Legal Sports Betting Falls Short in Kentucky

Upset Man Slapping His Forehead With a Sports and Money Background
Despite support in both houses, the Kentucky legislature failed to pass multiple gaming bills last week. With the 2022 session now over, any efforts to pass future gaming bills will have to wait until 2023. The biggest of the proposed laws, House Bill 606, would have permitted sports betting in the Bluegrass States.

Kentucky lawmakers considered a total of four gaming bills in the 2022 session. Only one of the bills, HB 607, received enough votes to pass. The other three did not receive enough support by the deadline. Kentucky’s 2022 General Assembly came to end last Thursday.

With the legislative session over, gaming proponents will now turn their attention to the 2023 session. However, before a new bill can be presented, elections will take place this November. The results of Kentucky’s 2022 elections could greatly affect support for any future gaming bills. Proponents of legalized gaming have been pushing for a sports betting bill since 2019.

Multiple Gaming Bills Proposed in Kentucky

Kentucky lawmakers had several cracks at changing the gaming landscape in the state. However, only one of the four proposed gaming bills passed this session. Unfortunately, despite making significant progress, HB 606 fell just a handful of votes short.

If it has passed, HB 606 would have legalized sports betting in Kentucky. Also, the bill would have regulated fantasy sports and legalized online poker. According to sources, the bill was roughly four votes short of passing on the last day of voting.

The other bills that failed to receive enough support were HB 608 and HB 609. HB 608 would have banned skills games, also called gray machines, in Kentucky. This bill initially passed in the House, but only passed in the Senate after legislatures added an amendment. House members refused to vote on the amendment unless HB 606 was approved.

HB 609 would have established Kentucky’s first problem gaming fund. The bill that did pass, HB 607, reformed Kentucky’s pari-mutuel taxes for horse racing. By approving HB 607, legislators also eliminated breakage on bettor payouts.

Why Did the Sports Betting Bill Fail?

Most of the states that surround Kentucky have already legalized sports betting in some form. As a result, many people from Kentucky have made a habit of crossing state lines to place their bets. Legal sports betting has support in both the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate. It is also supported by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.

Sports betting has widespread support, but it has not yet been legalized. According to gaming proponents, sports betting was less than a handful of votes away from passing this session. Legal sports betting is widely supported by Democrats in the Bluegrass State. However, Republicans appear split on the issue.

The House will likely support a sports betting bill next year, so the vote will once again hinge on Republicans in the Senate. In Kentucky, 30 of the 38 seats in the Senate are held by members of the GOP. That number could change after the elections later this year.

Kentucky Will Revisit Gaming Issues in 2023

Kentucky will have at least six new state Senators next year as half a dozen incumbents are retiring. Beyond that, the remaining state races are up in the air. Regardless of the outcomes, it is likely that the state will consider another gaming bill in 2023.

Most of the states that surround Kentucky offer some form of sports betting. To join in on the fun, lawmakers will need to reach a three-fifths majority on the bill. State law dictates a three-fifths majority is needed to pass any revenue-generating bills in odd years.

In 2022, the House approved the sports betting bill 58-30. Next year, a similar bill should be able to get through the house once again. However, the Senate represents a challenge. The bill would need to receive 23 of the 38 possible votes. If Democrats retain their eight seats, then at least half of the GOP Senators would need to support the bill.

Conclusion

Kentuckians will have to wait at least another year before sports betting is legalized in their state. Last Thursday the state’s 2022 General Assembly session came to an end. Unfortunately, it did so without enough votes to pass HB 606.

HB 606 would have legalized sports betting, online casinos, and more in the Bluegrass State. Measures to establish problem gambling programs and ban gray machines also failed to pass. However, legislators did reach an agreement on changes to the state’s horse racing laws.