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August 07, 2020

According to an expert testimony before state lawmakers

Kentucky: sports betting would not require constitutional amendment

Kentucky: sports betting would not require constitutional amendment
Constitutional attorney Daniel Wallach spoke during a meeting of the Interim Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations on Monday.
United States | 12/19/2019

Constitutional attorney Daniel Wallach said Monday at the state Capitol there is no constitutional barrier to the legalization of sports betting in Kentucky. He argued original writers of the state's constitution specifically decided not to include sports betting when they banned lotteries. In that case, lawmakers could legalize it without putting the issue to a statewide vote.

T

he sports betting bill filed in Kentucky, Bill Request 364, was discussed on Monday at the state Capitol. An expert on constitution law told lawmakers in Frankfort that in no uncertain terms that sports wagering will not require a change in the state constitution.

Constitutional attorney Daniel Wallach said that during a meeting of the Interim Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations, WDRB reports. “It's a blowout. There’s no reasoned debate on the issue.” 

Wallach, who specializes in gambling and sports gaming law and has examined the issue for several states, says the original writers of the state's constitution in the 1890s specifically decided not to include sports betting when they banned lotteries.

“The framers considered a ban on sports betting, and they rejected it," Wallach said. "Thus, there is no constitutional barrier to the legalization of sports betting in the commonwealth in Kentucky."

If no constitutional amendment is required, lawmakers could legalize sports gambling without putting the issue to a statewide vote, improving the chances of passage.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer called Wallach’s testimony a “drop the mic moment” for supporters of sports betting. “You have done an excellent job of, I think, debunking the specious argument that it requires a constitutional amendment to enact sports wagering,” Thayer told Wallach.

However, Stan Cave, a Lexington-based attorney with the Family Foundation, which opposes sports betting, disagreed. “The plain language in Section 226 of the Kentucky Constitution, an opinion of the highest court in Kentucky at the time and two attorney general opinions make clear that a constitutional amendment is required to legalize sports wagering of the types being considered," Cave told WDRB News. "While I professionally respect the proponents’ Florida lawyer’s differing opinion, he may not be thoroughly versed in Kentucky law,” he said.

The Family Foundation issued a statement disagreeing with Wallach's interpretation, saying, in part, "we think that most lawmakers are not going to fall for this linguistic slight of hand."

Rep. Adam Koenig, who already has filed a sports wagering bill, told reporters: “Honestly, we plan on acting on it pretty quickly." Koenig believes the election of Gov. Andy Beshear, who supports sports betting, also improves the odds.

“With some help from the governor, that would get us some extra votes, and I think that would be might be particularly important in the Senate,” Koenig said. He believes sports betting could generate some $20 million in revenue for Kentucky every year.

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