Depending on who you ask, sports gambling in the U.S. could be worth as much as $150 billion. That’s the figure that most have estimated as being the amount gambled with offshore operators before the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) this past May. More realistically, the number hovers around $67 billion annually, which is still a considerable amount of cash and states across the country are beginning to catch gold fever to grab a piece of it. Entering the fray could be Kentucky, if a certain attorney general gets his way.
Kentucky Attorney General (AG) Andy Beshear believes that sports gambling could help the state get out from under a mountain of debt associated with the Bluegrass State’s pension obligations. Financial analysts predict that the state will need between $39 billion and $70 billion over the next 30 years to pay pensions to educators, firefighters, police officers and other state employees, and the money simply isn’t available.
In a letter penned by Beshear to Kentucky legislators at the end of last month, the AG wants lawmakers to take a serious look at expanding gambling activity in the state. Currently, only limited horserace pari-mutuel betting is allowed, severely limiting the state’s options. He points out that Kentuckians are heading across state lines to gamble, which leads to over $1 billion each year being given to neighboring states.
In his letter, Beshear states, “The solution is not to cut legally promised benefits, but to create a new and dedicated stream of revenue solely for pensions that does not raise any Kentuckian’s taxes. The answer is simple – expanded gaming, including casino, fantasy sports, and sports gaming, as well as preparing for the eventual legalization of online poker.”
Whether or not lawmakers listen remains to be seen. However, there is already some movement on the gambling front in the state. State Representative Dennis Keene has drafted a bill, BR15, which is designed to authorize sportsbooks to operate in the state. They would fall under the auspices of the Kentucky Lottery Corporation, a state-controlled entity that is authorized by Kentucky’s constitution. The bill is expected to be considered after lawmakers return to session after January 8 next year.
If BR15 doesn’t survive, Beshear still has another opportunity to try and introduce gambling. He has already announced that he will run for governor in 2019 against the state’s current chief, Matt Bevin. Of course, he would have to win the race first if he is to try to get his way on betting.