Kentucky Lawmakers Confirm Sports Betting Still on the Table

Newspaper with headline reading Changes in legislation

At a recent Louisville Forum, Kentucky lawmakers reiterated their support for sports betting, maintaining plans to bring the industry to the Bluegrass State.

The Louisville Forum, a monthly session at which lawmakers discuss various topics, was held August 8. The focus was mainly on whether sports betting would be legalized in the state. State Senator Morgan McGarvey revealed that a bill was in the works that would legalize sports betting in the state. According to the senator, odds are good that the bill will pass the General Assembly in January.

Sports betting opposition

While Senator McGarvey is a proponent of legalizing sports betting, some opponents were also at the forum. Martin Cothran is a Kentucky Family Foundation spokesman who sat in on the discussion, voicing the opinion of the socially conservative group that is strongly opposed to any expansion of gambling in the state.

One argument of Cothran was that legalizing sports betting is not good policy because it is a moral issue. He said gambling is often looked at as a regressive tax that is targeted at the poor. The foundation has plans to lobby against the effort to legalize sports betting.

On the positive side

During the sports betting discussion, Senator McGarvey provided several reasons that the industry would be good for the state. A major pro is that the activity would help to offset shortages of funding for public services such as university infrastructure. According to the senator, from $5m (£3.9m) to $30m (£23.5m) could be generated annually from legalized gambling.

McGarvey pointed out that sports betting would be a way for the state to make money from an activity that is already taking place in legal formats. Residents are participating in fantasy football betting and horse track wagering in Kentucky, and many also visit nearby Indiana casinos.

McGarvey said: “We still don’t have enough revenue to operate the basic needs and obligations of state government as it currently exists. It’s a way for us to generate revenue from something that’s going on already.”

Potential roadblocks

As with any proposed legislation, there will be roadblocks that can cause a delay. It is still unclear whether legalizing sports gambling requires the state’s constitution to be amended.

This could be a problem and so could Governor Matt Bevin. In the past, the governor has spoken out against sports. However, he did say, after the May ruling by the Supreme Court, that he would be open to listening to proposals on the subject.

If the legislature passes the bill, the governor would have to sign it into law. If he decided to veto the bill, the General Assembly would have to have a supermajority vote to override the veto, which would be difficult.

If the state does legalize sports betting, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would probably be the regulator and rules would have to be created before any wagering could begin. It would still be some time before players would actually be able to place wagers via sportsbooks in the state.

For now, at least discussions are continuing, and some lawmakers are showing interest in making Kentucky one of the next states to get in on the sports betting action.