The clock is ticking in Kentucky, but a sports betting bill started its sprint toward the finish line this week.
On Wednesday, the Kentucky House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee advanced HB 551 as proponents try to legalize KY sports betting by the end of this year’s short session. Odd years feature a 30-day session, leaving only until the end of the month to pass both chambers.
Last year, a more complex gaming bill passed the House, leaving this year’s bill sponsor, Rep. Michael Meredith, confident he already has the 60 votes needed in this year’s shortened session. Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer remains ready to advocate for Meredith’s bill in his chamber.
Simplified Kentucky bill set up for regulation
Meredith emphasized his legislation is largely to legalize something already occurring in Kentucky. He also said many Kentuckians are crossing the border to bet, as the Bluegrass State is nearly 100% surrounded legal states.
“This is not a product that’s not already happening in the marketplace. It’s just in an illegal and unregulated fashion,” Meredith told the committee. “This is to protect consumers.”
Meredith set up his bill similar to legislation of years past, but he did take out online poker and daily fantasy sports. He feels that should help make it more palatable to the Senate.
The bill gives principal licenses to the nine horse racing tracks in Kentucky. Each track can also partner with up to three online operators.
Senate remains Kentucky sports betting hurdle
Thayer’s job to get a sports betting bill through the Senate is not easy. Last year, his Republican caucus could not agree to even bring the issue up for a vote.
Thayer said he will work to secure the 23 votes needed, which is two-thirds of the chamber in odd years. But the simple majority in an even year is a safer bet.
“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 told LSR last month. “I will say it’s an easier proposition next year with just 20 votes. But I’ll push hard.”
A little added time in Kentucky
Speaking to LSR last week, Meredith was “cautious” in his optimism his bill could get to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk. That was because of the tight timeline lawmakers are working with this year.
The legislation is still aided by Beshear’s support of sports betting. Without the concern of a veto, Meredith said legislators can still work on the bill during a 10-day veto break this month.
“We get a little bit longer runway,” Meredith said last week. “I think there is plenty of time to get it done.”