucky will be the largest 18-and-over sports betting jurisdiction in the US. By far.

A prominent national gaming law expert told Gaming Today he thinks Kentucky’s age limit could open the door to more responsible gambling issues “in theory” because it will add to the overall number of gamblers in the state. Still, he said, he has a hard time seeing the age limit changing any time soon.

“I don’t think it’s enough of a certainty to warrant a change in law,” said Stephen Miller, an attorney at Cozen O’Connor and the Co-Chair of the firm’s White Collar Defense & Investigations practice group. “Kentucky should see what happens and re-evaluate with data, like any good regulator.”

Surprised by low age limit? ‘Nope’

Miller is currently based in Philadelphia. But he was raised in Lexington. He attended Henry Clay High School and University of Kentucky. Asked if he was surprised Kentucky set its sports betting age limit at 18, Miller simply replied: “Nope.”

The public may be taken aback by the low age limit, but industry experts aren’t necessarily shocked. Kentucky horse race betting has been around for more than a century. The state identifies with horse racing more than any other in the US. Kentucky’s nine horse racing associations are the only organizations allowed to obtain sports wagering licenses, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is regulating the state’s sports betting industry.

And, like it is across the country, the legal age limit for horse betting in Kentucky is 18.

So the horse betting state used the standard horse betting age for its new legal form of betting. Simple, right?

Besides, the KHRC can’t change the age limit. That would require a chance to HB 551, the sports betting bill. And that would require action from the Kentucky Legislature, which isn’t in session again until 2024.

Other issues Kentucky is more likely to face

Miller also has a unique and valuable perspective for sports betting in Kentucky because of his experience advising gaming operators and sports teams regarding compliance surrounding the repeal of PASPA in 2018.

Regulators need to establish relationships with other regulators around the US and the world to get ahead of any college sports betting scandals — a topic that has become white hot in US sports betting in recent months.

“Betting shenanigans rarely occur in only one jurisdiction,” Miller said. “Kentucky needs to receive information about point-shaving, insider information, or unscrupulous operators as quickly as possible, and that comes from being ‘plugged in’ to the network of other gaming regulators.”

And Miller isn’t worried Kentucky regulators will gloss over anything — including governing language used in the Kentucky sportsbook bonus offers — in their rapid turnaround from legalization to launch.

“Kentucky was already late to the online betting ‘party.’  Most other states already allow it,” Miller said, “and Kentucky can benefit from its fellow regulators’ guidance and from the gambling companies themselves, which are quite experienced at rolling out gaming in new jurisdictions.”

About the Author
Matthew Bain

Matthew Bain

Matthew Bain is a contributor to Gaming Today. Before joining Catena Media in 2022, Bain spent six years with the USA TODAY Network as a reporter and deputy sports editor at the Des Moines Register. A California native, Bain helped spearhead Prop 26 vs. Prop 27 coverage. He has led Catena Media’s coverage of the Massachusetts sports betting launch and the legalization of Kentucky sportsbooks.

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