Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Clears Senate Committee, Advances to Full Senate

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Legal sports betting in Kentucky looks more likely than ever after approval of an online and retail sportsbook bill by a Senate committee Wednesday.

The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee, chaired by Sen. John Schickel, R-Florence, approved House Bill 551 by a 9-1 vote in a short meeting Wednesday morning.

Schickel, who had thwarted attempts to get a Kentucky sports betting bill out of the committee in 2022, was the lone “no” vote.

The bill now goes to the full Kentucky Senate, where it could be called to a vote this week.

HB 551 Would Legalize Mobile and Retail Sports Betting in Kentucky

HB 551, sponsored by House Banking and Insurance Chair Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, would allow up to 27 licensed mobile sportsbooks and nine retail sportsbooks through Kentucky’s nine horse racing tracks, including Churchill Downs and Keeneland. It would also allow simulcasting facilities to contract with the tracks for retail sports betting.

kentucky sports betting, churchill downs
Horse racing tracks like Churchill Downs would be licensed to take wagers under a Kentucky sports betting law (Photo Contributor: Thomas Kelley)

Because the bill would raise revenue in a non-budget year, it requires three-fifths approval – or 23 votes – to pass this Senate this year.

HB 551 passed the House on a 63-34 vote on Monday. It was the second time that a sports betting bill had passed the lower chamber since the US Supreme Court turned legalization over to the states by overturning PASPA in 2018.

Should it pass both chambers, Gov. Andy Beshear has said he will sign HB 551 into law.

Final Passage Now on the Line

Wednesday’s vote on HB 551 indicates growing support for legal sports betting by the Republican-led state legislature, although reaching the 23-vote threshold in the Senate could still be tough.

Primary opposition is from the religious community, including the Family Foundation and Kentucky Baptist Convention, both of which had representatives speak against HB 551 before the Senate committee Wednesday.

But approval of the bill in the Senate committee shows support for sports betting among lawmakers is growing. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, is a member of the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee and a longtime advocate of legal sports betting in Kentucky. He said six of the seven states surrounding Kentucky are now benefiting from legal sports betting, while Kentucky looks in from the outside.

“You can stand in Covington, Kentucky and look across the Ohio River and see a brick-and-mortar sportsbook location,” Thayer said before voting in favor of HB 551 in committee Wednesday.

“The public wants this, my constituents want this, the people of Kentucky want this, it’s time that we give them the choice,” he said.

In a nod to religious concerns voiced before the vote, Thayer gave his perspective. “We can’t stop people from doing things that are bad for them,” he said. “There are a lot of behaviors out there that, done in excess, are bad for people.”

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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