Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Out of Time for 2019 General Assembly

Posted on: March 14, 2019, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: December 16, 2019, 10:13h.

An attempt to pass legislation that would legalize sports betting in Kentucky has fallen short for this year, the bill’s primary sponsor said.

State Rep. Adam Koenig announced his bill to legalize sports betting in the state would not receive a vote in the House before the session ends at the end of March. The bill would have allowed Churchill Downs (seen here), other horse tracks, and the Kentucky Speedway to get licenses and set up sportsbooks. (Image: Churchill Downs)

State Rep. Adam Koenig acknowledged on Twitter Tuesday night that House Bill 175 would not receive a vote in the state House of Representatives before the 2019 General Assembly session is scheduled to end on March 28.

“Unfortunately done for this year,” the Republican lawmaker said. “Will be back next year to get it done.”

Thursday was scheduled as the next-to-last day for lawmakers to meet in Frankfort before a veto period begins. Lawmakers could still pass bills on the final day, two weeks from now, but they would adjourn without getting a chance to override any vetoes by Gov. Matt Bevin, who has spoken out against sports betting.

Lawmakers Revive Racing Tax Deduction

Koenig’s bill — which did pass a House committee earlier in the session — would have opened the doors for the state’s horse tracks and the Kentucky Speedway to seek licenses for sportsbooks. The parlors would have been able to accept bets on most major sporting events, except for college games involving in-state teams.

The license fee would have been $500,000, and the state would have also taxed the proceeds. Koenig and other proponents claimed the annual funding, which had been estimated between $20 million and $48 million, could have helped the state address its financial issues, including its public pension shortfall.

Like previous attempts to expand gambling in Kentucky, the measure received bipartisan support, with 11 of Koenig’s cosponsors coming from the Democratic side of the aisle. Numerous business groups across the state, including the state’s Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), also endorsed the bill.

In an email to supporters, KEEP officials said they would work in the months ahead with lawmakers who will “reassess their strategy for legalizing sports wagering in 2020.”

Even with the bill not advancing, KEEP was able to score at least one victory as the General Assembly restored a state tax deduction for losses on horse racing wagers.

This tax deduction, which is part of the critical tax policy that maintains Kentucky’s leading role in the horse industry, was removed as an oversight during last year’s tax reform,” KEEP stated. “Frankfort heard from you on this issue and KEEP worked hard to ensure that the error was corrected.”

Some Happy to See Bill Fall by Wayside

Opponents of the bill said they were pleased to see it stall in the legislature this year.

Martin Cothran — a senior policy analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky — told that proponents sought an end-run around the state’s Constitution. That organization has said that any initiative to expand gaming needs to be voted on by state residents, like any other Constitutional amendment.

But that wasn’t the group’s only objection.

“We believe it is not the state’s role to allow and to profit from the exploitation of its own citizens,” Cothram said. “We know a lot of money was spent by the casino industry to get it passed, money some of which was gotten from people who could ill afford to lose it.”