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Could Kentucky legalize sports betting in 2023?

Sports Betting-Super Bowl
Posted at 4:47 PM, Nov 25, 2022

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — In various places across the country, sports betting is legal. Kentucky is not one of them.

The Commonwealth's legalization efforts have fallen short in the past. In 2022, the sports betting bill cleared the House but ran into trouble in the socially conservative Senate. However, supporters of sports betting are not giving up hope.

"I'm going to continue to advocate for it," Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer told LEX 18. "I think it's a natural extension of pari-mutuel betting on horses, which we've had here for generations. And we're a sports-crazy state. A sports-crazy state."

Thayer believes it's possible for sports betting to get another shot at legalization in 2023, which is a short session.

"It can pass in an odd-numbered year, but if it has a tax rate, it'll have to pass with a higher threshold of votes," he explained.

But are the votes there?

"We have six new members coming into the Republican caucus, and I think some of the new members who are supporters of sports betting are replacing members who are not," said Thayer. "So, it's possible that we could be closer to having the votes to pass it."

"Every session takes on a life of its own, and we'll see if it has enough energy once we get down here to pass it," he added.

There has been some opposition to sports betting. The Family Foundation has opposed previous legalization bills saying that "sports wagering is not constitutional in Kentucky." The group also believes the "predatory gambling industry" would bring "social harm to Kentucky families."

However, supporters like Thayer believe sports betting would be "well-received" in Kentucky.

"It's very, very popular, and there is a lot of illegal sports betting taking place. It has for probably 100+ years in Kentucky," said Thayer. "I just think it would be better to legalize it, put the brick-and-mortar locations at the racetracks - where they already have the security infrastructure to protect the public, make sure that minors aren't allowed. Racetracks are already doing this sort of thing. It's just incredibly popular. I hear about it from so many people across the political spectrum."

"It would be policed under the bill by the racing commission, which has experience in doing this sort of thing," Thayer added. "And I think it would bring a significant amount of new revenue into the general fund."