The main sponsor of a Kentucky sports betting bill believes his relatively simple legislation has a strong chance this year.
While the Kentucky legislative session ends at the end of March, Rep. Michael Meredith is “cautiously optimistic” his KY sports betting bill can reach the finish line. He expects the House Licensing, Occupations & Administrative Regulations Committee will hear his HB 551 next week.
He also believes he already has the 60 House votes “and a few to spare” to achieve the three-fifths majority required in odd-numbered years. Should it pass the House, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer told LSR he is ready to advocate for the legislation in his chamber.
Time is short in Kentucky
Odd-year sessions are short, with just 30 legislative days to act. That leaves until the end of March to pass sports betting legislation, leaving Meredith with his cautious feeling.
However, Meredith said legislators could work on the bill during the 10-day veto recess before the final days of the session because Gov. Andy Beshear is a sports betting proponent.
“We get a little bit longer runway,” Meredith said. “I think there is plenty of time to get it done.”
Senate remains sticking point
Meredith is working on a worn path, as the House sent a sports betting bill to the Senate last year. Thayer faces an uphill battle, as his Republican caucus could not agree to take a vote on last year’s House bill and let it die with the session.
In longer even-year sessions that require a simple majority, Thayer recently told LSR he believes he would already have the votes this time.
“The big hurdle for me in the Senate is it requires 23 votes. Those extra three votes are certainly a higher threshold for us to cross,” he said. “I will say it’s an easier proposition next year with just 20 votes. But I’ll push hard.”
An industry source expressed doubt the Senate could cross either threshold this year.
Simpler KY sports betting bill better?
“You lose a few votes in the Senate with online poker,” Meredith said. “They’re a hard sell.”
Meredith also gave each of the nine Kentucky horse racing tracks up to three online skins instead of just one in last year’s bill. That comes from some legislators wanting more competition in the market.