GOP Lawmakers Trying To Sink KY Sports Betting Bill With Added Amendments

Posted on February 19, 2020

Indiana casinos and sportsbook operators might be among the biggest fans of Republican legislators in the Bluegrass State right now. Those legislators’ attempts to delay or derail the process of Kentucky sports betting legalization works in their favor.

Since a bill advanced out of a Kentucky House committee and hit the Assembly’s main floor, Republican representatives have bogged the proceedings down with almost a dozen amendments. They represent the latest strategies to politicize what should be a no-brainer.

What’s going on with Kentucky sports betting right now?

Several of the amendments to HB 137 have similar aims but take different routes to get there. The amendments intend to:

  • Raise the tax rates for online and retail sportsbooks
  • Allow other parties like restaurants to become licensed
  • Increase the percentage of tax revenues devoted to problem gambling resources
  • Codify inclusion of information as falling within access of Open Records Requests

The amendments vary on these topics somewhat. For example, differing amendments raise the tax rate by as much as three times the amount proposed in the original bill.

Rep. Adam Koenig is the bill’s main sponsor and also a Republican. He sees the issue as an internal one for his party. He notes that there is work to do in order to get support from a majority of the chamber’s Republicans.

The sudden flux of 11 separate amendments reeks of much more than concerns about compulsive gambling issues, however. The stench of political maneuvering is wafting through the air.

Non-partisan support from around the state of Kentucky

HB 137 came to the floor with 40 co-sponsors and the support of Gov. Andy Beshear. It unanimously passed through a committee that is led by Republicans as well.

Members of the media in Kentucky have come out in support of the bill. Businesses like the Kentucky Speedway have done the same.

Miring it down in the face of those facts and at this point looks like political posturing. Republicans in the state, who recently lost the Governor’s Mansion, might be using opposing the bill to appeal to their supporters in their districts.

By not only forcing the bill to go through several evaluations for these amendments but refusing to bring it to the floor for a vote for over a month, Republicans seem to be doing all they can to deny Gov. Beshear a victory on this issue.

Whether that means a delay or ultimate failure for the bill, sportsbook operators in Indiana are content with the status quo. By extension, so is the state government in the Hoosier State.

Why sportsbook operators in Indiana love to see this

As long as sports betting remains illegal in Kentucky, sportsbooks in Indiana will continue to welcome Kentuckians to make their wagers. Handle from out-of-state sources is a big win for the Hoosier State.

Not only does every dollar wagered by Kentuckians translate to tax dollars for Indiana, but that also means that dollar isn’t coming out of the pocket of an Indiana resident. It’s essentially like “stealing” tax revenue from Kentucky.

If Kentucky wants to get legal sportsbooks up and running to compete with Indiana’s operators in time for the next college football and NFL seasons, time is running short. Every delay is a great day for Indiana’s sportsbooks.

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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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