Bluegrass Betting Could Help State Balance Budget

Attorney General Wants To Fund Pensions With Kentucky Sports Betting Revenue

Kentucky sports betting

Kentucky sports betting has gained a powerful ally.

In a recent letter to state legislators, Attorney General Andy Beshear called for lawmakers to pass an expanded gambling bill that includes legal sports betting.

“The solution is not to cut legally promised benefits but to create a new dedicated stream of revenue solely for pensions,” Beshear wrote. “The answer is simple – expanded gaming.”

Kentucky legislative outlook for gaming

Beshear wants lawmakers to create a dedicated stream of revenue to fund the pension crisis plaguing the state.

In doing so, several forms of gambling must be legalized including:

Here’s more from Beshear’s two-page letter:

Estimates show that Kentucky loses about $546 million in tax revenue per year to gaming in neighboring states. Moreover, in addition to the enactment of expanded gaming, legalized sports betting could add up to an additional $30 million to our coffers. The General Assembly should pass legislation to allow expanded gaming but dedicate all of the revenue to Kentucky pension systems until those systems are fully funded.

According to a study released in May by Oxford Economics, KY sports betting handle could reach $2.8 billion annually. The study also shows the state could generate $185.9 million in gaming revenue including $25.6 million in tax revenue and more than 2,000 jobs.

Pending legislation for Kentucky sports betting

Commercial gaming surrounds Kentucky. Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia each have a robust gaming market. And all are looking to pass some form of sports betting bill in 2019.

Beshear wrote, “the leeching of our Kentucky dollars is evident.”

The Bluegrass State flirted with sports betting last year. A pair of bills filed during the 2018 legislative session failed to gain traction and remain stuck in committee.

In June, an unofficial panel was created to explore sports betting with plans of filing a joint bill for 2019. However, one key lawmaker leading the charge, Senator Morgan McGarvey, said there is no benefit to “pre-filing” a bill before the start of the 2019 legislative session. Additionally, lawmakers heard testimony from gaming stakeholders in October, who spoke on several topics related to gaming.

Rep. Dennis Keene filed BR-15 on Sept. 7, which would require the Kentucky Lottery Corporation (KLC) to institute a sports wagering system.

Looking ahead to 2019

While not a major hurdle, Governor Matt Bevin opposes legalizing casinos.

According to the Louisville Courier Journal, Bevin’s chief of staff, Black Brickman, said:

“Funding alone will not solve the problem – Governor Bevin is the only governor to commit to fixing the pension crisis by fully funding the system and calling for necessary reforms.”

Reported by the Courier Journal, Kentucky’s pension plans reportedly have $42.7 billion in unfunded liabilities. Adding to the crisis, the state’s main pension plan has only 12.9 percent of the funds needed to pay future benefits.

Nicholaus Garcia
- Nick comes from West Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in psychology. After a five-year stint in Chicago, where he wrote about local politics and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Washington, D.C. to write about issues related to gambling policy, sports betting and responsible gaming.