New Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Short On Time, Still Draws Optimism

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Kentucky sports betting

Time is tight, but Kentucky sports betting proponents are hopeful this is their year. 

Rep. Michael Meredith filed a bill to legalize KY sports betting last week. Unlike legislation filed earlier this session, Meredith’s HB 551 only legalizes sports betting, not online poker and daily fantasy sports.

Without poker and DFS, the bill is more palatable to the Kentucky Senate, according to Sen. Damon Thayer, the Senate majority leader. Less than three weeks remain in the 2023 session, which Thayer said is “plenty of time to pass a bill.” 

“The big hurdle for me in the Senate is it requires 23 votes. If it required 20, I’d predict we could pass it right now,” Thayer told LSR, referencing the odd-year short session that requires a supermajority for passage. “Those extra three votes are certainly a higher threshold for us to cross, but if the House passes the bill, I’ll be prepared to advocate for it in the Senate.” 

New KY sports betting details

The new bipartisan bill includes in-person sports betting at the nine Kentucky horse racing tracks. It also provides each track up to three online skins for 27 possible operators.

HB 551 sets the tax for in-person sports betting revenue at 9.75%, while online would be taxed at 14.25%. Those thresholds closely track split rates from New Jersey.

The first year of Kentucky sports betting would require in-person registration for online sports betting. It also sets the age for sports betting at 18, matching the state’s horse racing and lottery requirement.

Kentucky Senate hurdle for sports betting

Last year, a sports betting bill passed a Kentucky chamber for the first time when former Rep. Adam Koenig pushed his fourth consecutive effort through the House. The bill failed to receive a vote in the Senate because the Republican caucus did not want a vote on the legislation.

Thayer believes the Senate tide is changing, but time might not be on the bill’s side. Instead, the longer session with simple majority rule next year might be a better bet.

“I don’t want to predict success this year,” Thayer said. “I will say it’s an easier proposition next year with just 20 votes. But I’ll push hard. I’m hopeful.”

Support strong in Kentucky

Gov. Andy Beshear is a supporter of legal KY sports betting. Beshear blamed “a few” Senate holdouts for the failure of last year’s sports betting legislation.

“We should have instituted sports betting four, five years ago,” Beshear said during press conference this month. “It’s just a part of people’s entertainment. It is ridiculous that we don’t have sports betting now.”

More than 60% of the state’s population also supports legalization, according to a statewide poll last year. While time is tight, at least one industry source is optimistic about Kentucky this year, telling LSR last week, “I am actually feeling decent about KY.”