Sports betting in Kentucky is a governor’s signature away from legality after a successful Senate vote Thursday afternoon.
House sponsor Rep. Michael Meredith and Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer worked hard to position sports betting better than any previous efforts. Earlier this week, Meredith told LSR he believed the votes were in hand.
Proponents needed 23 votes, a two-third majority, and HB 551 passed by a 25-12 margin. Gov. Andy Beshear is a supporter of KY sportsbooks and has said he would sign a sports betting bill.
Kentucky sports betting framework
The bill this year differed a bit from previous years. Unlike previous years, the proposal dropped online poker and daily fantasy sports.
Like past efforts, legislators gave Kentucky’s nine horse racing tracks sports betting licenses. This year, the proposal included up to three online skins per track rather than one.
The bill proposes a tax of 9.75% on in-person sports betting revenue, while online carries a tax of 14.25%.
Meredith worked with Thayer to put together the more Senate-friendly effort. A separate House bill, HB 106, more closely resembling previous years‘ legislation, failed to move earlier in the session.
Strong opinions in Senate
Multiple senators took the opportunity to explain their vote on HB 551.
Sen. Karen Berg supported her ‘yes’ vote by saying she was not elected to be the morality police, nor was she elected to tell her constituents what they cannot do. Sen. Reginald Thomas stated his ‘yes’ vote was in support of giving people the freedom to do what they want to do.
The prior sponsor of a bill to legalize historic horse racing, Sen. John Shickel, said his no vote might “surprise and perplex.” But HHR was different, he explained, since it is beneficial to the state’s thoroughbred industry.
Kentucky sports bettors waiting
Bluegrass State residents are vocal in their desire to have legal sports betting.
In previous polls, approximately 65% of Kentuckians want sports betting. That comes as nearly all of Kentucky is surrounded by legal sports betting states.
During the first weekend of March Madness, GeoComply tracked nearly 300,000 geolocation checks from more than 23,000 accounts in Kentucky. Since March 1, GeoComply has verified more than 62,000 accounts.
LSR reporter Matthew Waters contributed to this report.