Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Sponsor Remains Optimistic as It Awaits Floor Vote

Posted on: March 9, 2020, 11:27h. 

Last updated on: March 10, 2020, 10:46h.

The Kentucky state House of Representatives passed a nearly $24 billion budget plan last week. While that spending proposal did not include potential revenues from sports betting, the lawmaker leading the charge to legalize the activity isn’t deterred.

The Kentucky Speedway would be eligible to host a sportsbook under a bill currently in consideration in the state legislature. (Image: Kentucky Speedway)

State Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) told over the weekend that the main issue regarding the bill remains the need for more Republican support in the House. The bill itself has 41 co-sponsors, with recently elected state Rep. Rachel Roberts (D-Newport) the latest to sign on.

However, in the 100-member House, Republicans currently hold 62 seats in the chamber. Koenig has said in the past there are enough votes to pass the bill, and Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat who also supports the bill, said last month he understood Koenig’s desire to get more Republicans on board with the bill.

House Bill 137 passed unanimously out of the House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee nearly two months ago in the early days of the 60-day session. As the bill has sat awaiting a floor vote in the House, optimism waned somewhat that Kentucky will join several of its neighbors, including Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia, in legalizing sports betting.

Neighboring Virginia saw its legislature reach a last-minute agreement on a sports betting bill this past weekend.

Tuesday will mark the 44th day of the session. The current calendar calls for lawmakers to meet through April 1 before a 10-day veto period begins. That would then give the General Assembly two more days to overturn vetoes or pass other legislation before it must adjourn by April 15.

Revenue ‘Might Help’ Resolve Budget Differences

The budget the House passed last week now makes its way to the Senate for its consideration, and that is what gives Koenig reason to remain optimistic.

When the Senate comes up with a budget, which will be at least somewhat different than ours and they have different priorities, and when everyone’s looking to figure out how everyone can get what they want, an extra $45 million in the budget might help that,” Koenig told

It remains uncertain just how long the Senate will take in crafting its version of the budget. A conference committee would then need to hash out the differences between the versions.

As recently as 2016, lawmakers didn’t reach an agreement on the two-year spending plan until the session’s final day.

If such a scenario presented itself this year, the possibility exists for lawmakers to insert the sports betting bill directly into a budget bill, though Koenig seemed to downplay that.

“It might not be a good policy,” he said. “But yes, technically it could be done.”

Under such a scenario, sports betting would only be legal for two years, meaning the General Assembly would need to take up the issue again.

Group Supporting Bill Heads to Frankfort

Koenig has said there are some Republican House lawmakers who remain persuadable, and they may see a few visitors come their way on Thursday in Frankfort.

That’s when the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) holds its “KEEP Day” at the state Capitol. Earlier this year, the group announced its support for Koenig’s bill.

Besides KEEP, several other business and labor organizations have endorsed the bill, seeing it as a revenue generator to possibly address education or pension funding.

State leaders said they anticipate the state being able to generate upwards of $22 million in a full year from sports betting.

HB137 would allow the state’s race tracks and the Kentucky Speedway to host brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, as well as offer a mobile application. The state would tax the adjusted gross revenue of retail sportsbooks at 10.25 percent, with .5 percent earmarked for racing funds, and online sportsbooks would be taxed at 14.25 percent.

Gambling addiction services would receive five percent of the tax revenue.