Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Passes House

Written By Steve Schult on March 14, 2023 - Last Updated on July 27, 2023
Kentucky sports betting bill passes house

Legislation that would legalize sports betting in Kentucky passed the lower chamber of the Kentucky Legislature Monday evening.

The Kentucky House passed HB 551 by a 63-34 margin. The bill features bipartisan support with six Democrat sponsors and 10 Republican sponsors.

Bill’s sponsor says Senate is the biggest ‘hurdle’

One of those sponsors, Republican Rep. Michael Meredith, told Legal Sports Report lawmakers expected the bill to pass the house.

However, Meredith said the Senate will provide more pushback. During odd years, bills require a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Legislation only requires a simple majority in even years.

“The big hurdle for me in the Senate is it requires 23 votes,” Meredith said. “Those extra three voters are certainly a higher threshold for us to cross. I will say it’s an easier proposition next year with just 20 votes. But I’ll push hard.”

Even with the lesser vote threshold, it may not pass. There was a nearly identical bill that reached the Senate in 2022. But lawmakers in the chamber didn’t even put the bill up for a vote.

Gov. Beshear expected to sign the bill

If the bill passes the Senate, it’s likely to become law. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat elected in 2019, is a vocal proponent of gambling expansion.

One of his 2019 campaign promises was to legalize casino gaming in the Bluegrass State. Then, in 2020, he called on lawmakers to pass an internet gambling bill. Last year, he expressed his desire for legal sports betting in Kentucky.

Therefore, it’s a virtual lock for Beshear to sign the legislation.

Details of the sports betting bill

HB 551 will bring both online and retail sports betting to the state. The legislation allows the state’s nine horse racetracks and the Kentucky Speedway to operate a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.

Those 10 sportsbooks can partner with up to three companies for online sportsbooks. As a result, there could be up to 30 online sportsbooks in Kentucky if the bill passes. But it’s unlikely all 30 online partnerships are established. Nevertheless, more competition for customers would naturally result in more attractive KY sportsbook promos and bonuses for state bettors. Needless to say, platforms like Bet365 Sportsbook Kentucky and DraftKings Kentucky Sportsbook are likely to offer enticing deals to capture the attention of Kentucky sports enthusiasts.

The proposal has a two-tiered tax rate. Kentucky online sports betting revenue is taxed at 14.25%, while the retail counterparts have a 9.75% rate.

The state will primarily use the new tax revenue to fund the state’s pension systems. But the bill mandates that 2.5% of tax revenue will be used for a problem gambling fund.

One of the most interesting aspects of the bill is that it permits those 18 and over to participate in the new industry. If passed, Kentucky would join Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Montana and Washington, D.C., with that age requirement. Other states with legal sports betting require gamblers to be at least 21.

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Steve Schult

The Managing Editor of PlayKentucky, Steve Schult is a veteran of the gambling industry with more than a decade of experience covering the space. After earning his journalism degree from Marist College, the New York native began covering high-stakes poker tournaments and the U.S. gambling industry for various outlets. Following stints as a writer for Card Player Media, Bluff Magazine and the World Series of Poker, Schult joined Catena Media and has managed coverage for a handful of states.

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