Kentucky is now seeing a new legislative push to legalize sports betting in the state. Rep. Adam Koenig is sponsoring the legislation, which aims at reclaiming revenue that Kentucky is currently losing out as bettors spend their money in neighboring states where sports wagering is legal.
While it is legal to bet on horses through pari-mutuel wagering, other forms of sports betting in the state aren’t permitted yet. Republican State Senator Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, considers this is costing Kentucky millions of dollars, according to WVTQ.
“What that is doing is sending the tax paid on Indiana sports betting to Indianapolis instead of those Kentucky dollars coming to Frankfort for us to spend on things like education, pensions, corrections and medicaid,” explains Thayer.
According to the Senator, Republican State Representative Adam Koenig, from Erlanger, is sponsoring a bill that would legalize sports betting. “He has told me that he plans to offer it again during the 2022 session that begins on January 4th,” said Thayer.
But the road to launching wagering in Kentucky could imply an uphill legislative battle, where the traditional rural versus urban divide might play its part, says Sen. Thayer. It could also mean that the debate continues into another year, while both sides try to build support.
“I think it's just a matter of time whether we get it done this year or it waits until 2023, but the longer we wait, the more Kentucky tax dollars will be going over the border,” added Thayer, according to the previously cited news source.
Some horse industry leaders agree that legalized sports betting should come to the state. However, they want to make sure that when it does, the profits resulting from it are shared.
“I think there are sufficient gambling dollars to go around even if other sports do have legalized betting but, certainly the thoroughbred industry has worked on the gambling side of things for a very long time and so it’s very important that they’re able to maintain a stake in the gambling dollars,” said Ned Toffey, General Manager of Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.
This is not the first time a gambling expansion has been proposed in Kentucky. However, past efforts have been met with opposition by a variety of groups, including the religious community to gambling addiction groups.
Rep. Adam Koenig previously sponsored House Bill 241, which allows betting on both pro and college sports, fantasy sports, and online poker. It passed out of committee last year but did not receive a full vote in the House.
“We are leaving money on the table; we’re leaving our citizens without the necessary regulation to make sure they’re protected,” said Koenig earlier this year. “And to me, none of that makes sense.”
Koenig expects legal sports wagering to bring in $22.5 million per year, although that could be more of a conservative estimate. The Rep. also cited a figure from the American Gaming Association that said Kentuckians place more than $2 billion worth of illegal sports bets each year.