Sure, Kentucky has set 18 years old as its legal age limit for sports betting. But, so far, all of the three sportsbooks already locked into the state — BetMGM, Caesars, and FanDuel — have said they’ll only offer 21-plus betting.
A prominent expert in gaming law told Gaming Today she isn’t surprised by those decisions.
And she wouldn’t be surprised to see other future Kentucky online sportsbooks follow suit.
“I suspect you may see some operators make the business decision to stick with only offering sports wagering to those over the age of 21,” said Sara Tait, a lawyer with the Gaming, Sports Betting and Liquor Law practice at Ice Miller.
Tait Used to Run the Indiana Gaming Commission
Tait has a unique perspective on sports betting. Before joining Ice Miller, she spent six years as executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission and led the state through its sports betting launch in September 2019. The legal age limit for sports betting in Indiana, which shares a border with Kentucky, is 21.
Tait said she and her colleagues were always aware Kentuckians would drive across the border to bet in Indiana. However, even though the vast majority of sports betting takes place online, Tait thinks “Kentucky’s legalization may impact the retail sportsbooks around Indiana’s southern border the most.”
The Indiana retail sportsbooks closest to Kentucky are at Southern Horseshoe Indiana Hotel & Casino and Winner’s Circle Race Sports Pub (which are essentially in the Louisville metropolitan area), as well as Tropicana Evansville.
Online Responsible Gambling Measures Must Differ From Retail Measures
When asked specifically if she thinks Kentucky’s legal age limit could open the door for more responsible gambling issues, Tait said states can’t simply rely on what has worked from an RG perspective in a retail setting.
“Responsible gaming must continue to be a priority for all stakeholders,” she told Gaming Today. “We’ve learned that the RG tools for traditional brick-and-mortar casino players don’t fully translate to sports bettors.”
Not Worried About the Rapid Launch Process
Yes, Kentucky’s six-month turnaround from legalization to online sports betting launches is among the fastest in US history.
But Tait isn’t worried about that impacting the quality of Kentucky’s launch.
“Many of the new states tasked with rolling out a regulatory scheme have the benefit of watching other states and learning,” she said. “Regulators seem to have coalesced around a set core of standards and approvals. Oftentimes, states do not want to be an outlier, so, if something is approved in one state, that helps get approval in other states.
“The operators and other stakeholders, now with dozens of state launches and operations under their belts, also have expertise that can be an invaluable resource.”
Kentucky vs. Indiana
The Kentucky sports betting landscape will have some similarities to Indiana, but plenty of differences too.
Both states have intensely passionate college fanbases — Kentucky and Louisville in Kentucky, and Indiana and Purdue (among others) in Indiana. But Indiana also boasts the Pacers in the NBA and Colts in the NFL, while Kentucky doesn’t have any pro sports teams.
“I’m not sure Kentuckians can compete with the love of basketball in the great Hoosier state,” Tait quipped.