Kentucky already has lots of horse betting, but will sports gambling follow?
Legal Sports Report

Kentucky Lawmakers Create Panel To Advance Sports Betting Regulation

Kentucky sports betting panel

Kentucky lawmakers will take another look at legalizing sports betting in the commonwealth.

This morning, nine members of the legislature announced they’re teaming up to explore the topic as a group. Their goal? To “draft and file legislation to implement legal sports betting in Kentucky.” Existing bills on file in both chambers have laid dormant for several months now.

The renewed effort comes a month after the US Supreme Court removed the federal hurdles to state-based regulation. Following that decision, Gov. Matt Bevin said he expected his legislature to do more research on KY sports betting.

They’re about to do just that.

KY panel to study sports betting

The KY sports betting panel consists of lawmakers from both chambers and both sides of the aisle. Here’s who’s included:

Representatives

  • Jason Nemes (R-Louisville)
  • John Sims (D-Flemingsburg)
  • Diane St. Onge (R-Fort Wright)
  • Kim Moser (R-Taylor Mill)
  • George Brown (D-Lexington)
  • Dean Schamore (D-Hardinsburg)

Senators

  • Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville)
  • Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville)
  • Julian Carroll (D-Frankfort)

A few of these folks are already involved in the conversation.

Sen. Carroll is the pioneer, filing his bill in the upper chamber way back in September 2017. It has yet to move, but it’s there. Rep. Sims and Rep. Schamore co-sponsored their own House bill earlier this year, and it’s made similar progress — stalled in its first committee assignment.

The two bills take different approaches to legalization, so weighing their merits will be part of the panel’s work over the coming months. Neither of them looks great as-is, to be honest.

What would KY sports betting look like?

Therein lies the question. Although the current proposals are mostly dead, they do give us an idea of the current thought process.

Sen. Carroll’s bill (BR 155) puts the state’s thoroughbred and harness industries at the forefront. It would allow the Horse Racing Commission to “institute a system of sports wagering” at its racetracks and off-track betting facilities. The fatal flaw for this bill is its proposed tax rate — 20 percent of the total betting handle.

The House bill (H 536), on the other hand, would give oversight to the Kentucky Lottery Corporation — similar to the way Delaware sports betting is structured. Tracks and OTBs would still be allowed to write tickets, but those permissions would extend to retail lottery outlets, too.

It remains to be seen which, if either, model the panel will adopt going forward. We do have a pretty good idea of what sports are likely to be included, though.

This from the press release:

Legislative efforts from this 9-member panel will be aimed toward professional sports, and possibly some limited instances of college sports, while banning wagering on high school or below level sports.

According to early estimates, the state expects to receive between $5.5 million and $26 million in annual revenue from sports betting.

Any appetite for KY sports betting?

It’s though to tell how much of an appetite there is for KY sports betting. Add it to the list of things the new panel will try to determine.

Again, we only have some limited context clues to work with.

Geography is one. When it comes to gambling, the Bluegrass State is a fringe resident of the nation’s conservative breadbasket. Lawmakers have expressed almost no interest in allowing casinos, for example. It is the unofficial home of US horse betting, though.

Gov. Bevin has been part of the opposition himself, yet he’s the one behind this move toward sports betting. “Whether this ultimately results in any change for Kentucky is something that will be determined by our legislature and in a future legislative session,” he told reporters.

We do know that at least nine lawmakers support sports betting, the nine who’ll compose this panel. Rep. Nemes told WFPL that his goal for legislation is twofold.

“It’s a way that we can bring more money into the state’s coffers to pay for much-needed programs, he said, “but it also increases the freedom of our citizens to direct their entertainment dollars where they think they ought to.”

Senate majority leader Damon Thayer has also expressed support for KY sports betting in recent weeks.

And let’s not forget about Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI). The state’s largest racing entity and the host of the Kentucky Derby is galloping into the industry regardless of what happens at home. The group has already begun to branch out in pursuit of open markets, beginning with a path to Pennsylvania sports betting.

Perhaps the wandering eyes of CDI have helped to light a fire under KY lawmakers.

Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a reporter and writer covering poker, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.