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It might still be illegal to gamble in Kentucky, but that doesn’t mean Bluegrass State bettors aren’t still placing millions of dollars’ worth of wagers elsewhere every year – which is why Rep. Adam Koenig’s House Bill 606 (HB 606) is designed to give those gamblers a legal market.
Late last week, HB 606 took another forward step towards becoming a law as it passed through the House by a vote of 58-30, a bipartisan bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax gambling in the state of Kentucky, including sports betting, daily fantasy sports, and online poker.
It makes sense given residents are already making countless bets, they are just having to get creative by using unregulated offshore sportsbooks, illicit bookies, and neighboring states like Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia where it’s already legal to place bets.
There is some notable pushback to HB 606, with the same anti-gambling forces that have kept casinos out of the state arguing that sports betting would disrupt the gambling opportunities already offered in Kentucky, which right now is limited to horse racing, lottery, and bingo.
That could change if HB 606 can make it to Governor Andy Beshear’s desk, but first, there is a giant hurdle to overcome.
With the recent House approval, the next step for HB 606 is to face rigorous debate on the state Senate floor, then perhaps some re-writes based on compromises reached, and once a consensus is found face a full chamber vote of the Kentucky senators.
But based on the interview done by Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer with WLKY, a Senate green light is no gimme given how many lawmakers in that chamber are against gambling in general and see this issue as moral more than financial.
In perfect political fashion, Thayer claims to be in favor of the legal sports betting market himself but fears other Senators might not be, saying:
I think it’s a natural extension of our long history and tradition of betting pari-mutuelly on horses, which is a form of sports betting in my opinion. But there’s still a lot of anti-gambling sentiment in this building.
Whether he is right will become apparent soon enough since that legislative body is running out of time.
In Kentucky, there are typically 60 days in a legislative session in a given year, but in 2023 there will only be a 30-day session scheduled because, due to their rules, the legislative body has half the number of days in their session on odd years than in even years.
What that means for HB 606 is that if it hopes to stay in play, it needs to get done in 2022 but the current session cannot extend beyond April 15, so it is understandable why there is a sense of urgency surrounding this legislation.
Given that about $2 billion is gambled illegally in Kentucky every year, it makes financial sense to regulate and tax that market, with some industry experts projecting a $22.5 million annual revenue flow to the state if sports betting were to be made legal.
Keep checking back for more updates and the latest news regarding this unfolding story.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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