Keeneland leaders speak about missed sports betting bill

Posted at 5:49 PM, Apr 15, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky sports betting bill lost its chance of passing this year after getting stuck in the Senate on the final day of the 2022 legislative session. People in the sports industry say this isn't the first time a sports betting bill has come up in the bluegrass state - and they are hopeful it won't be the last.

The sports betting bill, House Bill 606, stayed stuck in the Senate on Thursday meaning sports betting will not be legalized in Kentucky this year. Senate majority floor leader, Senator Damon Thayer said, "Next year, after the elections, I think we're going to have more people in the Senate who are going to be in favor of sports betting than we have today."

Leaders from Keeneland in Lexington say the bill not moving forward was disappointing. They say sports betting is something that's already occurring with access across state lines and in bordering states.

Keeneland Association’s Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Vince Gabbert, says, "it's something that has occurred for hundreds of years in the state and there's plenty of bookies and opportunities to go offshore. So, it's one of those items that we feel like is you might as well tax it and regulate it and let the state get the benefits from it if it's an activity that most folks are already engaged in."

While sports betting is out for Keeneland for this year, leaders say that they're still hopeful that a bill will pass in the future. They say Pari-mutuel betting is still on the table and they're working to continue to keep this an entertaining environment for fans.

Gabbert explains, "It has no effect on our day-to-day business right now. Since we don't have it available it's nothing that really impacts us. So we'll continue to do our stuff here on Pari-mutuel waging and what we do from a thoroughbred racing standpoint -- and that won’t change regardless so that will be something that will stay in effect and we'll continue to do and continue to offer for our fans and patrons that are able to come here."

Lawmakers for the bill – like Thayer – have said the decision should be left up to the people. Other groups against the bill, like the Family Foundation, believe that sports betting would continue to impoverish poorer people in the state. Keeneland's leaders say they will stay the course. In a statement sent to LEX18 News, Family Foundation Executive Director, David Walls, says:

"We are grateful to pro-family Kentuckians across the Commonwealth for sending a resounding message to the General Assembly opposing the expansion of predatory gambling. We also commend pro-family leaders in the General Assembly, especially the Kentucky Senate, for ensuring that HB 606 was not given final passage."

The expansion of government-sponsored, predatory gambling is bad public policy that hurts families, promotes harmful addictions, and corrupts government. It doesn’t create new wealth but instead transfers wealth, predominantly from poor communities, to the already wealthy gambling industry. The defeat of HB 606 is a win for Kentuckians and for the welfare of our Commonwealth"
Gabbert says, "It's one of those things that's an issue that we'll continue to work on as long as the legislature will work with us on it and we want to be good stewards of the state's money and the things that we're doing for them."