Sports betting enthusiasts in Kentucky have reason to be optimistic as the state recently announced that it has created a special panel that will look into drafting a sports betting bill. Kentucky is looking to legalize sports betting and regulate the industry at the earliest.
The bi-partisan group of Kentucky lawmakers have created a nine-member panel to focus on writing legislation that will legalize sports betting. Kentucky has joined the long list of states that are eager to get into the sports betting market after the US Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which allows each US state to legalize sports betting.
Special Sports Betting Panel
The panel will consist of Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville; Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville; Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville; Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill; Rep. George Brown, D-Lexington; Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort; Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Ft. Wright; Rep. Dean Schamore, D-Hardinsburg; and Rep. John Sims, D-Flemingsburg.
According to Nemes, the special panel wants to get a draft bill ready so they can present it in time for the 2019 General Assembly, which convenes in January next year. Nemes adds that he is also very confident about the support he will be receiving for the new legislation since he has previously consulted with both Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown and House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, R-Prospect. Osborne and Thayer both have ties to the thoroughbred racing industry.
Prior Sports Betting Initiatives
Prior to this new legislation that is being worked on by the nine-member panel, Sen. Carroll had already filed a number of sports betting-related bills in 2017. In September 2017, when New Jersey’s was fighting to overturn PASPA, Carroll filed BR 155, which sought to set the framework to legalized sports betting at the state’s racetracks and off-track betting facilities.
Based on the bill filed by Carroll, the majority of the revenue from legalized sports betting should be funneled to social programs such as the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement Systems, Kentucky Employees Retirement Systems Non-Hazardous, and The Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship.
When the bill failed to gain traction, Carroll once again made a move in January 2018 to push SB 22, which seeks to amend a state statute that currently exempts certain sports betting activities from Kentucky’s betting ban.
According to the previous SB 22, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will be given the power to implement new regulations surrounding sports betting and decide on where the tax revenue generated by the new activity will go. It also proposed a licensing fee of an initial $250,000, plus an additional 20 percent tax on gross gaming revenues. Again, the new bill fought to have the bulk of the tax revenues go to the state’s public retirement systems.
However, the bill once again failed during the 2018 General Assembly and missed its chance when shortly after, the SC ruled in favor of New Jersey and overturned the PASPA.
Growing Demand For Sports Betting
Now that more states are finally making a move to legalize sports betting after the SC ruling, Kentucky is once again picking up the slack and working twice as hard to finally get the sports betting legislation passed.
The climate for the sports betting bill also looks better than before, since gambling opposition is slowly warming up to the idea of sports betting. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who is a major dissenter of gambling, is one of the individuals who will be instrumental to passing the legislation. In his public remarks, Bevin has always condemned casino gambling and echoed the sentiments of his constituents and legislators who still are not in favor of developing casinos in the state.
But casino betting aside, Bevin has acknowledged the need for a more comprehensive update to their current sports betting laws, since a form of sports betting is already being practiced in Kentucky.
In the state, parimutuel gambling at horse racing tracks and historical racing are already practiced. Historical or instant racing allows punters to wage against other punters on historical races. The payout follows the parimutuel gambling style, where winners split a total betting pool and are considered to be betting against each other instead of betting against the house.
With this kind of sports betting already legal in Kentucky, Vince Gabbert, President and CEO of Keeneland, said that it would be a good jump-off point for sports-betting to start at the race tracks. Keeneland is a thoroughbred horse racing facility in Kentucky. Nemes believes that once sports betting is set up in Kentucky, licensing fees and revenue taxes can bring in between $6.5 million and $26 million to the state every year.

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