Kentucky Law Presents Hurdle For 2023 Sports Betting Efforts

Written By Rashid Mohamed on November 15, 2022 - Last Updated on July 27, 2023
The uphill battle facing sports gambling legislation in Kentucky

Passing sports betting legislation in Kentucky will be more difficult in 2023 than it would’ve been this year.

Kentucky determines the length of a legislative session depending on whether it is an odd or even-numbered year. Kentucky isn’t alone in this rule. A couple of other states also implement similar rules.

In even-numbered years, the Kentucky legislature meets for up to 60 days. They meet for 30 days in odd-numbered years, not extending beyond March 30.

However, the Governor can call the General Assembly back for special sessions to deal with issues not taken care of during the regular session.

Topics addressed during the short session differ from those addressed during the long ones. For instance, the first four days of the odd-year session focus more on organizational matters such as:

  • Electing legislative leaders
  • Adopting rules of procedure
  • Organizing committees
  • Introducing and considering legislation

Most of the debates and bills then take place in February and March. And since Kentucky operates under a two-year budget cycle, enacted legislation in odd-numbered years generally does not change state spending.

Lawmakers can still consider these types of bills. However, they must receive 60% support from both chambers to reach the governor’s desk. Unlike other states, this requirement is unique to the Bluegrass State.

Accordingly, these legislative rules could complicate the passage of Kentucky sports betting legislation. In 2023, a bill will require nine extra votes in the House and three in the Senate to pass. Then, it would need a signature from Gov. Andy Beshear.

But when it comes to sports betting, Beshear has been a vocal supporter. The additional votes in the General Assembly are where the problem lies.

Kentucky’s 2022 sports betting effort recap

Although this year’s legislative efforts to legalize sports betting broke new ground, it sadly fizzled out towards the end of the session.

HB 606, the bill legalizing retail and mobile sports betting, passed the House 58-30 on March 18. This bill was Rep. Adam Koenig’s fourth try to legalize sports betting in the state. And for the first time, it gained enough momentum to pass the House.

But it began to stall once HB 606 moved to the Republican-controlled Senate.

Senate Floor Majority Leader Damon Thayer, who favored the legislation, moved the bill to a more favorable committee—the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor.

And although HB 606 did get some discussion in the Senate, it became increasingly clear that HB 606 would not succeed.

Thayer told local media it was a long shot for the bill to come law.

“A lot of my caucus members, especially from the rural areas, aren’t for it,” said Thayer.

But that didn’t stop sports betting advocates from trying to convince senators to vote yes for the bill.

Unfortunately, those efforts were in vain as the bill officially died in a Senate committee, despite multiple attempts to negotiate it onto the chamber floor for a vote.

Bill didn’t have enough support from Republicans and Democrats

Observers hinted that the bill had enough overall votes for passage. But Senate leaders wouldn’t bring it to a floor vote because it lacked support from a majority of the chamber’s Republicans.

Thayer gave no credence to the claim, stating that even if all Democrats had voted for the bill, it still wouldn’t have had enough votes to pass. Yet Beshear wasn’t quite convinced by Thayer’s reasoning.

“My thought is, if Damon Thayer wanted sports betting to pass, he’d get it passed,” the governor said, according to Spectrum News 1.

Thayer responded by calling Beshear “out of touch” and “hyperpartisan.”

What lies ahead for sports betting in Kentucky?

Rep. Koenig will likely sponsor another sports betting bill in the 2023 legislative session.

For four years, he’s been working on pushing this legislation through. This year, he’s finally got it to pass the House. A stalwart supporter of the cause, Koenig intends to outlast his opponents.

Whether next year’s sports betting bill will look different from this year’s, only time will tell.

But with next year being 2023, Kentucky’s peculiar law that forces 60% approval to pass legislation during odd-numbered years might make it even harder to pass.

And since the legislative session is shorter on odd-numbered years – 30 days as opposed to 60 on even-numbered years – legislators will have less time to move a sports betting bill through both the House and Senate.

To complicate matters more, the legislation would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber – a requirement to pass revenue bills in an odd-numbered year legislative session.

That’ll be a tall order come 2023, but anything is possible.

UPDATE: Legalized sports betting in Kentucky was signed into law in March of 2023. After the launch, make sure to check our dedicated page for the best KY sportsbook promos and bonuses, including exciting offers from top platforms like Bet365 KY Sportsbook and DraftKings KY Sportsbook. Don’t miss out on these fantastic deals!

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Rashid Mohamed

Rashid Mohamed is an international journalist with a special interest in sports writing. He is a Poli-Sci graduate of Ohio University and holds an A.A.S in Journalism. He has worked in a number of countries and has extensive experience in the United Nations as well as other regional, national, and international organizations. Rashid lives and writes out of Denver, Colorado.

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