Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Clears First Hurdle
On March 8, Kentucky sports betting legislation was passed unanimously through a House committee, paving the way for legalization in the near future.
HB551 received a 20-0 vote in the House Licensing, Occupations & Administrative Regulations Committee. This mirrors a legalization effort from last year that also received approval in the House, but ultimately stalled in the Senate.
This time around, HB551 seems to have strong bipartisan support. The bill will have a full House hearing next week, which will be a big indicator of its future. Because it is a revenue-creating bill being considered during a non-budget year, HB 551 needs a two-thirds majority in both chambers to pass.
Gov. Andy Beshear has already expressed support for the issue, so if it passes the Senate, it will almost certainly become a law. However, the Kentucky legislative session ends on March 30, so there is little time left to legalize.
HB551 Proposes a 14.25% Tax Rate For Mobile Sportsbook Operators in KY
If legalized, the tax rate would be 9.25% for in-person bets, and online operators would be taxed at a 14.25% rate.
Overall, the measure would legalize betting on professional and collegiate sports both in-person at their nine horse racing tracks and online via phone or computer. Participating tracks could contract with up to three operators. These operators would be subject to $50,000 for an initial license, with a $10,000 annual renewal fee. The tracks would be subject to a $500,000 licensing fee and a $50,000 annual renewal fee.
While the Govt. Supports, Others Oppose
The main reason for supporting this measure hinges on the argument of being able to regulate a market that many people are already engaging in illegally.
“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 crossing the border to place their bets. We just need to bring this home and regulate it properly,” Rep. Michael Meredith, sponsor of the bill, said in the hearing.
Some of the lawmakers in the hearing oppose the idea of gambling in general. However, they agreed that it should be safe and regulated, and ultimately voted in favor of the bill.
Other representatives, specifically religious opponents, came forward and expressed their opposition in the hearing.
“Predatory gambling, especially in the expansive form that is being considered here, is not a victimless form of entertainment or competition,” David Walls from The Family Foundation, said. “It is a form of financial fraud that sees the government partner with wealthy gambling interests to the harm of its own citizens. This is a simple truth and a harsh reality,” Walls continues.
He also touched on the detrimental impacts it will have on children in Kentucky.
“Commercialized sports betting harms children and radically changes the way that they perceive sports. The high frequency of deceptive ads by sports gambling operators serves to normalize gambling for children, leading kids to believe that gambling is central to playing and watching sports.”
“I can’t debate their moral objections and their religious convictions, but the reality is, we know there’s a ton of this activity already going on,” Meredith said.