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Home Gambling Industry Kentucky sports betting bill clears hurdles in House and Senate

Kentucky sports betting bill clears hurdles in House and Senate

4 min. read
A stack of folders.

Kentucky has been mostly demurred to sports betting legislation in the period since 2018 when the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA, a piece of federal legislation that prohibited states to decide for themselves whether they wanted to host their own sports betting industries.

If anything, the Bluegrass State has been particularly consistent in its firm objections in this matter, but a change may finally be on the cards after the House and a Senate Committee both cleared a proposal to see sports betting finally legalized. While House Bill 551 seemed to gain a lot of traction in the House, it’s the decision of the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee to push the proposal to floor hearings and possibly a vote that really matters here.

This is the first time a proposal to legalize sports gambling in Kentucky made it through a Senate Committee and the nature of the vote is equally important. Out of the 10 votes cast, nine were in favor of House Bill 551 which may soon become the defining piece of legislation for the entire state.

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Meredith, the bill seeks to put a stop to illegal gambling in the state and ensure that sports betting revenue does not leak through porous borders with neighboring states that have been quicker to act. House Bill 551 secured a 63-34 vote in the House and the Senate voting will be a close one, estimates the bill’s sponsor.

It would come down to one to three votes, says Meredith, as the chamber gears for a floor voting. Then again, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer is concerned that it’s these few votes that can throw a real spanner in the works. Normally, a bill like that would require 20 votes in a 60-day session. But because the year is not even-numbered, additional three votes need to now be secured for the measure to pass with 23 in favor.

While the momentum is there, the bill’s backers acknowledge that there is dissent in senator ranks, with some still harboring worries about the nature of sports gambling and what it could mean for the state and vulnerable individuals. Supporters, though, assure that this legislation is a pathway to safeguarding consumers.

Scepticism abounds, though, with people such as The Family Foundation Executive Director David Walls objecting strongly to the idea of turning "every iPhone" into a digital casino. Apparently, the bill’s success is close than a piece of legislation pertaining to sports betting has ever been in Kentucky, but the procedure must be followed.

For one, the bill needs three procedural readings in the Senate before it can go to a floor vote. Should the bill clear this last hurdle, however, it is as good as in the books with Gov. Andy Beshear being a long-time proponent of legalizing various form of gambling in the state. House Bill 551 is also rather generous to the state.

Applicants would need to pay $500,000 for a licensing fee and then cover a $50,000 renewal fee annually. The regulation of the industry would rest with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The session ends on March 30 giving any chances of success a tight window of opportunity.

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17 Mar 2023
4 min. read
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