Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Dies on Final Day of Session

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Hopes for sports betting in Kentucky and the bill to that effect died Thursday, the final day of the 2022 legislative session. Despite support from both chambers and the governor, Kentucky has failed to legalize sports betting for the fourth consecutive year.

The next year will be even harder if the state lawmakers try again.

In a speech from the Senate floor on Thursday night, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said that the sports betting bill lacked the votes to be approved. It was surprising as the upper chamber did not conduct a formal public vote on the sports betting measure.

House Bill 606 – sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig – would have regulated retail and mobile sports wagering through casinos and racetracks, with an annual potential of 22.5 million in revenue for the state.

Besides legalizing statewide mobile and retail betting, HB 606 would have also regulated online poker and daily fantasy sports.

In March, the House approved the bill, allowing the senate four weeks to decide its fate.

What Happened on the Final Day?

Koenig used gambling language to gauge the possibility of the bill’s passage on the final day of the legislative session before it became apparent that the bill was dead for this year, and probably for the next.

HB 606 had cleared the House, 58-30, last month before Thayer – a supporter – moved it to a favorable committee Wednesday. He wanted “to give it a chance” on the final day of the session. But he had said that the measure would not move to the floor unless it had enough votes to pass.

The Kentucky GOP traditionally doesn’t vote on a measure unless there’s a consensus among themselves.

But before the lunch break, it became clear that HB 606 would not get approval in the upper chamber. The sources close to the development claim that the senators were only four votes shy of meeting the majority.

Thayer, who was visibly perturbed as he could be seen when he met during and after a meeting with reporters on the floor, reiterated his support for the Kentucky sports betting bill.

Sports Betting is “Natural” to Kentucky

Thayer told the reporters that he believed sports betting was a natural extension of Kentucky’s history and tradition of wagering on horses in the Bluegrass State.

Later that evening, when he took to the Senate floor, he said he was disappointed that they could not pass sports betting as they didn’t have the votes. But he expressed hope that they would be successful by next year.

“I will continue to advocate for us adding this to our betting menu,” Thayer said, believing they should allow the state residents to choose of their own free will, like all of the states bordering Kentucky that allow legal sports betting.

Why Could the Bill Not Get Through Kentucky Senate?

After clearing from the house, the sports betting legalization efforts in Kentucky died in the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor despite several attempts to onto the chamber floor for a vote.

On Wednesday, Sen. Whitney Westerfield introduced 17 amendments to the bill, making it almost impossible to pass the measure amid the final hours of this year’s session. The amendments would have required approval in the House again before returning to a Senate committee and then to a full chamber for the final vote.

Senate President Robert Stivers said he did not think the votes existed in the chamber to pass the sports betting bill.

If HB 606 had been approved, it would have required Gov. Andy Beshear to his consideration. The Democratic governor already supports the measure.

Thayer previously told the media that sports betting is opposed in rural areas of the state, which is also reflected in the senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 30-8.

What’s Next?

The Kentucky General Assembly’s inability to legalize sports betting at this year’s session, which ended Thursday on its 60th day, means the state residents cannot legally bet on sporting events in the state.

It should be noted here that betting on horse races is already legal in Kentucky – home of the annual Kentucky Derby.

The untiring Koenig will introduce another sports betting bill in the 2023 legislative session, hoping to outlast his opponents.

“For four years, I have been working on sports betting bill in the House, and I finally got it passed, and the Senate had it four weeks,” which were not enough, Koenig said.

Though lawmakers plan to bring another sports betting bill in 2023, the odd-numbered sessions in the Bluegrass State are limited to mere 30 days and require a three-fifths majority to approve bills.

It means that sports betting legalization is most likely to come until 2024.

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