Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Calls Sports Betting ‘Biggest Thing Left On Our Plate’

Written By Matthew Kredell on March 20, 2023
online kentucky sports betting legal apps

Kentucky sports betting legislation might not pass when lawmakers return for two final days March 29. But it will definitely be a topic of conversation.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer tells PlayUSA that sports betting is the main issue the Kentucky legislature has left this session.

“It was a very big deal to come out of committee with a 9-1 vote,” Thayer said. “And getting other issues out of the way also is significant. We’ll probably have some veto overrides and cleanup bills to do, but the biggest thing left on our plate is definitely sports betting.”

Thayer was encouraged by the nearly unanimous vote to get HB 551 out of the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee last week.

The bill has had two readings. That makes the legislation eligible to go right to a Senate floor vote when the legislature returns.

Legislation passed in odd-numbered years requires a two-thirds vote, or 23 of 38 Senators in support. In even-numbered years, legislation only needs a simple majority of 20 votes.

“If we needed 20 votes, I would feel confident we could pass it,” Thayer said.

Opportunity available during veto recess

Entering the veto recess, Thayer believes the Senate is within a few votes of passing a bill to legalize online sports betting in Kentucky.

To that effect, he told PlayUSA that there are a few undecided members who could put Kentucky sports betting over the top this year.

Last week, the Senate passed some bills lawmakers have discussed for years, including banning gray machines and legalizing medical marijuana. Once the dust settles on those controversial bills, Thayer thinks lawmakers can move on to really consider sports betting.

“I know sports betting advocates plan to work the issue pretty hard over the next week and a half. We’ll see when we get back if we have the votes. I’m hopeful. We’re definitely in the best shape we’ve ever been.”

Kentucky sports betting close to passage

Having a majority of the Republican caucus in support is key to getting a bill called for a vote in the Kentucky Senate.

With only seven Democrats in the chamber, passage already requires getting at least 16 of 30 Republicans on board.

It remains to be seen where Senate President Robert Stivers stands on sports betting. He’s definitely not a supporter. But Thayer said he isn’t necessarily standing in the way either.

“It’s hard to overcome opposition by the Senate president,” Thayer said. “But he’s never really said he’s opposed to it. He’s just ambivalent about it.”

In signing the gray machine ban, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he supported gambling in general and “I’ll sign a sports betting bill.”

With only 20 votes needed and a longer session in 2024, it appears Kentucky is very close to legalizing sports wagering.

“If we can’t pass it this year, I feel very good about next year,” Thayer said. “But I would really like to take it off our plate this year and let Kentucky consumers decide if they want to engage in legal sports betting.”

Photo by AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley/PlayUSA
Matthew Kredell Avatar
Written by
Matthew Kredell

Matthew's reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and

View all posts by Matthew Kredell
Privacy Policy