After easily moving through committee by a unanimous vote, the sports betting bill that Kentucky legislators believed would soon become law, has now stalled in the House of Representatives.
House Bill 137 moved to the House to be voted upon by the full-body but then the measure became trapped. When asked by the media why the bill has become stuck, lawmakers have admitted that a gambling expansion in Kentucky is a thorny issue.
The bill would allow bettors in Kentucky to physically bet on professional and college sports at the Kentucky Speedway and the state’s racetracks. The measure also extends the privilege of betting via mobile app.
For Rep. David Hale, a pastor, sports betting is a step too far for the families of Kentucky. Although he acknowledges that horse racing isn’t going anywhere, the legislative body can stop the simplicity of sports betting via online apps.
“I know there’s horse racing here and has been for decades and we have the lottery and I know both of those are here to stay,” Hale said. “But I just feel like this sports betting issue, it’s such an enticement. I think the convenience of it, of being able to eventually be able to put it on your phone as an app and sit in your home and wager on this, it just makes it such a convenient opportunity that I think it could be abused very much by individuals.”
Another big reason why the bill has stalled in the House is the lack of vocal support of the legislation from state senators. House members have indicated that they are hesitant to put the time and effort into adapting the bill if it will simply die with indecision in the Senate.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Adam Koenig, has worked behind the scenes with Senate members to smooth over their issues. Although many in the Senate are still waffling, Rep. Koenig is optimistic that both bodies will eventually pass his measure.
“The more I speak to senators, including some members of leadership, the more confident I am that it will go through the Senate,” Koenig said. “There’s a lot of members that need to consult with their constituents and get to where they’re comfortable.”
For sports betting proponents, Kentucky has become an interesting location for legalization as the state is known as conservative, elected a Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, last November. Facing a sizable budget deficit, Gov. Beshear has supported expanding gambling in the state as a revenue stopgap.
Another big issue for Senate and House members from rural areas of the state is that sports betting is far less popular than the issue is in urban locations. For those members, the selling of gambling expansion will be a hard proposition that could cost elected officials their jobs in future elections.
For Rep Koenig, the denial that sports betting is not already flourishing in illegal ways in the state is a naïve one that his bill can rectify to the benefit of Kentucky.
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