A bill to legalize sports betting in Kentucky passed through a House committee, giving supporters hope it can navigate murky waters.
There are only 11 days left in Kentucky’s 60-day legislative session, and the bill would still need to pass through the House and Senate.
Late session heroics saving Kentucky sports betting bill
The lead sponsor on the bill, State Rep. Adam Koenig, said the outcome on the issue could be different from previous years.
Addressing the committee, Koenig said:
“I think we’re in position, hopefully, to have better luck going forward.”
Lawmakers in the Bluegrass State have tried multiple times to pass a sports betting bill. In 2020, a Koenig-backed bill passed out of committee but struggled on the House floor.
Koenig estimates millions of dollars are wagered illegally in Kentucky every year.
“I think it’s important to bring those people out of the shadows, to dry up the black market and make sure that the people of this state have the benefits of their government protecting them. When you go to a bookie and if you have a good weekend and you go to collect and your bookie doesn’t want to pay you, where do you go? What recourse do you have? The answer is none.”
Kentucky has other gambling issues in play
So far, this year’s bill, which is part of a broad package of gambling bills, has gained bipartisan support.
In addition to sports betting, one such bill would create the $225 million Kentucky Problem Gaming Fund. The initiative would help Kentuckians struggling with gambling addiction by focusing on awareness, prevention, and treatment efforts.
Another bill would alter the state’s tax structure for pari-mutuel wagering on horse races. A final gaming bill would outlaw gray machines, which operate similar to slot machines.
Work to be done in Kentucky
Although sports betting has received support from both sides of the aisle, anti-gaming groups are still pushing back.
Family Foundation of Kentucky, a conservative group, has consistently opposed the expansion of gambling.
The foundation’s executive director, David Walls, said the bill was an example of bad policy.
Walls had this to say:
“This type of predatory gambling is designed to prey on human weakness, with the government colluding with the gambling industry to exploit our fellow Kentuckians.”
Koenig’s bill must still navigate a Republican-controlled Senate that has been hard to get passed in recent years.