Legislative push to legalize sports betting in Kentucky

Rep. Adam Koenig is sponsoring the legislation.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Each year slot machines featuring previously run horse races bring in a lot of money for horse racing tracks in Kentucky and for the state’s budget.   It’s legal to bet on horses in Kentucky through pari-mutual wagering, play the lottery and charitable bingo, but any other form of sports betting isn’t legal, despite a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing it. Republican State Senator Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, says Kentucky is losing out on a lot of money because people spend that money in neighboring states where sports betting is legal.

“What that is doing is sending the tax paid on Indiana sports betting to Indianapolis instead of those Kentucky dollars coming to Frankfort for us to spend on things like education, pensions, corrections and medicaid,” explains Senator Thayer.

Sen. Thayer says Republican State Representative Adam Koenig, from Erlanger, is sponsoring a bill that would legalize sports betting.

“He has told me that he plans to offer it again during the 2022 session that begins on January 4th,” according to Senator Thayer.

Sen. Thayer admits it could be an uphill legislative battle with the traditional rural versus urban divide.  He says it could also mean that the debate continues into another year while both sides try to build support.

“I think its just a matter of time whether we get it done this year or it waits until 2023, but the longer we wait, the more Kentucky tax dollars will be going over the border,” adds Thayer.

Some horse industry leaders agree that legalized sports betting is coming and want to make sure when it does, the profits are shared.

“I think there are sufficient gambling dollars to go around even if other sports do have legalized betting but, certainly the thoroughbred industry has worked on the gambling side of things for a very long time and so it’s very important that they’re able to maintain a stake in the gambling dollars,” says Ned Toffey, General Manager of Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.

Past efforts to expand gambling in Kentucky have been met with opposition by a variety of groups, from the religious community to gambling addiction groups to the Lexington-based conservative group, The Family Foundation, which waged a decade-long legal battle against allowing the slot machines known as historical horse racing to be allowed in Kentucky.

Categories: Featured, News, State News