It's do or die day for Kentucky sports betting bill
It’s the final day in Kentucky’s legislative session and Kentucky’s sports betting bill hangs in the balance.
The Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene at 10 a.m. today for the final day of its legislative session. It remains to be seen if efforts to secure needed votes for HB 606, a bill to legalize retail and online sports betting in the state, has come to fruition.
Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger), the House sponsor of Kentucky’s sports betting bill, spent last week’s legislative recess trying to drum up support to push HB 606 through the Senate. Yesterday the bill was moved to the Committee on Economic Development, which was seen as a more favorable committee for the bill to be approved and moved to the Senate floor. However, no action has yet to be taken.
Early reports this morning are claiming the bill still does not have the necessary votes to pass in the Senate.
Koenig’s sports betting bill was approved by the Kentucky House of Representatives by a vote of 58-30 in early March, but the Senate vote has always been considered the more challenging of the two to pass. Prior to the break in the legislative session, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer (R-17) gave the bill two readings on the Senate floor to offer Koenig more time to garner support for the legislation.
I’m working 606. Don’t have the votes yet, working on meeting with members and educating. We have until 11:59pm on April 14th.
— Adam Koenig (@repkoenig) March 29, 2022
Proposed amendments in committee
The bill was not voted on in the committee, but 17 amendments to the bill were proposed. All 17 amendments were sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-17).
While several called for language in the bill to be cleaned up, one proposed raising the sports betting licensing fee and renewal fees to $1 million each. Currently, the bill calls for a licensing fee of $500,000 and a renewal fee of just $50,000.
A separate amendment would direct the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to revoke a sports betting license if the holder failed to pay taxes to the state. The commission would also have the power to impose a penalty of $250,000 if the holder applies for a renewal or a new license while still owing taxes.
Longshot in the Senate
Last month, Thayer said in an interview with WLKY in Kentucky that the bill had an uphill challenge for Senate approval.
In the interview, Thayer noted that he is a proponent of sports betting, but there is “an awful lot of anti-betting sentiment” in the Senate and the chances for the bill’s passage is in doubt.
Thayer said he wasn’t even sure if the sports betting bill would receive a hearing in a Senate committee, let alone on the full Senate floor.
“I think it’s a natural extension of our long history and tradition of betting pari-mutuelly on horses, which is a form of sports betting in my opinion. But there’s still a lot of anti-gambling sentiment in this building,” Thayer said.
Public support for sports betting?
Public support for Kentucky sports betting seems to be high, even if its not receiving the same support in the Senate. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce recently released data curated from GeoComply that showed during the month of March there were more than 530,000 attempts from within the state to access or place a wager through sports betting platforms.
The geo-validation company noted that there are more than 41,000 unique sportsbook player accounts in Kentucky, which many customers use when crossing the border into Indiana, Tennessee, and Virginia, all of which have legalized online sports betting.
Legalized sports betting at Kentucky tracks
Sports betting will be legal at licensed Kentucky horse tracks, such as Churchill Downs, and the Kentucky Speedway if the bill is approved by the Senate and signed into law.
The bill sets the retail tax rate at 9.75% and online sports betting’s tax rate at 14.25%. His bill is very similar to a 2020 sports betting bill that he also introduced, but never received a vote at the House or Senate.
Koenig did not include an in-person registration requirement for online sports betting. In his previous bills, Koenig required online sports bettors to register an account at a licensed tracked or speedway before being able to download a sports betting app.
If approved, Koenig noted the bills project to upwards of $20 million in annual tax revenue for Kentucky.
We’ll continue to provide updates on the bill’s progress throughout the day.