New sports betting bill filed in Kentucky House

Published 2:29 pm Monday, March 6, 2023

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A Kentucky lawmaker is hopeful 2023 is the year the General Assembly legalizes sports betting.

State Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, filed House Bill 551 in Frankfort. It was one of more than 100 bills lawmakers filed on the last day to submit legislation for this year’s session.

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Meredith’s legislation would allow the state’s nine thoroughbred, quarter horse and harness racing tracks to receive licenses, and each track can partner with up to three sports betting operators. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would be in charge of regulating sports betting and licensing.

Tracks would pay $500,000 for their initial licenses, and operators would pay $50,000, with annual renewals costing $50,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Online operators would pay a 14.25% tax on their adjusted gross revenues, while retail sportsbooks offering in-person betting would pay a 9.75% tax.

Kentuckians 18 and older would be able to register with an operator and place bets on professional and collegiate sports as well as major international events, like the Olympics and World Cup. Sportsbooks could also offer odds on electronic sports and video game competitions.

Meredith’s bill calls for establishing a sports wagering administrative fund, with the tax and license fees covering the cost of overseeing sports betting. The remaining revenues would then be applied toward the state’s public pension program.

“Clearly, the cost of doing business here must cover the cost of administering this program. However, we felt strongly that this was an opportunity to use the revenue to do some good,” the lawmaker said.

With six of its seven neighboring states already offering legalized sports betting, Kentucky is essentially surrounded by the industry that’s grown rapidly since the Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning nearly all states from regulating sports betting nearly five years ago.

There were about 180,000 active sports betting accounts set up by Kentuckians making short drives to Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Illinois and – as of January – Ohio to place their bets during the NFL season. That’s according to GeoComply, a technology company that helps sports betting operators validate online wagers are made where the operators are licensed.

Meredith also noted that Kentuckians are placing wagers with unregulated offshore sites and local bookies running illegal operations.

“As a result, the Commonwealth is getting none of the benefit and shouldering all the costs,” Meredith said. “Statistics show that more than half of our state’s population supports legalizing sports wagering. The time has come to ask ourselves if it truly is in the best interest of the people of Kentucky to prevent adults from legally placing a bet.”

The bill has bipartisan support, with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear a staunch supporter of legalization.

Sports betting bills have been filed in the General Assembly since 2019, and last year, the House finally passed a version out of its chamber. However, that bill could not get enough support in the Senate before the session ended.