Koenig Files Kentucky Online Poker Bill Request for 2020

Kentucky is poised to work toward legal and regulated online poker in 2020.

Just a few years ago, most experts in the field would have said that Kentucky was one of the least likely states to consider – much less actually legalize – online poker. And not many people could have predicted that the son of former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, the one who famously seized dozens of online gambling domains and sued PokerStars, would be one of its most ardent cheerleaders.

While 2019 has been a wild year for many in politics and governance around the world and notably so in the United States, Kentucky is no different. And it is ending 2019 with every intention of moving toward a plan for gambling expansion in the state that will include online poker.

Solid 2019 Progress

Technically, the path toward online poker began in late 2018. Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, Steve Beshear’s son, announced a plan to help solve a pension funding problem, one that was the worst of all 50 states.

His multi-faceted plan included gambling reforms, including casinos, sports betting, fantasy sports, and “preparing for the eventual legalization of online poker.”

Beshear instructed the General Assembly to pass legislation to this effect, dedicating all revenue to Kentucky’s pension systems.

By the beginning of February, a group of 15 lawmakers – a bipartisan group of Representatives led by Rep. Adam Koenig – introduced HB.175. The bill was to legalize sports betting, fantasy sports, and online poker. And it was put up alongside HB.190 to full-fledged commercial casinos in the state, expanded gaming at racetracks, and sports betting.

Weeks later, the bill passed the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Committee. But a short legislative session and not quite enough support in the legislature killed the bill when time ran out in March 2019.

Beshear in Charge

It soon became clear that Beshear was running for the governorship of Kentucky. And as he began debating incumbent Governor Matt Bevin, Beshear proclaimed expanded gambling to be the only solution to the pension problem. He also noted the benefits it would bring to Kentucky’s tourism industry.

Bevin only responded with false claims about the dangers of gambling and no alternative funding ideas.

The campaign was contentious, but Beshear emerged victorious.