FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) – For the first time, the Kentucky House of Representatives has passed a bill to legalize sports betting in the Commonwealth. While the bill received quick approval in committee, there was a lot more debate on the House floor. House Bill 606 passed 58 to 30.
Many representatives expressed this was *the* issue they’ve gotten the most questions about, while some more socially conservative republicans were flatly opposed to expanding any gambling in Kentucky.
“I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the people of Kentucky deserve the opportunity to do something they enjoy with the protection and regulations of their governments,” Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger), the bill’s sponsor, said.
The bill legalizes and regulates sports wagering, daily fantasy sports, and online poker. At a 9.75% tax rate for remote bets and 14.25% in-person, Koenig estimates that the approximately $2 billion dollars already wagered illegally in Kentucky will give the Commonwealth’s pension fund a lot to gain.
“Given how many states have overdone their projections, exceeded their projections, I think 22 and a half million is probably a minimum,” Koenig said.
“The people of Kentucky or those wagering would have to lose 220 million to get back 22 million for the state pension coffers,” Rep. Chris Fugate (R-Chavies) said in the debate.
Some Republicans like Fugate expressed their commitment to stand against gambling legislation and argued the bill is an irresponsible way to drive revenue. Others shared similar feelings, like Rep. DJ Johnson (R-Owensboro) who said revenue generation was a poor reason to vote for the bill and that legislators should not be excited about making money off the losses of other people.
However, Johnson ended up voting “yes” on the bill in order to enhance protections for those who are going to take part in sports betting regardless of the law’s position.
“In reality we have to vote on issues in the world as it is and the world as it is with respect to online gaming is that it is there, whether we like it or not,” Johnson said.
Democrats overwhelmingly supported the measure and wanted it known countless voices from home had been heard
“Without a shadow of a doubt this is the issue I’ve got the most phone calls and emails about – 99 percent please give us sports wagering,” Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson (D-Lexington) said. This is the furthest a sports betting bill has gone in the General Assembly. In past sessions, one has made it of committee, but never got a full House vote.
With less than 10 days left in this year’s session, the odds are still possible it could get a vote in the Senate, but whether it will pass is still a gamble.