When former Kentucky Rep. Adam Koenig failed to secure reelection there were questions about who, if anyone, would take on the challenge of pushing for the expansion of Kentucky gambling. Three members of the Kentucky House have answered that call.
Their bill would create a regulated system for daily fantasy sports in Kentucky plus legalize sports betting and online poker games. It bears a lot of similarities to Koenig’s prior proposals. That could be a negative or a positive depending on perspective.
Kentucky gambling bill starts the conversation in 2023
The Kentucky legislature hasn’t taken many actions on gaming since April 2022. That was when opposition to a bill that Koenig sponsored prevented the legislation from seeing a vote on the Kentucky Senate floor. Shortly thereafter, Koenig lost the Republican primary in his district.
Now, the mantle of championing the issues that Koenig pushed has crossed the aisle. Three Democratic members of the Kentucky House have sponsored HB106.
The proposal from Rep. Derrick Graham, Rep. Rachel Roberts, and Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson bears a strong resemblance to Koenig’s 2022 bill that the House approved.
Among the main tenets of the bill are:
- Regulating and taxing fantasy sports contests with paid entries
- Legalizing both in-person and online sports betting
- Legalizing online poker
Should the House approve HB106, it seems it will have some allies in the upper chamber. Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer is behind the idea of sports betting legalization.
There are other complicating factors, however. Like Koenig’s 2022 bill, the text of HB106 takes no action on the issue of “grey machines” in the state. That could lead HB106 to a similar fate in 2023.
VLT issue could be an obstacle for gambling bills again
Part of the issue that stonewalled gambling bills in 2022 was a failure to reach a consensus between the Kentucky House and Senate on the subject of video lottery terminals in the state. Some businesses in Kentucky offer slot-like machines in a legally questionable manner.
The Senate had passed a bill to make such gaming expressly illegal. However, the House held firm to its commitment to let that legislation die unless the Senate approved its online poker/sports betting bill.
The session expired before the two bodies could reach a compromise on the issues.
Time is even more of an issue in 2023 than it was in 2022. In Kentucky, legislative sessions occurring in odd-numbered years are only 30 days long. Additionally, any legislation needs a supermajority approval (3/5) to head to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.
Beshear has been vocal in support of sports betting legalization. Thus, there’s a chance that this bill could get his signature, should it reach him. HB106 could see a lot of changes before that would happen, though.