In March, HB 606, which called to "legalize, regulate and tax sports wagering in Kentucky" passed in the House by a 58-30 vote, marking the closest Kentucky has come to legalizing sports betting.
Despite that success, HB 606 never made it to the Senate floor for a vote after it failed earlier this month in the Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee.
State Rep. Adam Koenig, who has introduced Kentucky sports betting bills for years, is not giving up and vows to re-introduce the legislation next year. In a tweet he said:
“This was not defeat. We got it as far as it has ever gotten. I wish this race was a sprint, but it’s a marathon. Success is coming, just not as fast as we would hope. But it is coming."
Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, agreed that the effort was a success, despite the unfavorable end result.
"I don’t count this as a failure," Thayer told BetKentucky. "It failed to pass this year, but it’s not a failure overall because we definitely moved the ball down the field and got it into the red zone. The opposition has a pretty good defense, but it’s just like in football – if you get it into the red zone and keep trying to score, eventually we’ll get the win."
Thayer, a Republican, said he felt the bill didn’t “have a chance” during the 2022 session, so progress has been made.
People in Kentucky Want to Bet
The sports betting appetite in Kentucky is there, according to Thayer. In defense of the bill, he noted recent data that showed more than 500,000 Kentucky residents attempted to place a legal sports bet but were denied because of geolocation technology.
Thayer, a supporter of sports betting in Kentucky since the PASPA decision in 2018, acknowledged that some people’s minds are already made up on the sports-betting topic and there’s no persuading them to change.
The key for Kentucky to take the next step is persuading those on the fence and electing younger people into the legislature that are more open to bringing sports wagering into Kentucky.
“I do think there are some undecided folks who are not quite there yet, who we might be able to, over time, persuade to support it,” Thayer said. “I also think as we continue to have elections, I think you’re gonna see more younger people join the legislature who are not opposed to sports betting.”
Betting Road Show
For now, Kentuckians will continue to travel elsewhere to gamble on sports, with a new bill likely to come during the 2023 session. Koenig, a Republican, isn’t giving up and thanked his supporters.
”Thank you to the many, many supporters here on Twitter who have supported this effort, boosted my spirits, given me anecdotal stories to tell of sitting in parking lots in adjoining states with other Kentuckians making wagers,” Koenig tweeted.
Of the seven states that border Kentucky, there is legal sports betting occurring in Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Just Ohio and Missouri currently are without sports betting.
But Ohio has legalized it and is working on launching the market before Jan. 1, 2023, as required by its law. Missouri has a bill working through the legislative process with the hopes it will pass before May 20, the final day of the session.
If all states surrounding it have sports betting, maybe then Kentucky will finally be able to pass sports betting legislation.