Legalised sports betting in Kentucky is not yet inevitable, but it doesn’t seem impossible anymore, as backers of a bill that would regulate and tax wagering on sports other than horse racing claim that when the state legislature comes back in January, the needed votes should be in place.
Resistance continues, but the search for fresh sources of income and competition from neighbouring states has prompted local lawmakers to re-evaluate their alternatives following the 2018 judgement of the Supreme Court allowing individual states to allow gambling on games.
Indiana sports betting went live on !st September , with Gov. Eric Holcomb putting the first bets in Shelbyville’s Indiana Grand Casino. Despite the objections and without Gov. Bill Lee’s signature, Tennessee’s online sports betting became legitimate this spring.
With 13 states already enabling some type of sports betting, in an ESPN state-by-state breakdown in August, Kentucky was classified as “moving towards legalisation.”
“I think attitudes toward various forms of gambling have evolved over the last 20 years,” Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said. “Sports betting is less controversial than casino gambling. We need all of the revenues we can get to continue funding pensions.”
The question is whether the prospective tax revenue is sufficiently big to warrant what opponents describe as a regressive tax that has a disproportionate effect on the poor and troubled players. The other issue is whether Thayer and other Republican officials, particularly those of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, have the will and impact to overcome objections within their own party.
“It’s quite an interesting political dynamic because the governor is against all of this,” said Al Gentry, a Democrat from Louisville who partnered with Republican Adam Koenig to create support in the House of Representatives.“So you don’t know, even if we get the votes, is (Senate President Robert) Stivers going to send him a bill that he’s not going to sign?
“Is this something the governor is going to look the other way and let it pass without his signature or is he going to put political pressure on some of his members, which he never hesitates to do?”
When the Supreme Court decision went down last May, Bevin did not take a definitive stance on sports betting.
“Sports betting has happened since the dawn of time,” he told reporters. “People have always done it. It’s done – heck, we just came off a (Kentucky Derby) weekend in which it happened at a pretty prolific rate here in Kentucky. So, ultimately, what it means to us as a state policy-wise, it’s way too early to tell.”
Yet as his campaign for re-election progressed, the rhetoric of Bevin grew more bellicose. Bevin said that during a July radio interview there was “no political appetite” for extended gambling in Kentucky, adding the unchecked statement that, “Every night somewhere in America, somebody takes their life in a casino because they’ve wasted the last semblance of dignity and hope that they had.”
Bevin has defined government dependence on gambling tax revenue as a “sucker’s bet.” Thayer said Monday he is not aware of Bevin’s engagement to either sign a sports wagering bill or enable it to pass without his signature. The Georgetown Republican claims he thinks Bevin will not stand in the manner of his passage based on “gut feeling.” A Stivers spokesperson responded to an interview request last week by stating that because of a full schedule, the Senate President would not be able to comment on sports betting law.
With both the House of Representatives and the Senate having super-majorities, Kentucky Republicans can often transform legislation into law without a single Democratic vote. But gambling problems cross distinct divisions than the two parties ‘ traditional divide: religious versus secular, rural versus urban, and virtue versus vice in some minds.
“It can easily get through committee unless word comes down from leadership that they don’t want it out of there,” said Martin Cothran, policy analyst for the Kentucky-based Family Foundation. “But I see it languishing on the house borders for quite a while as they try to gather their votes. If it gets out of the house, I don’t see it as having any chance in the senate.”
In need of 60% assistance in an odd-year meeting to increase or spend cash, Koenig was unable to depend on his fellow Republicans to get House Bill 175’s sports betting clauses adopted in March. Although Koenig expressed trust in obtaining the necessary votes in 2020, he relies strongly on the bipartisan appeal of the bill when a simple majority will be adequate.