CINCINNATI — In an effort to bolster its sports betting enforcement capabilities, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) has announced plans to hire 14 new employees and publish rules for the emerging industry by early next month. However, critics argue that the current staffing levels are inadequate, and recent job postings on the KHRC website suggest that only six positions are currently available, with no explicit mention of responsibilities related to regulating sports betting.
The WCPO 9 I-Team has been closely monitoring KHRC’s staffing plans since May, when its analysis revealed that Kentucky has 38 times fewer gambling enforcement staff than neighboring Indiana and 30 times fewer than Ohio. Expanding the enforcement team from four to 18 employees would bring Kentucky more in line with its northern counterparts.
Among the six job postings on the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet website for KHRC, three are specifically tied to horse racing, including two positions for veterinarians and one for a racing license administrator. Another posting for a planning and research role seeks candidates to review, analyze, and evaluate the effectiveness of current programs and propose improvements to agency management. Two auditor positions are also available, with one focusing on conducting investigations and the other on performing comprehensive audits of financial and statistical records, reports, statements, and accounting policies and procedures.
When questioned about its staffing plans and requested an interview with Chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz, KHRC did not provide a response.
During a KHRC meeting on June 20, Rabinowitz acknowledged the growth of the KHRC staff with the addition of 14 positions in sports wagering. He stated that these positions would encompass leadership, investigative, analytical, and administrative roles. Rabinowitz expressed satisfaction with the progress in the hiring process and anticipated making further staffing announcements soon.
Rabinowitz also mentioned that initial drafts of sports betting regulations had been shared with licensed associations and industry stakeholders prior to their public release in the coming weeks. He confirmed that KHRC would convene a special meeting in early July to review and approve these regulations.
Michael Barley, the chief public affairs officer for Pace-O-Matic Inc., voiced his dissatisfaction with Kentucky’s approach to sports betting. The Georgia-based company is currently suing the state over legislation that deems its video games illegal gambling devices.
Barley criticized Kentucky’s regulatory efforts, claiming that they lag behind other states and implying undue influence from Churchill Downs and the horse racing industry. He urged state lawmakers to carefully assess staffing levels when reviewing KHRC’s regulatory plans during the joint committee on appropriations and spending meeting scheduled for July 19.
“If they genuinely intend to regulate effectively, they will require more than 14 people,” Barley asserted. “The regulatory system needs to be more robust than what they have planned.”
In addition to outlining the staffing plans and release schedule for sports betting rules, Rabinowitz provided details on how KHRC is preparing for the new industry. He revealed that KHRC staff, commissioners, and members of the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet have engaged in meetings with regulators from other states, industry experts, service providers, and licensed associations. These interactions aimed to draft clear and concise administrative regulations governing sports wagering in Kentucky. Rabinowitz highlighted valuable insights gained from regulators in Massachusetts, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, and Colorado, who shared best practices based on their recent experiences in implementing sports wagering.
Meetings with service providers and visits to multiple sportsbook sites offered KHRC representatives a firsthand look at the advanced technologies employed to safeguard the integrity of wagering. Discussions with stakeholders also took place regarding problem gambling programs in Ohio, which informed the development of a similar program in Kentucky through collaboration with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
To address emerging legal issues in wagering, KHRC’s legal counsel has engaged with legal representatives from sports associations like Major League Baseball. Additionally, Gaming Labs International has been contracted to provide consulting services and training for KHRC staff, ensuring they possess the necessary expertise to effectively carry out their enforcement duties.