Published: March 12, 2023

Kentucky sports betting bill passes committee; could see full House vote next week

A bill that would legalize sports wagering in the state of Kentucky passed out of committee on Wednesday morning. House Bill 551, which would allow Kentuckians to wager on live sports events both online and in person, was unanimously approved by the legislative house committee.

The bill passed out of the House last year before stalling in the Senate. Rep. Michael Meredith, one of the bill sponsors, said he expects the measure to pass once again in a House vote next week, and is confident it will win support in the Senate

“I’m here to tell you about taking an industry that exists in darkness and in the shadows and legitimizing it, legalizing it, and regulating it to protect consumers of Kentucky,” he said, as reported by Fox56 NewsHe said an estimated $1 billion is wagered illegally in Kentucky annually.

According to Meredith and co-sponsor Al Gentry, through a 9.75% tax on the revenue at tracks and a 14.25% tax on revenue from online wagers, the state would make an estimated $23 million annually

Despite some opposition, the bill won unanimous bipartisan support in committee, and it is believed it has enough votes to pass the full House. But much like last year’s sports betting bill, the gamble is on the Senate.

“I think it is a moral issue for the folks that are against the bill [...] I can’t debate their moral objections or their religious convictions," Meredith said. “But the reality is we know there’s a ton of this activity already going on in the state and there’s a ton of residents who are just crossing the borders to place their bets. We just need to bring this home and regulate it properly,” he told the cited source.

The bill is only focused on sports betting and does not include fantasy or online poker contests like last year’s bill. Some changes were also made in committee like removing an in-person registration requirement for bettors. Meredith said he expects a vote in the House next week. 

This is the fifth consecutive year sports betting legalization has been proposed by means of several different bills, which fell through. House Bill 551 would allow Kentucky’s horse racing tracks to be licensed as sports betting facilities for a $500,000 upfront fee and an annual renewal fee of $50,000.

Participating tracks could contract with up to three service providers to provide sports wagering services at the track itself, or through online sites and mobile applications. Service providers would have to pay $50,000 for an initial license, with a $10,000 annual renewal fee.

Under the bill, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would regulate sports wagering operations. Revenue generated from taxing such wagering would cover those regulatory costs. The leftover revenue would flow into the state's public pension system.


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