By Bill Finley
House Bill 606, which would legalize sports betting in Kentucky, passed by a margin of 58 to 30 Friday in the Kentucky House and will now be sent to the Senate.
The bill will also legalize fantasy sports and on-line poker. The revenue will be used to support the state pension fund.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger), a longtime supporter of sports betting in the Blue Grass State. Koening estimates that sports betting will generate at least $22.5 million in new state tax revenue each year. It marks a third year that a sports wagering bill has come out of committee, but it has stalled each time. But with the 58-30 vote along bipartisan lines in the House, there are renewed hopes that sports betting will be legalized this time around.
Koenig said Friday that the bill would bring “activities that go on in every corner of this state out of the darkness and into the light.”
“The fact is, we've been betting on sports in America since they invented sports,” he added.
So far as its chances of passing the Senate, the Majority Floor Leader, Senator Damon Thayer, is on record supporting sports betting.
“With the passage of HB 606 in the House of Representatives, the sports betting issue moves to the Senate,” Thayer told the TDN in a text. “We will be reviewing the bill and assessing its chances in our chamber. I am a firm supporter of sports betting and hope enough of my fellow members join me in supporting the measure so that we can join most of America in allowing it to occur.”
The main opposition to the bill comes from religious organizations and their supporters among Kentucky lawmakers.
David Walls, the executive director of the Family Foundation, told wdrb.com that sports betting was an example of “bad government and bad policy.”
“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,” Walls said.
The 2022 session of the Kentucky General Assembly ends Apr. 14, meaning the Senate will have to act quickly. If the bill passes the senate and is signed by Governor Andy Beshear, it is estimated that sports betting could be up and running in the state by mid-summer. Beshear has come out in support of sports betting.
The bill allows the state's racetracks to partner with mobile sports betting operators like DraftKings and FanDuel. Online betting will be available throughout the state. The tracks will also be allowed offer sports wagering as their main location, simulcasting facilities and at their venues hosting Historical Horse Racing machines. Those will be the only brick-and-mortar facilities permitted to conduct sports betting. Patrons will have to go the tracks or their affiliated locations to sign up for an account.
Horse racing purses will not get a cut from sports betting, but its legalization and the fact that it will take place out of the state's racetracks could help introduce sports bettors to racing.
Sports betting will regulated by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.