Kentucky Sports Betting Proponents Mount A Full Court Press

Feb 8, 2020
Originally published on February 6, 2020 3:53 pm

Backers of a sports betting bill sought to generate more momentum for the measure at a press event Thursday, downplaying suggestions that it's hit speedbumps.

House Bill 137 has never been a sure bet, but sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig maintains the bill remains on track and he's working behind the scenes to amass as many votes as possible in his chamber. One potential boost came from down the hall, with Senate Republican leader Damon Thayer telling the Louisville Courier-Journal the votes are there to pass sports betting in the Senate.

Flanked by an uncommonly diverse bench of supporters from the Kentucky Education Association to the state Chamber of Commerce, Beshear said the bill could ultimately bring in more than $22 million annually.

"Some people will say that's not going to solve the pension system (liabilities), and sure, on its own nothing is going to solve the pension system, but those are meaningful dollars where we can meet so many needs of our people," the Democrat argued. The governor offered examples: a 4 percent increase for higher education, need-based financial aid for another 13,000 students, or a boost in base per pupil K-12 funding.

But the bill, which cruised out of committee on a unanimous vote, has yet to be the called to the House floor, prompting doubts that it's gained a sufficient foothold. That could be due to reservations on the part of social conservatives, who fear the societal effects of more legalized betting.

"It would target families, the money comes from them, it brings in all kinds of other clutter, it oftentimes currupts government, and it destroys the poor," said Kent Ostrander with the Family Foundation.

Under the current bill, betting on in-state sports teams, including the University of Kentucky, would be allowed at horseracing tracks and the Kentucky Speedway, or through an app downloaded at those sites.

House Speaker David Osborne says discussions continue on the bill and he can't project when it might come up for a vote.

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