Sports betting in Kentucky moved one step closer to fruition Monday evening after clearing the state House for a second straight year.
The lower chamber voted by a 63-34 margin to move HB-551 on to the Senate, which has until April 13 to pass the legislation.
Under the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Michael Meredith (R-Oakland), the state’s nine horse racing tracks would be allowed to partner with up to three retail and online wagering operators apiece, with money going toward Kentucky’s problem gambling fund.
Lawmakers shot down a pair of amendments concerning credit card usage and raising the betting age from 18 to 21, while successfully adding another to tack on 2.5% of betting taxes to address problem gambling before sending the legislation to the Senate.
During Monday’s session, Meredith told lawmakers that getting sports betting on the books in Kentucky is critically important, given the amount of money currently leaving the state to Ohio and Indiana.
"Forty-six counties of the 120 counties in Kentucky border a state that has legalized sports wagering within their borders and you literally just have to drive across the county line or cross the river to go take part in their programs," Meredith said.
HB-551 was filed in February and moved through the Kentucky House Licensing & Occupations Committee last week.
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A unique element of HB-551 is the differing tax rates slated to be applied to retail and online operators in the state.
Under the legislation, retail facilities would face a 9.75% tax rate, while online sports betting operators would be hit with a 14.25% tax on the adjusted gross gaming revenues.
Licenses for retail and online wagering would cost $500,000, with an annual renewal fee of $50,000.
Whether HB-551 will avoid the same fate as last year’s HB-606, which cleared the House by a 58-30 margin before dying on the Senate floor, remains to be seen.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) voiced careful optimism that sports betting can get enough ‘yay’ votes in the upper chamber to move to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.
"If we only needed 20 votes, I think I could speak pretty confidently that we could pass it,” Thayer told Spectrum News 1, “but we need 23 and I would say that it's close, but I don't know if we're there yet."
No additional hearings have been announced in the state Senate as of Tuesday morning.
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