Kentucky Governor’s Budget Plans Include A Big Push For Sports Betting

Posted on January 30, 2020

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear wasn’t bashful about his support for gambling expansion at any point in his run for the office. With his first Kentucky budget proposal, he is pressing that issue again.

With the clock ticking on the legislative term, Beshear’s attempts to legalize sports betting in his state have ramped up. Nothing is certain right now, however.

Why the Kentucky budget proposal affects gambling

For a lot of state lawmakers, gambling expansion is a means to an end. From their point of view, it’s a new source of revenue.

That not only comes from taxes paid by gaming operators but regulatory fees as well. Beshear’s first plan for his state’s income and expenses calls for increases in spending for education, Medicaid, and transportation.

Beshear, a Democrat, faces the question that members of his party often do from the other side of the aisle: how will you pay for that? One of his answers to that question hinges upon cooperation from the state’s legislature.

Beshear wants the state to expand gambling to offer casinos and sportsbooks.

“My hope, moving into the future, is that we can embrace full, expanded gaming to compete with Indiana, Ohio and the rest of our neighbors, Republican-led states that are taking Kentucky dollars.”

Beshear’s plea for legalized sports betting appears to have some bipartisan support. Whether or not that will be sufficient in time is debatable.

The hurdles facing sports betting legalization in Kentucky

While Republican Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer has gone on the record in favor of legalizing sportsbooks in the Bluegrass State, not everyone in his party is on board. Beshear might need most of them to align their votes and soon. The sports betting bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Adam Koenig, already spoke about the importance of bipartisan coalition building to get sports betting passed.

Some Kentucky legislators think that making sports wagering legal requires a constitutional amendment. For example, Sen. Johnny Ray Turner (D) told WCHS News that was his issue with the legislation.

“I think we should have a constitutional amendment and we should vote it out and let people vote on it.”

How Indiana wins if Beshear loses on this issue

As Beshear said, a lot of people in his state can drive 40 miles and find a casino in another state. Beshear is correct in regards to Indiana.

Not only are there Indiana casinos like Hollywood Lawrenceburg close to the Kentucky border but Indiana’s online sportsbooks allow Kentuckians to place legal wagers from anywhere within the Hoosier State’s borders right now. If Beshear gets his wish, the days of pulling dollars from Kentuckians could be numbered for Indiana’s gaming operators and the state treasury.

Therein lies the issue for Beshear and this demonstrates how what’s good for one party is a negative for another.  If Beshear can’t push this through, Indiana would be among the biggest winners.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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