Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Moves to House Floor

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Update: The Kentucky House has passed sports betting bill HB606 – it’s now up to the Senate to approve the bill before the session ends.

A Kentucky sports betting bill has moved to the House floor after it passed the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee on Wednesday. If passed, HB 606 will legalize and set rules for sports betting – including fantasy sports and online poker.

However, Rep. Adam Koenig’s proposal faces serious obstacles ahead of the prorogation of the legislative session ending next month.

Sports betting will be legalized in Kentucky if the bill is approved by both the House and Senate.

What Changes Can HB 606 Bring?

HB 606 would legalize mobile sports betting in Kentucky, allowing the state residents to place bets on their digital devices. However, retail sports betting would also be available at the horse tracks.

During the committee meeting, Koenig also discussed two other bills – one that will modernization taxation of pari-mutuel betting in the Bluegrass State and another related to allocating funds for problem gaming.

Koenig is a leading supporter of legal sports betting. He is hopeful that the state legislators will finally regulate sports betting. According to him, millions are illegally wagered on sports in Kentucky via offshore sites or bookies each year. According to a study conducted three years ago, if legalized, the sports betting industry is projected to bring $22 million in annual revenue.

But Koenig said this week that the $22.5 million tax revenue projection is conservative, especially with other states outpacing their projections.

HB 606, Koenig’s Fourth Bill in Four Years

HB 606 is Koenig’s fourth attempt to bring sports betting in his state in as many years. One of the most outspoken advocates of sports betting, he led the efforts in the previous years but could not succeed.

In 2020, Koenig’s proposal also cleared the House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee. It also cleared in the second week of a 60-day session before heading to the House floor where 41 of his 99 fellows in the chamber co-sponsored the bill.

But opponents prevailed as they filed several amendments before the bill was sent to the committee, and it eventually stalled.

However, the determined lawmaker said Tuesday, “I’m not going to leave here until I get it done.”

Koenig also claims the support of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who said that he would like to see sports betting come to his state.

During his State of the Commonwealth Address in January, Beshear had said that “it is time to legalize medical marijuana, pass sports betting and save historic horse racing.”

Will 2022 Bring Legal Sports Betting in Kentucky?

Koenig remains positive this time, assuring the supporters that “we’re in a position to hopefully have better luck going forward out of this committee.”

While announcing the legislation last month, he said, “We’ve been close in the past, I imagine it will be close again this year.” He had said that the votes are there on the House floor. It’s just a matter of getting his fellow Republicans to see the freedom aspect of it.

Despite Koenig’s high hopes, he’s running out of time. The Kentucky legislature follows a 60-day session in even-numbered years, and Wednesday was the 49th day. The state legislature breaks for a veto period after the 58th day and returns for the final two legislative days on April 13.

So, while the legislative support appears to have swelled, the tight timeline could pose the biggest challenge for Kentucky sports betting this year. Next year, sports betting is likely to face the same issue that stalled the 2021 effort. The Kentucky legislature follows a 30-day session in odd-numbered years, which also requires three-fifths support for any bill to pass.

It means 2024 is the most realistic target for supporters to see legal Kentucky sports betting.

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