Casinos may face touch road in Kentucky legislature

New Kentucky Bill Would Legalize Casinos, Possibly With Sports Betting

Kentucky casinos sports betting
A new bill in Kentucky would legalize and license casinos in the state, with the potential for sports betting legalization as well.

Casinos, sports betting in Kentucky?

Horse betting and racing is already big business in Kentucky. But the state appears to be serious about considering more gaming when 2018 arrives — depending on who you ask.

New bills would start the process for legalizing casinos in the state:

  • BR 197 is a proposed constitutional amendment to allow casinos.
  • BR 149 is enabling legislation.

The latter would allow for sports wagering the future, potentially. Here’s more from WCPO in Kentucky with the bill sponsor:

Casinos and gambling have been the subject of controversial bills in recent legislative sessions, but Dennis Keene said he believes “the atmosphere is more receptive right now.”

Kentucky already allows parimutuel gambling — betting in which all winning bets share the total pool — at specific venues for horse racing. Keene’s bill would expand what those venues can do as well as add up to four casinos across the state. He sees the betting eventually including other sports, including basketball, baseball and football.

The bill would specifically ban wagering on amateur athletic contests but does not preclude wagering on pro sports.

Opposition to casinos, too

While Keene is the Democratic caucus chair in the House, there’s not exactly unanimous support in the state government. Here’s the Lexington Herald Leader:

State Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he does not favor allowing casinos in Kentucky and sees little chance the legislature will approve a casino measure in 2018.

And Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has said casino gambling is not going to happen in Kentucky.

That makes it seem like a steep climb for the casino bill off the bat.

Sports betting already on Kentucky’s radar

A bill already surfaced this summer in the state to possibly legalize sports wagering.  That legislation would authorize the state’s horse racing commission to promulgate regulations for sports betting.

The initial version includes a tax that is far too high to be reasonable — 20 percent on handle. But still, it’s a conversation starter for the possibility of sports gambling.

Kentucky is just one of a number of states that are least considering the idea of legal sports betting should the federal ban be struck down via the New Jersey sports betting case.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.