Kentucky Will Attempt to Legalize Sports Betting in 2023

This is the message that Rep. Michael Meredith wants to send to lawmakers and consumers after he filed a bill on Wednesday that would allow the state’s race tracks to host sports betting facilities and make gambling on sports outcomes legal before the session ends on March 30.

New, More Balanced Approach to Sports Betting Legalization

House Bill 551 is pitched with the idea that the Bluegrass State could move past an obstinate legislature that is continuing to deny the state the benefits that would have been otherwise available should there have been sports betting.

HB 551, however, is a laser-focused effort to see sports gambling legalization pushed through. Previous attempts overshoot and ended up triggering people’s fears, but the new bill actually disposes of language and mentions of online poker and fantasy sports – two dogged talking points that have mostly hindered the passage of a bona fide betting legalization.

Meredith is aware of these challenges, and he doesn’t want to work on yet another piece of law that would face the same answer – a flat no. Instead, the draft hammers out hard details that can be discussed. A license would cost $500,000, HB 551 says, and renewals are available for $50,000 for the tracks.

Meanwhile, operators will have it much easier, as they will pay $50,000 for the license and $10,000 for annual renewals. The tax rate right now is 14.25% of online adjusted gross revenue and 9.75% of adjusted gross revenue. In other words, the bill is not giving up on another potentially incendiary proposal – the introduction of mobile betting which scares some lawmakers who see it as the gateway of ubiquitous problem gambling.

Meredith also proposes that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission should be the regulatory body to exert control over the state’s proposed wagering laws and system. The lawmaker has also thought of penalizing match-fixing offenses in a bid to stay ahead of possible objections and ensure that the bill has truly thought through all scenarios that may crop up during a committee hearing, for example.

Bringing Democrats and Republicans Behind the Proposal

Meredith is similarly confident that the terser and to-the-point language of his bill would make it an ideal candidate for bipartisan support. Indeed, sports gambling legalization has been one of the issues that Democrats and Republicans have been able to work on surprisingly well.

But as the legislature drags its feet, Kentuckians are actually acting. According to GeoComply, a geofencing and compliance company, at least 180,000 unique accounts registered to state residents are used in other states where mobile betting is legal. This requires the residents to be physically in those other states where gambling is licensed.