Kentucky Gives Initial Approval to Sports Betting Events Catalogue – But No Pickleball

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky’s sports wagering catalog has been recommended for state regulatory approval in time for the state’s Sept. 7 retail launch. All major pro and college sports events are on the list.

Just don’t expect to see what some call the nation’s “fastest growing sport” as an approved wagering event.

Pickleball is absent from the catalog.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission sports wagering director Hans Stokke told the state’s Sports Wagering Advisory Council on Thursday that more events may be added before the state’s mobile launch Sept. 28. But it’s unlikely that pickleball – a sport with warring leagues that is getting millions of dollars of investment in cities like Lexington – will be one of the events, at least for now.

“Once we are more comfortable with the governing bodies and as long as we can vet them, we (can consider adding pickleball in the future),” Stokke told the council before it unanimously recommended approval of the catalog.

The catalog is posted to the KHRC public website as of Thursday afternoon. It is also being distributed to each of Kentucky’s nine sports betting providers approved to date.

Pickleball Off Kentucky’s Sports Betting List for Now

The pickleball question was raised by Sports Wagering Advisory Council at-large member Jonathan Blue, chairman and managing director of Louisville-based private equity firm Blue Equity. The company has holdings in sports and entertainment and dozens of other industries worldwide. According to Blue, pickleball is the “fastest growing sport in the world or something right now. It’s everywhere.”

Pickleball has been left off Kentucky's sports betting catalog.
Kentuckians won’t be able to bet legally on pickleball (AP Photo/Matt York)

That’s definitely true in some areas of Kentucky, where some larger cities are building new courts. On Wednesday, Lexington, Kentucky’s second-largest city, announced it is investing up to $3 million to build new pickleball courts at city parks.

However, Stokke said the governing structure necessary to make pickleball a suitable sports betting offering isn’t there yet – although it may be in time.

“For our initial offering we chose those sporting events that were governed by a body that we felt comfortable with given the research we have,” Stokke told the council.

Additional events and markets can be submitted to the KHRC, however, by sportsbooks for consideration for the catalog, “and we will continue to research those and make sure the suitability is up to par and make a determination following that,” he said.

No Betting on the Oscars

Also absent from the sports betting catalog approved today are entertainment awards, including the Oscars and Emmys. That’s an about-face from the approved events list in Massachusetts and Colorado – two of a handful of states that Kentucky used as models for its sports wagering regulations.

Kentucky’s decision not to include entertainment awards in its catalog is in line with neighboring Ohio, which does not allow betting on entertainment awards.

Offerings for certain fighting sports such as slap fighting are not in the catalog, either (MMA is allowed). As expected, betting is prohibited on dog or horse racing, sports injuries, disciplinary proceedings, and “some leagues that we decided aren’t right for our initial offering here in Kentucky” per Stokke.

LIV Golf, a Saudi-backed league that announced its merger with the PGA Tour in June after months of controversy, and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest are on the approved list.

Gov. Beshear: ‘Excitement for Sports Wagering is Building’

Kentucky sports betting is set to launch at 10 a.m. ET on Sept. 7 at up to 14 licensed retail sportsbooks in the state, followed by the mobile launch at 6 a.m. ET on Sept. 28. Gov. Andy Beshear is expected to make the first legal bet in the state, on Sept. 7 at Churchill Downs.

All retail and online sportsbooks in Kentucky are tied to one of the state’s nine licensed horse racetracks. As many as three mobile apps are allowed per track for a total of 27. Far fewer — 10 to 12 —– are expected in the Kentucky market.

“Excitement for sports wagering is building as we are just one week away from opening retail locations and one month from opening mobile applications for sports wagering,” Gov. Beshear said in a statement on Thursday. “Kentuckians now know where they can place a bet and the type of sporting events and wagers that licensees can offer.”

More on Kentucky's Sports Betting Launch

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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