The Kentucky House of Representatives has now passed a bill that would allow 18 and older gamblers in the state to bet on sports at a domestic sportsbook.
House Bill 551 is now in the hands of the KY Senate for further consideration. While this is cause for optimism, similar bills have passed through the House in prior sessions that were not given the green light by the Senate.
Efforts are now being made to satiate opposition in the Senate by amending the bill to their liking. Whether those changes will be enough to cause a change of heart will be revealed in upcoming debates.
What Is In The Bill?
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would be the governing body of legal sports betting in Kentucky, responsible for issuing licenses, levying fines, and other associated regulatory duties.
The bill will only allow for licensed racetracks with racinos the ability to offer sports betting. Estimates forecast upwards of $23 million in tax revenue collections annually.
Most of the proceeds will be directed to The Permanent Pension Fund, which fuels retirement plans for the state’s employees.
Who Is The Opposition?
Many GOP legislators in the Senate and House are against legalizing sports betting in KY because of the impact it will have on the state’s lower-income citizens.
What local politicians cannot ignore is that they are surrounded by states that permit online and mobile sports betting. Gamblers that live in Kentucky can drive into Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, or West Virginia and begin using their sportsbooks apps on their smartphones as soon as they cross the border.
When Bluegrass State bettors travel to another region and use their sportsbook apps, those dollars benefit the citizens of those areas.
More Problems With The Bill
The real issue is that the bill’s current language limits local sports betting to in-person wagering at racinos. $23 million may sound like a lot of money, but that total is a mere fraction of what similarly populated states collect that regulate mobile gambling apps.
KY’s population is roughly 4.5 million people. Oregon features online, mobile, and retail sportsbooks and contains roughly 4.4 million citizens.
According to the latest state-by-state sports betting revenue report, OR collected $7.5 million in tax revenue for January of 2023 and totaled out at over $49 million in 2022.
There are also offshore sportsbooks that are currently accepting members from inside Kentucky. While state laws are unable to govern international entities doing business over the web, making online and mobile sportsbook applications legal would route some of those dollars back into local budgets.
The 2023 Kentucky Legislative Assembly will conclude on April 15th. That gives lawmakers one month to iron out all of the wrinkles and become the latest territory to legalize some form of domestic sports betting in the United States.