FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Sports betting was expected to run into a challenge in the socially conservative Kentucky Senate, and that's exactly what has happened.
The Kentucky House passed House Bill 606, the sports betting bill, on a 58-30 vote in March. Since then, the measure has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.
However, it's not dead.
"It's still alive," said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer. "We gave it readings for a reason - to keep it alive."
Thayer, a supporter of sports betting, says the bill still has a shot at becoming law, but he admits it seems like a long shot.
"A lot of my caucus members, especially from the rural areas, aren't for it," he said.
"Even assuming that most of the Democrats will vote for sports betting, when I walked out of here last week, we still did not have enough votes to pass it," added Thayer.
Since then, sports betting advocates have been working to convince senators to vote yes, but Senate President Robert Stivers admits HB 606 faces "a difficult time."
Thayer believes lawmakers from different parts of the state see the issue differently.
"You can tell in the way I talk about it and the way President Stivers talks about it, we're from different parts of the state," said Thayer. "Where he comes from, it's probably not a big deal. But where I live - I cannot walk out the front door of my house in Georgetown, or go to a restaurant in Lexington or Georgetown, or work out in my gym in Georgetown, and not be asked 'what about sports betting?' The areas I represent - Northern Kentucky and Central Kentucky - it's a big deal and it's the only thing people want to know about right now."
However, some groups feel strongly against gambling in general.
The Family Foundation believes sports betting is an "expansion of predatory gambling" that "will only further impoverish Kentucky’s poor by taking money from the hands of Kentucky families and shifting it to the wealthy gambling industry."
It's a position Thayer disagrees with.
"I don't think it's going to hurt society if people make the choice, of their own free will, to walk into the Red Mile to bet on the Super Bowl, or the Masters, or the Final Four," he said. "I just don't see it."
Lawmakers have two legislative days before the session ends on April 13th.