The second time was the charm for Kentucky sports betting, as the state Senate approved HB-551 by a 25-12 margin on Thursday evening.
The chamber took up the bill after days of unease, following a 63-34 vote in favor in the state House earlier this month.
Thursday’s action paved the way for the Bluegrass State to join the more than 30 others and Washington D.C. with some form of wagering on the books.
Now, HB-551 moves to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk to be signed into law. The first-term Democratic governor has said repeatedly that he’d sign any wagering bills that are sent to him.
Brendan Bussmann, the managing partner of B Global, told BetKentucky.com that the Senate’s vote in favor of sports betting allows the state to keep up with its neighbors, such as Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee, all of which have wagering in place. All of those states have mobile options, and online Kentucky sportsbook apps will join that list as well.
“This is a big win for Kentucky and its citizens,” Bussmann said. “With all signs pointing to the Governor’s signature, Kentucky becomes the first state this year to get though both houses and hopefully becomes the next jurisdiction that will allow wagering by this fall.”
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What To Know About HB-551
HB-551 paves the way for all nine of Kentucky’s horse racing tracks to offer retail and online sports betting, with a 14.25% tax rate applied to online wagers and a 9.75% rate on retail bets.
The bill’s language largely mirrors that of HB-606, which cleared the House a year ago before dying on the Senate floor.
The upper chamber’s ability to get sports betting across the finish line on its second try (just a couple of weeks after the state House approved) is worth celebrating, Bussmann said, as it shows how well politicians in the state have listened to those they are representing.
“The Senate should be commended, especially some of those last Senators that listened to their constituents and supported good public policy,” Bussmann said.
How We Got To Thursday’s Senate Vote In Kentucky
Kentucky’s ultimate approval of HB-551 comes roughly a year after the upper chamber failed to take up a similar betting bill, killing wagering’s chances.
That failure led to an exodus of state residents during March Madness. Geolocation firm GeoComply tracked more than 62,000 attempts to bet in the state between March 1 and March 30, showing the strong demand in Kentucky for sports betting.
An exact launch date for operators – which will offer Kentucky sports betting promo codes for new customers to sign up – has not been laid out for sports betting in Kentucky under HB-551. Regulators in the state likely will map out a timeline in the months ahead.
For now, Kentucky residents can count on having sports betting in their home state, sooner rather than later.
"As a proud co-sponsor and proponent of House Bill 551, I firmly believe that legalizing sports betting in Kentucky is a win-win for both our citizens and our state's economy,” said Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville. “By putting in place a regulatory framework, we can ensure that all betting activities are conducted safely and responsibly, while also generating significant revenue for our state. I’m glad to see the Senate finally move this through so we did not miss another opportunity to boost our economy and provide a new source of entertainment for Kentuckians."