Kentucky Betting Legislation Passed Through the State Government Committee Stage

Kentucky sports betting bill clears State Government Committee and heads into House of Representatives for the next step of the legalization process.

A promise is a promise

Ever since Andy Beshear won the elections in November 2019 and became Governor of Kentucky, the hopes for passing new legislation for betting have been growing, especially with his promises for legalizing sports betting being totally in line with his father’s promises back in 2015 from the time he had been Governor of the state.

Fast forward to 2020 and Kentucky State Governor Beshear may have a real chance to put his money where his mouth is, speaking in the language of the gambling industry, as House Bill 137 passed through the committee stage and is heading towards the House of Representatives, with Governor’s approval the final hurdle in a long and exhausting process of passing state legislation.

Initially introduced by Adam Koenig, bill 137 would allow the Kentucky Speedway and horse racing tracks to become points of accepting wagers on sports and, in terms of online betting, points for registering in person and downloading mobile apps for anyone that wants to place a bet online, play online poker or fantasy sports contests.

House Bill 137 in numbers

As for the state, the proposal includes and initial $500,000 license fee, followed by a $50,000 renewal fee, tax rate of 10.25% rising to 14.25% for online betting revenue, with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission being charged with the regulation of the newly proposed sport betting activities, including collegiate sports.

The fiscal analysis of HB137 showed an estimate of $22.5mln in annual revenue for the state, 10% higher than estimated initially due to the revenue of in-state events betting such as University of Kentucky and University of Louisville basketball games, 95% of which, after the cost of regulation is covered, the bill proposes to go to a permanent fund to assist payments of the state for public pensions, with the rest going towards funding special programs to tackle the issue of gambling addiction.

As pointed out by HB137 sponsor Koenig, Kentucky is largely surrounded by states that have already legalized sports wagering, as already 20 states have done so lured by the estimate of $150bln in turnover from illegal sports betting per year, and it is time the state levels the playing field by legalizing so far illegal activities, while at the same time take advantage of the projected revenues for public purposes.

“…obviously a lot of folks see the revenue potential and opportunity to allow individuals to do something legally that they are currently doing illegally,” Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger.

Expected to last the race this time

The bill is now heading to the floor of House of Representatives, exactly where it failed to be called to vote in 2019, but the odds are much higher this time around as a lot of local organizations and groups among which the Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Greater Louisville Inc. and Kentucky Professional Fire Fighters already expressed their support for it.

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