Sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig

Five newly filed bills seek to legalize and regulate sports betting in Kentucky

Kentucky Rep. Adam Koenig's speech after the introduction of the measures.
Reading time 2:04 min

Sports betting legalization in Kentucky takes a new shot with a new legislation package of gambling-related measures, which were unveiled Monday and add to the stack of issues facing the state’s lawmakers in the final weeks of this year’s legislative session. 

There are five bills in total that were filed by Republican Representative Adam Koenig. The first aims to legalize sports wagering in Kentucky, including fantasy sports and online poker. The second is a pari-mutuel modernization, which would generate revenue for the general fund from historic horse racing. A third cracks down on the use of gray machines, the fourth sets standards to address problem gaming, and the fifth is an omnibus bill that puts all four previous bills into one.

As reported by AP News, Koenig stated Monday that legalizing sports wagering would allow Kentuckians to “do what they would like to do with their own money”. He said that it would “take it away from the bookies and the off-shore accounts”. 

Similar sports wagering bills did not pass in previous sessions, even though their supporters estimated that legalizing sports betting would generate about $22 million in yearly revenue, and that it would stop Kentuckians from flocking to neighboring states that allow this form of wagering. 

Another proposal unveiled Monday would make changes to the tax structure on horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering. The measure proposes a 1.5% tax on all pari-mutuel wagers, including historical horse racing, simulcast bets and advance-deposit wagering. 

The package also proposes a ban on “gray machines”, which look like slot machines and pay out cash prizes to successful players, and have proliferated in convenience stores across the state. 

Koenig hopes to combine the multiple proposals in one sweeping measure. However, if his strategy does not work, he will try to pass as many of the individual proposals as possible.

33 states have legalized sports betting, including every state that borders Kentucky except for Missouri.

According to Koenig, $6 billion were wagered on pari-mutuel betting, and $1.5 billion on lottery in 2021. He also added $2 billion are wagered illegally every year. 

“We can either bury our heads in the sand and tell people that they’re not grown adults and they can’t make these decisions, or like I said, we give them the opportunity to do so. We tax it, we regulate it, we make sure it’s done above board, and we give people protections from their government that they deserve”. 

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