Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Clears First Senate Committee

Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Clears First Senate Committee
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

A bill authorizing mobile and retail Kentucky sports betting cleared another hurdle Wednesday morning.

HB-551, which advanced through the state House by a 63-34 margin earlier this week, was passed by the Senate Licensing and Occupation committee in a 9-1 vote Wednesday morning.

The bill paves the way for Kentucky’s nine horse racing tracks to join neighboring states Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee in offering sports betting.

A year ago similar legislation died in the state’s upper chamber. The next step for HB-551 is a full Senate vote, where the legislation requires a three-fifths majority of the chamber to pass, as this year’s session is a short one.

During Wednesday’s committee hearing, Republican Sen. Damon Thayer told lawmakers passing sports betting is crucial for Kentucky, as it prevents the state from falling further behind its neighbors.

Thayer added that Kentucky is one of the few Southern states left without some form of sports wagering, with conservative states like Tennessee and Virginia passing sports betting bills in previous years.

“We can't stop people from doing things that are bad for them,” Thayer said.

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What Are The Odds Of Kentucky Bill Passing?

During Wednesday’s hearing, bill sponsor, Rep. Michael Meredith (R-Oakland), and Thayer said they believe they are a few votes shy of clearing the 60% margin needed to get the legislation across the finish line.

Both voiced optimism they’d find the yay votes needed to do so, however, with Thayer telling his fellow lawmakers he has at least 20 firm votes in favor of the legislation, with a few more on the fence.

Now that the legislation has cleared its committee hearing, HB-551 would move on to the full Senate as soon as March 29.  

Gov. Andy Beshear has already told lawmakers he’s ready to sign any bills legalizing sports betting in Kentucky, meaning the last real hurdle is the state Senate.

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What’s Included in Kentucky Wagering Bill?

HB-551 would allow the state’s horse racing facilities to have a monopoly on sports betting, with up to three retail and mobile betting skins apiece for the nine tracks.

The legislation applies a 9.75% tax rate on all retail transactions, with a 14.25% rate on mobile bets.

Licenses for wagering (retail and mobile) would cost $500,000 apiece with an annual renewal fee of $50,000 as part of the legislation.

One unique element of HB-551 is it would allow all Kentucky residents over the age of 18 to place wagers, as opposed to the national standard of 21.

Taxes are slated to provide funding for problem gambling education and other state expenditures and the state’s department of gaming, under Meredith’s legislation.

As of now, HB-551 has already made more progress than last year’s wagering legislation (HB-606), which never made it onto the Senate floor after clearing the House by a 58-30 margin.

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Christopher Boan is a staff writer for He has covered sports and sports betting for more than seven years and has worked for publications such as, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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