Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Headed To Assembly Floor

Posted on January 16, 2020

The momentum for legal Kentucky sports betting is growing. Comments from the state’s new governor and bipartisan approval of a regulatory framework for online poker and legal sports betting both point to that.

For casinos and online sportsbooks in Indiana, that could mean the days of pulling action from the Bluegrass State might be numbered. That’s especially true given alterations in Kentucky’s bill and the fact it received unanimous support in committee and is headed to the General Assembly floor.

The growing momentum for Kentucky sports betting

Gov. Andy Beshear left no doubts about where he stands on gambling expansion. In his State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday, Beshear was clear:

“A commitment to the future also requires that we create the new revenue to meet the growing needs of our state, and right now we are watching more than $500 million in gaming revenue go across the border to states like Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. It is time to stop that flow, to use that money for our needs. Rep. Adam Koenig has filed a sports betting bill. I fully support it, and we should pass it.”

The body which Koenig is part of, the state’s General Assembly, is now set to vote on his proposal. On Wednesday morning, the Assembly’s Committee on Licensing, Operations and Administration Regulations voted unanimously to send the bill on to the full Assembly for consideration.

Though the governor and this part of the Assembly are solid in their support for the bill, it’s unclear to what extent that extends to the fuller body. Beyond that, there’s the same question of broad support in Kentucky’s Senate.

Two new tenets of the bill might help get legislators on board. They will have an effect on the action on Indiana sportsbooks as well.

College betting, limited in-person registration changed in new version of bill

Before the Assembly committee gave H.B. 137 their overwhelming approval, there were significant additions and deletions of certain language. Neither of those changes are minuscule.

The first is the addition of a sunset date for the in-person registration requirement for online wagering. That requirement would fade away after 18 months in the version of the bill that the committee approved.

The committee also removed language that banned wagers on college teams in Kentucky. As Kentucky has no teams in the four major professional North American sports leagues, those are the events of largest interest in the state.

What does this mean for Indiana sports betting?

Those two changes could represent a mixed bag for Indiana. There are upsides and downsides to the new bill as far as operators in the Hoosier State are concerned.

The fact that the in-person registration requirement survives could make some Kentuckians continue to cross the border to place bets. There is no such law in Indiana and that means it could be more convenient.

At the same time, the fact that Kentucky sportsbooks will be able to offer odds on Louisville and Kentucky football and men’s basketball games could spur bettors to stay home. Had that ban survived, it would have represented a big advantage for Indiana sportsbooks.

Even if this bill gets approval in Frankfort, it could still be several months before legal sportsbooks actually start accepting wagers in Kentucky. These developments enhance the chances that Indiana’s books might not be the closest legal option for Kentuckians someday.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. 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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