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Legalization of Kentucky sports betting is getting a big push from the top in 2020.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear spoke strongly in favor of legalizing sports betting in his State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday.
“A commitment to the future also requires that we create the new revenue to meet the growing needs of our state, and right now we are watching more than $500 million in gaming revenue go across the border to states like Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.
It is time to stop that flow, to use that money for our needs. Rep. Adam Koenig has filed a sports betting bill. I fully support it, and we should pass it.”
The legislature is set to respond Wednesday morning. Koenig tells Legal Sports Report that he will make two key changes to H 137 in the House Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations before advancing it through the committee.
Koenig revealed that the bill substitute will remove the ban on in-state college wagering and add an 18-month limit on the in-person requirement for mobile registration.
Koenig indicated that the clause prohibiting regulated betting on any collegiate sporting event in which a Kentucky team is competing drew the most complaints from legislators and the public over the past year.
“People want to wager on the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville,” Koenig said. “I can make every argument for why we shouldn’t have that restriction. If someone has to make four bets legally and one with a bookie, they’re just going to make them all with a bookie.”
Koenig acknowledged that seeing what’s happening in other states helped lead to the changes. In adding the 18-month sunset period for in-person registration on a mobile Kentucky sports betting account, the state is following Iowa’s lead.
“That’s one of the benefits to being later in the game, you get to see what works and what doesn’t,” Koenig said.
Beshear has a long history of support for legalizing sports betting in Kentucky.
As attorney general in 2018, he called for the legislature to legalize sports betting to raise money to save Kentucky’s ailing public pension system. During his campaign, he re-upped on the commitment to expand gambling opportunities in the state.
In addition to sports betting, Koenig’s bill also would legalize online poker and daily fantasy sports.
However, that wouldn’t add up to $500 million annually brought up by the governor. Approaching that figure would require casino licenses and perhaps legalization of internet casino games.
“I hope that isn’t the end of the conversation, because right now all of our neighboring states — all of them — most of them Republican-led, have embraced expanded gaming while we are being left behind,” Beshear added.
Kentucky was early to the race in considering legalization of sports betting.
The state first filed a bill way back in 2017. A month after the US Supreme Court removed federal restrictions to state-based regulation in 2018, the legislature formed a nine-member panel to explore the topic.
But three years after taking its place at the starting gate, Kentucky sports betting has yet hit the homestretch in the legislature.
Kentucky had no shortage of sports betting legislation introduced last year. Legislators filed four sports betting bills, with Koenig’s the only one to advance through a committee.
Koenig’s bill would allow for land-based and online sports betting run from Kentucky’s horse racing tracks and motorsports speedway.
He likes the bill’s chances because in an even-numbered year, revenue bills only require a simple majority rather than the three-fifths majority needed in odd years.
The legislature is setting the budget for the next two years, and Koenig hopes to sell the minimum of $20 million that could come from the gambling expansion. Kentucky’s short legislative session concludes on March 30.
Beshear will follow up his State of the Commonwealth address with a budget address on Jan. 28. The next step in Kentucky is to see if he will include revenue from sports betting, online poker and daily fantasy sports in the executive budget.