Despite gaining significant momentum this legislative session, Kentucky sports betting will continue to wait.
The Kentucky Senate did not take up HB 606 last week on the final day of the 2022 legislative session. It was the first year a Kentucky online sports betting bill made it through at least one chamber.
The bill held enough momentum to stay alive until the last day of the session, but there were still too many political roadblocks to cross the finish line this year.
Kentucky senators at odds over sports betting
In the Senate, however, it was a different story. While Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer was a sports betting supporter, he could not get his Republican caucus on board. Of the 38 Senators, 30 are Republican.
Lawmakers kept the bill alive until the last day of the session, but opponents kept it from a final vote. Thayer expressed frustration about the situation to reporters on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon.
Governor upset over sports betting failure
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is a vocal supporter of sports betting and would have signed legislation had it arrived on his desk. Earlier this year, a Public Opinion Strategies poll found 65% of Kentucky residents support sports betting legalization.
“My thought is if Damon Thayer wanted sports betting to pass, he’d get it passed,” Beshear said in a press conference Thursday. “It’s time. The people of Kentucky want this.”
Will momentum carry over in Kentucky?
The Kentucky legislature could not close the deal this year, but the effort could set up for future attempts at passage. Next year could pose a tough path as odd years require a three-fifths majority in a short legislative session, while 2024 might provide an easier path for Kentucky sports betting legislation.
There is potential for a new governor to be in office after 2023, but legislators against the issue might also change their positions in coming sessions. In Thayer’s remarks summarizing the session Thursday evening, he said he believes KY sports betting will have enough votes in future sessions.
If Missouri sports betting becomes legal this year, Kentucky will be surrounded by states with legalized sports wagering.