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Senate committee approves Kentucky sports betting bill

Kentucky gambling news

On Wednesday, House Bill 551, drafted to legalize sports betting in Kentucky, was passed by the state’s Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee by a 9-1 vote.

This is the first time a Senate committee has approved a measure of this nature despite previous efforts to legalize sports wagering in the state. While the House approved past bills, the Senate usually rejected them.

The House approved the Rep. Michael Meredith-sponsored-bill on Monday by a 63-34 vote. HB 551 will tie all land-based and online sports betting operations to horse racing tracks, with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission as the regulator.

According to Meredith, around 74% of the respondents have expressed support for the bill. He noted that since gambling was already happening illegally, the measure would only regulate an existing activity and increase the state’s coffers.

Speaking to the Senate committee, Meredith disclosed that legalized sports betting in the state was expected to generate around $22.9 million in licensing fees and taxes every year. In-person wagers would be taxed 9.75% and the adjusted gross revenue at 14.25%.

Per the bill, race tracks needed to pay $500,000 to get a license and pay $50,000 yearly to renew it. They can partner with as many as three online sports betting companies. These operators must pay $50,000 for the initial license and $10,000 to renew annually.

A number of people opposed HB 551 during the Wednesday interview, stating that it could increase problem gambling in the state. According to the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s executive director, Todd Gray, expanding sports betting would prey on the lower class.

David Walls, Family Foundation executive director, further claimed that the activity was not a victimless way for people to entertain themselves. He predicted that the measure, if legalized, would cause a lot of broken homes, gambling addictions, and similar social vices.

In response to the comments, Meredith reiterated that the feared gambling was already taking place illegally and outside the state’s borders. He asserted that the bill to regulate sports betting was a smart move that would provide a structure for gamblers.

“We know this is happening in the marketplace already, either illegally or just outside the boundaries of our commonwealth,” Meredith said.

“And so I think it’s smart that we regulate this as a state and provide a structure where folks know what is happening in the marketplace and know it’s safe under the purview of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which has a proven record of policing wagering.”

HB 551’s next stop is the Senate floor, where it will need a vote to progress. The date has not been set; however, it is likely on one of the two last days of the Senate committee’s legislative session. The session concludes on March 30.

The Kentucky sports betting bill needs at least a three-fifths majority vote to reach Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk. This means a minimum of 23 votes out of the 38 senators. Beshear will likely sign the bill, given that he has previously spoken in support of legalizing sports betting in the state.
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