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Kentucky Lawmaker Introduces Sports Betting Bill

Kentucky Lawmaker Introduces Sports Betting Bill article feature image
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Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Horses compete in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Sports betting is back on the menu in Frankfort.

State Rep. Adam Koenig (D), during a press conference Monday, introduced Kentucky’s first sports betting bill of the 2022 session. If passed the bill would legalize sports gambling in the state and allow up to seven online operators, aligning Kentucky with most if its neighbor-states.

It’s projected to generate over $20 million in taxes annually for the state, according to Koenig. 

“This will take it away from the offshore accounts and the bookies and give the people of Kentucky the freedom to do what they would like to do with their own money as well as give them the protections they deserve from their government,” Koenig said.

Sports betting in Kentucky is currently limited to horse racing, which in 2020 generated over $33 million in state taxes. The only other legal form of gambling is the state lottery.

Koenig also unveiled two separate gaming related bills. The para mutual modernization bill would require the Horse Racing Commission to be self sufficient, removing its annual $3 million subsidy from the state general fund, in an attempt to save the state money. It would also pay bettors out to the penny, versus the current model that rounds down in 20 cent increments.

Koenig also announced a problem gaming bill to require prevention and addiction services for gaming providers.

Been Here Before

Kentucky seemed prime for an expansion into sports betting in 2020, until the global pandemic ran things off course.

A previous Koenig-backed bill had received support from leadership in both the House and Senate, as well as Gov. Andy Beshar, before coronavirus suddenly cut short the 2020 legislative session and narrowed a short-list of legislative priorities. 

Koenig’s 2020 attempt ultimately failed to garner enough Republican support for a vote, but he’s optimistic things will be different this go-around.

“People like to talk about freedom, this is the government getting out of the way,” Koenig said. “This isn’t a partisan issue.”

Almost a word-for-word copy of the 2020 bill, Koenig’s new bill would tax retail betting at a 10.25% rate and online at a higher 14.25% rate — that’s in line with betting-friendly states like New Jersey.

Unlike the previous version there is no in-person registration requirement to set up an online account.

Late to the Party

Both online and retail sports betting is legal in six out of Kentucky’s seven neighboring states, with launch pending in Ohio.

Those states (Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia) have generated a combined $2.3 billion in sports betting taxes since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May 2018.

There is not timetable on how fast the legislation will move, Koenig said.

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