Kentucky Sports Betting Proponent Moving Forward With Bill for 2020 General Assembly Session

Posted on: November 15, 2019, 09:20h. 

Last updated on: November 15, 2019, 11:05h.

The Kentucky General Assembly will take up sports betting again in 2020, as the lawmaker who sponsored the bill told he will refile his proposal, possibly as soon as later this month.

Kentucky state Rep. Adam Koenig plans to refile his sports betting bill before the General Assembly convenes for the 2020 session, which starts in January. (Image: Kentucky Legislative Research Commission)

State Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) has made it no secret that he wants to bring up the bill again. While last year it passed the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee which he chairs, the sports betting bill did not get a vote in the House before the session ended.

One big difference next year will be that the push for sports betting will have a supporter sitting in the governor’s office. Gov.-elect Andy Beshear made expanded gaming, including sports wagering, a cornerstone of his campaign platform. He defeated Gov. Matt Bevin, who officially conceded Thursday after a requested recanvass confirmed Beshear won by about 5,000 votes. While Bevin adamantly opposed casino gaming, he was more ambivalent toward sports betting.

Koenig said he hasn’t had a chance to talk with either Beshear or any member of his team.

This is an opportunity for the new governor and I to work together to get something passed that can be passed,” Koenig said.

The 2019 bill called for allowing the state’s horse racing tracks, as well as the Kentucky Motor Speedway, to apply for sports betting licenses. Kentucky, which does not have any casinos, is home to five thoroughbred tracks and two standardbred tracks.

The 2020 session is slated to start on Jan. 7 and run through April 15. The 60-day session will give Koenig and other sports betting proponents twice the amount of time they had in the 2019 session to move the bill.

Changes Possible

In the time since Kentucky failed to pass sports betting, three neighboring states – Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee – passed their own bills (Fellow neighboring state West Virginia passed its law last year). Indiana has already opened both retail sportsbooks and mobile applications, and advertisements for its sport wagering services can be seen on billboards and in commercials in the Louisville, Ky. area.

Koenig said there’s nothing in those states’ laws that he will necessarily look to add into his proposal.

“I did a lot of research before I got this one done,” he said.

That’s not to say there won’t be any changes, or that he won’t be amenable to them.

While he plans to keep the bill essentially intact, Koenig said removing the ban on in-state college sports betting is on the table for 2020. His proposal also allows for mobile sports betting statewide, but it would require customers to open an account first at a retail sportsbook.

Koenig isn’t the only Kentucky lawmaker proposing a sports betting bill. State Sen. Julian Carroll (D-Frankfort) prefiled a bill that would allow the racetracks and the Kentucky Lottery to offer sports betting.

While Carroll is a former governor, he is just one of nine Democrats in the 38-seat state Senate, meaning his bill faces substantial hurdles in getting approved.

Casino Support Not There

Like Beshear, Koenig is also a supporter of expanding gaming in Kentucky beyond just sports betting. However, Koenig, who will start his 13th year in Frankfort when lawmakers reconvene in January, said there’s not enough support for casino gaming in the legislature.

During the gubernatorial campaign, senate leaders said that any casino gaming bill would not get a vote in their chamber during the 2020 session.

Beshear has called on the state to legalize casinos with the tax money generated from them to help fund the state’s public employee pensions.

While Kentucky does not have casinos, there are four historical horse racing (HHR) parlors across the state, with plans for more. HHR machines are like slots, except that their payouts are based on pari-mutuel pools and the outcomes are based on previously run races.

Koenig said he’s against raising taxes on the HHR machines. He added that he tells his colleagues that if they want to tax them like slots, then they need to legalize casinos.

“Then you can tax them as such,” he said.