Lawmakers discuss possibility of legalizing sports wagering in Kentucky

Legislation that would allow Kentuckians to legally place bets on their favorite sporting events and other types of gaming was discussed in the House Licensing and Occupations Committee on Wednesday.

IMG_1601After a decision by the United States Supreme Court in May opening the door for states to allow bets on sporting events, House Licensing and Occupations Committee Chair Adam Koenig, sponsor of House Bill 175, says Kentucky needs to take advantage of the opportunity and bring in revenue currently being lost.

In terms of what is in Kentucky’s bill, Rep. Koenig said the bill legalizes sports wagering, internet poker, and fantasy sports contests.

John Farris of Commonwealth Economics consulting firm told the committee his company estimates the state could bring in around $20 million for sports wagering only with $4.6 million estimated revenue from in person wagering and $15.6 million from online. He stated their estimates do not include any research on what legalizing online poker and fantasy sports contest could generate.

Under the bill, wagering would be taxed at a rate of 10.25% for in person betting and 14.25% online. Koenig stated the reason for the differences in the tax rates are an attempt to bring people into Kentucky’s horse tracks and other facilities and generate interest in some of the state’s signature industries rather than just placing wagers online.

The revenue collected through the bill, Koenig said, would be spent on the cost of regulating wagering, addiction prevention services, and any additional funds going to the state’s woefully underfunded pension systems.

Farris also stated the state could bring in as much as $48 million if Kentucky’s surrounding states do not adopt similar provisions legalizing wagering and adults from those states came to the Commonwealth to wager on sporting events legally. However, Koenig emphasized Indiana and Tennessee currently have bills moving through their legislatures and encouraged Kentucky to not fall behind on this issue.

Following testimony from Koenig and Farris, as well as representatives from the Family Foundation with concerns about legalizing any type of gambling in Kentucky, the committee did not take a vote on the issue. Koenig said there may be a special meeting on the bill over the next week and suggested it will be taken up at next week’s meeting if not.

Watch an interview with Rep. Koenig on this topic from over the summer on The Bottom Line here.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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