After 11 months of virtually no movement, Kentucky is beginning to see substantial activity related to the legalization of sports gambling within state boundaries. A sports gambling first saw light in February of last year, but couldn’t advance, as support at the upper level was weak. Things are now changing, in part, because of the Bluegrass State’s new governor, Andrew Beshear, and an important legislative session yesterday saw the issue make a reappearance. If the results of that meeting are any indication, sports gambling – and even online poker and daily fantasy sports – could be coming to Kentucky very soon.
House Bill 137 (HB 137), which was sponsored by Adam Koenig, was presented to the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee yesterday, the same location where it had stopped last year after the House decided not to bring it to the floor. The committee’s latest response, with a unanimous 18-0 approval, could make the chamber think differently and the bill could be taken more seriously than it was in the previous legislative session.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, it only took members of the committee 40 minutes to accept HB 137 and move it to the next step. One of the reasons the bill is now seeing more action, apart from the fact that the state’s former anti-gambling governor, Matt Bevin, is no longer in charge, is because of one certain change that was made to the legislation to make it more appealing. Gone is the provision that would have prevented wagers on in-state college sports contests.
This, according to economist and former Kentucky Finance Cabinet Secretary John Farris, means the state has the potential to see tax revenue of around $22.5 million. The figure was calculated by looking at New Jersey’s sports gambling field and adjusting it based on the adult population of Kentucky.
Several state colleges aren’t sure how they feel about the changes. According to a statement provided to Casino.org from the athletic departments at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, “Our priority is to protect the best interests of our student-athletes. Even as we know that state and federal officials will be charged with enforcement of these issues rather than our respective compliance offices, we will continue to be proactive in educating our student-athletes about the issues surrounding sports wagering in order to protect their welfare and the integrity of competition.”
If no changes are made to the bill as it makes its way through the state’s legislative obstacle course, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will oversee the activity, and only state horseracing tracks and the Kentucky Speedway eligible for licenses, at least at first. They would have to pay $500,000 for the license, as well as make an annual fee of $50,000 to keep the permit active. Additionally, the activity would see a tax rate of 10.25% for wagers placed at those properties. Online sportsbooks would be allowed, and those wagers would be subject to a 14.25% tax.
The bill is expected to go before the full House this week and could be approved today or tomorrow.