Sponsor Expects Kentucky Sports Betting House Passage Early Next Week

Written By Matthew Kredell on March 8, 2023
gambling bill kentucky sports betting online

Kentucky sports betting legislation moved easily and unanimously through a House committee on Wednesday.

Next step is the House floor, and Rep. Michael Meredith told PlayUSA that likely will come early next week.

“I feel good about the floor vote,” Meredith added.

Short Kentucky sports betting hearing shows support

Meredith needed only 20 minutes to get HB 551 an 20-0 vote in the House Licensing, Occupations & Administrative Regulations Committee.

He even cut the hearing short and went to a vote rather than hear testimony from a few supporters. The committee and the House had already approved similar Kentucky sports betting legislation last year.

Meredith (R) and co-sponsor Rep. Al Gentry (D) spoke on the bill to show its bipartisan support.

Meredith told colleagues that there already is a lot of sports wagering going on in Kentucky.

“The reality is, we know there’s a ton of this activity already going on in the state and there’s a ton of residents crossing the border to place their bets. We just need to bring this home and regulate it properly.”

In explaining his yes vote, Rep. Mike Clines said that 40% of Kentucky counties border states with sports betting. So he was voting to give the other 60% access. Rep. Emily Callaway added that her constituents have asked for legal Kentucky sports betting.

In-person registration removal among changes

As reported in advance by PlayUSA, Meredith removed the in-person registration requirement for online sports betting accounts.

Other changes in the committee substitute included:

  • Clarifying that service providers can operate in-person sportsbooks at Kentucky horse racetracks by contract.
  • Allowing simulcast facilities to offer in-person sports wagering through their contracts with racetracks.

Religious opponents of Kentucky sports betting speak out

Familiar faces appeared in opposition to any Kentucky gambling expansion.

David Walls from The Family Foundation spoke of the predatory nature of gambling:

“Predatory gambling, especially in the expansive form that is being considered here, is not a victimless form of entertainment or competition. It is a form of financial fraud that sees the government partner with wealthy gambling interests to the harm of its own citizens. This is a simple truth and a harsh reality.”

He also spoke of children and how sports betting could lead to them growing up with a different perspective on sports.

“Commercialized sports betting harms children and radically changes the way that they perceive sports. The high frequency of deceptive ads by sports gambling operators serves to normalize gambling for children, leading kids to believe that gambling is central to playing and watching sports.”

Gene Cole, a pastor representing the Kentucky Ethics League and the Kentucky Alcohol, Gambling Problems and Substance Use Disorders, seems to think that creating an online sports betting account in regulated states is the same as clicking that you’re over 21 to enter a website selling alcohol.

“You can put a thing on there saying you have to be over 21 or over 18, and if anyone can read and wants to place a bet, they can push the yes button certifying they’re over 18 or 21. Doesn’t matter how old they actually are.”

Their arguments didn’t sway a single member of the committee and aren’t likely to make a difference on the House floor. However, they could make a difference in the Senate, where the vote is expected to be close.

Photo by PlayUSA
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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 ESPN.com.

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