Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Could See Action Fast, But It’s Not Perfect

Posted on December 19, 2019

Kentucky sports betting will get another chance next year after Rep. Adam Koenig prefiled a bill similar to this year’s attempt.

Along with sports betting, Koenig is again trying to legalize fantasy sports and online poker.

The bill could see action soon as well. Koenig didn’t give a specific date for when the bill will first be heard but said he thinks it will be acted on quickly.

There are two unfortunate sticking points that repeat from 2019’s attempt, which failed to make it out of committee. But first, let’s get the main details.

Details on Kentucky’s sports betting bill

The bill, BR 364, calls for a lot of the same things as last year’s HB 175, which was also sponsored by Koenig.

Next year’s bill would tax land-based sports betting revenue at 10.25% with online betting taxed at 14.25%. The land-based tax is actually 9.75% but there’s an additional 0.5% tax that will pay into two horse racing funds.

There will be seven online sports betting licenses. One for each horse racing track (Keeneland and Red Mile will have one between them) and another for Kentucky Speedway.

Those licenses will cost $500,000 initially and $50,000 to renew each year.

Downsides to BR 364

Now for the disappointing parts.

The first is the requirement of in-person registration. Anyone that pays attention to the sports betting results written about at Legal Sports Report knows any kind of limitation to mobile means a state is essentially starting sports betting with one proverbial hand tied behind its back.

Just look at the growth in new, open states like Pennsylvania and Indiana compared to limited states like Rhode Island and Iowa. Anything that interrupts or diverts a bettor’s attention from making his or her wager is really missing the point of sports betting for the states, which is maximizing tax dollars.

While it doesn’t sound like in-person registration is going anywhere, the second disappointing factor might disappear.

Currently, the bill calls for a betting ban on any collegiate events that include teams from Kentucky. That could change.

“We are considering a change of that language and taking that out,” Koenig said. “It’s not a given that we’re going to take it out, but it is being looked at and discussed.”

If Kentucky’s plan is to maximize tax dollars and fight off the black market, removing that stipulation would be for the best. Otherwise the Bluegrass State, which does not have a professional sports team, won’t allow bets on games played by either the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville.

Imagine the potential handle on a deep run to the Final Four for either the Wildcats or the Cardinals. With BR 364 as it reads now, that cash either stays in people’s pockets or, worse, heads to the black market.

Chances of legalizing sports betting

It seems 2020 has a better chance of legalizing sports betting in Kentucky than 2019 had.

  • First, Gov. Andy Beshear is pro-gambling expansion. Former Gov. Matt Bevin was not.
  • Second, Koenig thinks his bill could bring the state at least $20 million in annual tax revenue. That could be big in a budget year as the legislature sets the budget for the next two years.
  • Third, there was a higher threshold needed to pass the bill last year as there always is whenever there’s a bill that will add new revenue in a non-budget-setting year. Next year all the bill will need is a simple majority, which Koenig said puts the bill in much better shape.
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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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