A House approved Kentucky sports betting bill has been moved favorably out of a Senate committee and will now move to the full Senate for a potential floor vote.

The members of the Senate Licensing and Occupation committee approved sports betting bill HB 551 by a vote of 9-1. The sports betting bill now moves to the full Senate.

The bill needs to have three readings on the Senate floor before it can be voted on.

New ground for Kentucky sports betting

This is the first time a Kentucky sports betting bill has been successfully moved out of a Senate committee. Rep. Michael Meredith’s (R-19) legislation, which seeks to legalize retail and online sports betting for the state’s nine horse tracks, is one approved Senate vote away from becoming a reality.

His bill was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this week.

Meredith noted to Joe Sonka, a reporter for the Kentucky Courier-Journal, that the bill still needs several more votes to be passed.

Meredith’s bill seeks to legalize retail and online sports betting for the nine licensed Kentucky horse tracks. If approved, each track will be able to partner with up to three online sports betting operators to run their services.

His proposed law gives the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission the regulatory power over sports betting in the state and the authority to award licenses. Tracks would pay an initial fee of $500,000 for a license and an annual renewal fee of $50,000 to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Sports betting operators partnered with tracks will be required to pay a $50,000 fee for a license and an annual $10,000 renewal fee, Meredith explained during the hearing.

This is new ground for Kentucky sports betting legalization hopefuls, as no bill has ever moved out of a Senate committee. Last year, Rep. Adam Koenig’s (R-Erlanger) sports betting bill, HB 606, was approved by the Kentucky House of Representatives by a vote of 58-30. It languished in a Senate committee for the remainder of the session and never received a vote on the floor.

Kentucky Republican Senators typically do not vote on a bill if there is not a consensus among them. Koenig’s bill had Democratic support, but reports coming out of the last day in the 2022 session claimed that the bill was likely to come up four votes short on the Republican side of the aisle.

If the bill receives a vote on the Senate floor, it likely has Republican consensus and stands a good chance of being approved.

HB 551 faces the additional challenge of also needing a three-fifths majority to pass out of the Senate. Kentucky odd-year sessions are limited to just 30 days and require a three-fifths majority for bills to be passed.

Sports betting bill details

The bill sets the retail tax rate at 9.75% and the online sports betting tax rate at 14.25% on adjusted gross sports betting revenue.

Here are further details on the proposed bill:

  • Bets on professional sports, eSports, college events, Olympics, and amateur events will be allowed.
  • Residents age 18 and up will be able to participate.
  • A requirement for in-person registration for online sports betting accounts was lifted from the final version of the bill.

Meredith floated an amendment to the bill during its House vote that set up a problem gaming fund in the state and dedicated 2.5% of sports betting revenue to the program. The amendment was approved.