An underdog Kentucky sports betting bill received a first reading today on the Senate floor, giving its House sponsor more time to drum up support to legalize sports betting in the state.

Described as a “longshot” by Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer (R-17), HB 606 received a first reading today in the Kentucky Senate and will likely receive a second reading tomorrow. The bill does not yet have the votes to pass in the Senate, but Thayer said he would give it readings on the Senate floor for its sponsor to continue working towards garnering support for the legislation.

Kentucky sports betting receives more time

Thanks to the Senate readings, the bill remains alive and gives Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) and supporters of the sports betting the 10-day veto recess to sway more votes in the Senate.

Koenig’s bill was approved by the Kentucky House of Representatives two weeks ago by a vote of 58-30, but the Senate vote was always considered the more challenging of the two. Koenig’s sports betting bill will effectively legalize Kentucky retail and online sports betting. The bill will also legalize daily fantasy sports and online poker.

Koenig acknowledged the need for more support today on his social media feeds and assured proponents of Kentucky sports betting he would work until the final deadline to procure the necessary votes to pass the legislation.

This is the farthest a Kentucky sports betting bill has progressed. Both Koenig and the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Alan Gentry (D-Louisville), have attempted to legalize sports betting in Kentucky for years. This is the first time a sports betting bill has been approved by either the House or the Senate.

Longshot in the Senate

Last week, Thayer said in an interview with WLKY in Kentucky that the bill had an uphill challenge to be approved in the Senate.

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.

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.