With the clock ticking, a Kentucky sports betting bill is breaking new ground.
In his fourth effort to legalize sports betting, Rep. Adam Koenig gained enough momentum this year to get the bill out of the House for the first time. The bill now heads to the Senate with the legislative calendar quickly winding down.
Race against the clock in Kentucky
Friday was the 51st day of a 60-day session this year. The legislature takes a veto break starting March 31, before returning for two final days on April 13.
While the Senate could be an uphill battle, Friday’s House passage might set sports betting up well for a future session, likely in 2024.
Like 2021, next year would be a challenge as odd-number years require a three-fifths majority vote during a 30-day session.
Kentucky sports betting details
HB 606 would legalize retail sports betting at four operating horse racing tracks in the state, providing each with an online skin as well. Koenig told the chamber he intends to clean up the language that leaves room for other licenses.
The bill also legalizes online poker and daily fantasy sports. The state would tax retail sports betting at 9.75% and mobile at 14.25%.
Koenig’s primary motivation is to regulate the industry, citing American Gaming Association estimates that Kentucky bettors already wager $2 billion annually on sports.
Momentum for Kentucky sports betting?
Koenig believed he had enough support to move the bill through the House when he announced this year’s legislation last month. The bill made it to the House floor following a committee vote Wednesday.
Earlier this year, a survey by Public Opinion Strategies found 65% of Kentuckians want sports betting. The support is palpable in the state as multiple representatives explained their votes for the bill, including lawmakers from Louisville and Lexington.
“[There is] not another bipartisan issue that’s gotten more emails to my office,” said Rep. Tina Bojanowski, who represents a district in Louisville. “It is something my constituents have asked for time and time again.”
Conservative opposition still strong
Koenig knew gaining support from fellow conservatives on a gaming bill would be a challenge. Multiple representatives spoke out against the bill on the floor.
Other Republican representatives were hesitant but still voted for the bill to advance. Rep. D.J. Johnson said he does not like the bill, in part because it draws revenue from losses by his constituents, but he wants to regulate an illegal activity that already occurs.
“We have to vote on issues in the world as it is,” Johnson said. “It is there whether we like it or not. We can ignore it and let it continue to go on, or we can deal with it.”