Pilot Heidi Kennedy
Head of Casino Operations
Head of Casino Operations
The Kentucky State Senate is nearing the end of their legislative session, and time is running out for them to pass a bill that would allow legal sports betting in the state before the session closes. HB 606 passed the House of Representatives in March, but it may not have enough votes to clear the Senate in this session.
The 2022 legislative session for the Kentucky State Senate comes to a close on April 14, and a chance still remains that a bill legalizing online sports betting as well as online poker and daily fantasy sports will be passed in the state before then. Bill HB 606, championed by State Representative Adam Koenig, passed the House of Representatives in March but has yet to be voted on by the Senate. Whether the bill will receive a vote to begin with is still undecided, and should it be heard, majority support from senators is still up in the air. Koenig is committed to educating his constituents and working to drum up support right up until the deadline, saying “I’ll be fighting for passage until 11:59 p.m. April 14, when [the legislative] session ends.”
In the latest legal gambling news, the bill faces significant opposition from legislators. Of the 38 sitting senators, 10 are well known to staunchly oppose any type of legal gaming, including sports betting. Democratic governor Andy Bashear is a supporter of legal sports betting, so the eight Democrat senators are likely to support the measure as well. The remaining 20 Republicans are the swing votes. Senate President Robert Stivas isn’t highly motivated to pass the bill. He was quoted as saying the bill “creates no energy with me”, and was not optimistic about increased support from his fellow Republican legislators.
A February poll showed that Kentucky residents strongly favor legal sports betting. 65% of those polled expressed support, with citizens of all political persuasions in favor. 58% of Republicans supported the bill, along with 69% of Democrats, and 81% of Independants. The 48% of members surveyed who say they have placed a wager on a sporting event in the past suggests that many residents are already traveling over state lines to place wagers or are using illegal offshore sports books.
Opposition comes from religious groups within the state who are opposed to gambling on moral grounds. The Kentucky Baptist Convention tweeted imploring members to contact their representatives and encourage them to oppose legalizing sports betting. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on the other hand is in support for the benefits available for businesses in the state, and Senate Floor Majority Leader Damon Thayer says he cannot meet with any Chamber of Commerce member – or even go to the grocery store – without being asked why the state cannot pass a legal sports betting bill in spite of the overwhelming public support for the best US sportsbooks to enter the KY gambling market.
Whether or not the HB 606 even gets to be voted on, let alone passed, is going to come down to the wire. In the event that it is voted on and receives support, the path is clear from there. It is extremely unlikely that Governor Andy Bashaer would veto the legislation given his vocal support for the measure in the past. Should the bill make it through the senate, it would likely go into effect towards the end of 2022, allowing people located in Kentucky to place wagers on sporting events mid-way through the 2022 NFL season.
Representative Koenig estimates that the state could see upwards of $20 million in tax revenue from having sports betting legalized in Kentucky. As of now, that revenue is headed out of state, as various sportsbooks in neighboring states report over 41,000 registered members who utilize a Kentucky address for their account. Another report shows that 530,000 attempts from within the state to place a wager on a sporting event during March alone. Given the strong public support it seems inevitable that legislation will eventually pass, but if the bill misses out on the current legislation it will cause a significant delay.