A new year means another attempt to legalize sports betting is at the starting gates in Kentucky.
“We’ve been close in the past, I imagine it will be close again this year,” Koenig said. “Certainly the votes are there on the House floor. It’s a matter of getting my fellow Republicans to see the freedom aspect of it.”
Koenig’s previous KY sports betting attempts
Koenig led attempts that passed committee but died on the House floor in 2019 and 2020. A 2021 effort was stymied by a short session that focused on other issues, Koenig said during the news conference.
Koenig believes another run could prove successful but admitted he will need to do a “better job of persuading” the 38 Republican votes the bill will need to pass. Gov. Andy Beshear has pushed for sports betting in the past.
“[It will be] similar to bills I’ve filed in the past,” Koenig said. “It will allow for wagering on sports in Kentucky legally, take it away from the bookies and offshore accounts and give people of Kentucky the ability to do what they’d like to do with their own money.”
Sports betting bills in Kentucky
Like Koenig’s previous bills, the legislation aims to legalize retail and online sports betting, online poker and daily fantasy sports. It would allow for retail sports betting by the state’s four operating horse racing tracks.
Each track can contract with one online operator, taxing them at 14.25%. A 9.75% tax would be levied against retail sportsbooks.
One significant change in 2022: Koenig said the bill will not include an in-person registration requirement.
Senate bill also filed
Another change this year is a push from the Senate side. Sen. David Yates introduced SB 213 last week to legalize retail and online sports betting.
Yates’s bill would also legalize online poker and daily fantasy sports. The online operators would be tethered, one skin per, to the horse racing tracks and Kentucky Speedway.
The Senate bill does include an in-person registration requirement for 18 months. A 9.75% tax would be levied on retail sports betting, while online sports betting carries a 14.25% tax.
Kentuckians want sports betting
According to a recent survey by Public Opinion Strategies, 65% of Kentuckians want sports betting, approximately the same as a 2020 poll.
Kentucky voters are also familiar with sports betting, as 48% said they have bet on a sporting event.
Live sports betting in states surrounding Kentucky could also aid the passage of 2022 legislation. As in the past, however, Koenig does expect uphill battles with legislators from socially conservative areas of the state.
Neighbors legalizing sports betting
All but 40 miles of the Kentucky border is surrounded by legal sports betting states, and that could change if the Missouri legislature legalizes it this year. Ohio legalized sports betting last year and will launch later this year.
States surrounding Kentucky with live sports betting:
- Illinois sports betting
- Indiana sports betting
- Tennessee sports betting
- Virginia sports betting
- West Virginia sports betting
He also noted 33 states and Washington, DC, are legal.
“When you’re talking about that many states, it’s a bipartisan issue,” he said. “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
Kentucky operator pulls out of OSB
Koenig said his decision was not influenced by an announcement from Churchill Downs that it is pulling out of the online sports betting business.
Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen broke the news during the company’s Q4 earnings call last week. Carstanjen said the online market is too competitive for a profitable path forward, but it will focus on retail sportsbooks at its facilities.
“This isn’t the result we wanted when we started the business in late 2018 but it is the prudent next step forward for our company,” Carstanjen explained. “We remain absolutely committed and excited about TwinSpires online horse racing business.”