Beshear signs sports gambling, medical marijuana bills into law

Published 6:13 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

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Kentucky Today

Less than 24 hours after they were passed during the waning hours of the General Assembly, Gov. Andy Beshear has signed two controversial bills into law.

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During a bill-signing ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda on Friday, Beshear signed Senate Bill 47, which legalizes medical marijuana, and House bill 551, legalizing sports wagering. Lawmakers approved both measures after several years of attempts by supporters.

On SB 47, Beshear stated, “Far too many of our people face the obstacle of having chronic or terminal diseases like cancer, or those like our veterans who are suffering from PTSD.  Or Kentuckians living with epilepsy, seizures, Parkinson’s or more.  These folks want and deserve safe and effective methods of treatment.”

Beshear noted that since the bill does not take effect until 2025, the executive order he signed last November, providing access to medical cannabis for Kentuckians who suffer from at least one of 21 medical conditions, will remain in effect.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, said the bill was worked and reworked several times.  “Once this bill is implemented, if you or a family member are on the list of one of the qualifying conditions, you will have a second option.  You will not have to rely on opioids.”

HB 551 will allow Kentuckians to legally wager on college and pro sporting events.

“After years of urging action, sports betting is legal in Kentucky,” Beshear said.  “Today’s result shows that hard work pays off.  Kentuckians will soon be able to place their bets here, and for the first time, we are going to keep those dollars here to support our economy and communities.”

Under provisions of the bill, 2.5% of state revenue will go to a problem gambling assistance fund, with the rest to help shore up the state’s public pension systems.

Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, who sponsored the measure, noted that besides the medical marijuana bill, this could be the most bi-partisan bill that has passed during this session.

“An overwhelming number of Kentuckians support allowing consenting adults to legally wager on sporting events. We know that many are already placing bets today, they’re just with illegal, unregulated offshore gaming entities and the state is left carrying the burden. As HB 551 becomes law, our commonwealth can begin reaping some of the benefits.”

Kentucky will become the 38th state to legalize sports betting, when the law takes effect in late June.