Anyone who thinks legal sports betting is dead for another year in the Bluegrass State doesn’t know Kentucky State Rep. Adam Koenig.
The Kentucky House gaming issues chair and lead sponsor of this year’s push to legalize sportsbooks in the commonwealth told Gaming Today in an email Tuesday that he is far from declaring defeat.
“(The legislation in) House Bill 606 is very much alive,” the Erlanger Republican told Gaming Today. “It will get a reading in the Senate today and tomorrow, at which time we enter veto recess. That will provide me a couple weeks to continue to speak with Senators about the bill and attempt to have the votes to pass it.”
But with only three legislative days remaining before Kentucky lawmakers close out this year’s session, many are questioning whether HB 606 can survive. Lawmakers will break at close of business Wednesday for a scheduled veto recess, leaving two more days to pass remaining bills.
The session’s final day is April 14.
The Road Ahead To Kentucky Sports Betting Legalization
HB 606 cannot make it to the desk of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear – a supporter of legal sports betting who is expected to sign it into law, given the chance – without passing the full Senate. And the bill can’t make it to the full Senate for a vote until it is heard and voted on by a Senate standing committee.
So far, a Senate committee vote on HB 606 hasn’t happened.
The legislation wasn’t even on the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting of the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee, where HB 606 was assigned on March 22. The committee instead voted on pari-mutuel wagering reform (HB 607), with no mention of sports betting.
At issue may be a lack of support for the bill from Senate President Robert Stivers. The Manchester Republican has told the Louisville Courier Journal that he has concerns with a sports betting push so soon after last year’s legalization of historical horse racing, or HHR, in Kentucky.
But Koenig, who oversees gaming issues as chair of the House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee, is determined to see HB 606 through this session. He told Gaming Today he will spend the upcoming veto recess rallying for Senate support for the bill.
“Either way I will be working on passage until 11:59 p.m. on April 14,” Koenig said.
Is Football Season Realistic For Kentucky Sports Betting?
The Kentucky House amazed the commonwealth and the nation on March 18 when it advanced HB 606 to the Senate by a vote of 58-30.
This is the first legislative session that a sports betting proposal has made it out of at least one house of the Kentucky General Assembly since the US Supreme Court in 2018 struck down the federal law prohibiting sports betting in all but a few states.
Legalization under HB 606 would authorize both online sports betting and in-person sportsbooks tied to Kentucky horse tracks, including Churchill Downs and Keeneland. Professional sports and college sports – including the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville – could potentially launch before 2022 NFL kickoff via state-licensed retail sportsbooks and mobile apps.
Fantasy sports and online poker would also be legalized under HB 606.
Koenig has said the bill will bring sports betting “out of the shadows” and into a regulated market that could reap the state at least $22.5 million in new revenue annually.
“I think it’s important …. to dry up the black market and make sure that the people of this state have the benefits of their government protecting them,” Koenig told his House colleagues in committee early this month.
Sports betting could potentially launch by mid to late summer in Kentucky, should HB 606 become law.