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Kentucky Senator Promises to Take Up Sports Betting Before It’s Too Late

Kentucky Senator Promises to Take Up Sports Betting Before It’s Too Late article feature image
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Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Sahvir Wheeler

With only weeks left to get a deal done, Kentucky lawmakers are set to take a final vote to legalize sports betting.

Kentucky Senate Majority leader Damon Thayer (R) on Tuesday promised to take up a legal sports betting bill, already passed by the House, before the General Assembly recesses on April 7. 

“I can tell you right now that the votes aren’t there,” Thayer said. “But I think Chairman Koenig deserves an opportunity to take another run at it. Because I think there are some people who still want to learn more about it.”

His remarks, made following a hearing on a separate pari-mutual wagering reform bill, indicate Kentucky is as close to passing sports betting as its ever been. 

After the regular session ends, the General Assembly will reconvene April 15 to consider overriding vetoed legislation. During that time they’d still be able to pass the sports betting bill if it clears two Senate readings by Thursday. 

Gov. Andy Beshear is a staunch advocate of sports betting and would likely sign whatever they pass.

The bill, which would generate $22.5 million in annual revenue for the state’s pension and problem gambling funds, passed out of the House March 18 on a 58-30 vote. It’s the single most important bi-partisan issue to constituents, according to several House lawmakers that spoke during the vote.

Hand-to-Hand Combat

Bill sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig (R) is has vowed “hand-to-hand combat” until it passes.

“Not nearly enough [senators] want to stick their neck out yet,” he said during a March 24 Twitter Spaces hosted by Jon Spevack, a legal sports betting proponent.  “I’m trying to get meetings with them and take my five minutes and tell them why they should be for it.”

If the Senate declines to take up the bill, or ultimately votes against it Kentucky sports betting would likely have to wait until at least 2024.

Odd-numbered legislative years require a three-fifths majority to pass bills in Kentucky and are half as long as even-numbered year sessions.

If passed, the bill would allow seven betting licenses for horse tracks and casinos, taxing in-person action at 9.75% and online at 14.25%.

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