Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Takes Step Towards Legislation
The Latest in a Flurry of Attempts
A bill to legalize Kentucky sports betting has cleared its first obstacle.
HB 606 passed through the House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee but faces a short turnaround with the General Assembly’s session concluding in the middle of April.
“The problem’s never been in this committee, it’s on the floor,” said Representative Adam Koenig. “But I think we’ve got the support to go forward on the floor.”
Koenig is the bill’s sponsor; he has attempted to push betting-related legislation through the House for four straight years, and although he came close in 2020, the bill stalled after it had passed its initial reading.
Kentucky Sports Betting Coming Soon?
HB 606 is a part of Koenig’s plan to pack multiple pieces of sports betting legislation together, a plan that he announced on February 28th.
“We’ve been close in the past, I imagine it will be close again this year,” Koenig said last month. “Certainly the votes are there on the House floor. It’s a matter of getting my fellow Republicans to see the freedom aspect of it.”
The new bill would legalize in-person and online gambling through the local race tracks. HB 606 is similar to a few of Koenig’s past propositions but notably excludes an in-person registration requirement for first-time bettors.
Kentucky sports betting has no shortage of attractive options, including the all-famous Kentucky Derby, as well as sports at the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville.
Turning Up the Heat
Kentucky’s legislature is meeting in 60-day sessions this year— Wednesday, the day that HB 606 navigated its first obstacle, was day 49. The government will break for a veto period on the 58th day before returning for the final two days on April 13.
This leaves Koenig and his supporters very little time to garner support for the new bill, whose sentiments have been shot down in years past.
Gene Cole of the Kentucky Ethics League is one noteworthy figure that opposes Koenig’s effort and views sports betting as a sham.
“People say, when it comes to this issue, how come we weren’t the first to do it? Well, why can’t Kentucky take a different tune and say we’re going to be the first to stand up and say no,” Cole questioned.
David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation, also voiced his frustrations with the renewed effort to legalize Kentucky sports betting.
“It is an industry not designed to create wealth but to simply transfer wealth, primarily from the poor to the wealthy,” said Walls.
Estimates pen the number at $22.5 million for tax revenue benefits per year, which would go to Kentucky’s pension system.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said that he supported sports betting last year; 33 states have already legalized wagering since being granted the option in 2018, including all but one of Kentucky’s neighboring states. The lone exception is Missouri, which has already been drafting legislation and looks likely to soon legalize.
A study revealed that 65% of Kentucky residents are in favor of sports betting. A bill has also been filed in the senate but is yet to move.
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