One of the most talked about bills of the 2023 legislative session is one step closer to becoming law, as House Bill 551, which would legalize sports wagering in Kentucky, passed the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee Wednesday.
With just one day remaining before the veto recess, the sports wagering bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Meredith, is still alive.
Governor Andy Beshear has long expressed support for legalized sports wagering in Kentucky, and it is expected that the governor would not veto House Bill 551, meaning it could receive final passage in the final two days of the session following the veto recess, March 29-30.
“This is about regulating and making legal a marketplace that already exists,” Meredith said, citing research estimating that about $1 billion is wagered in Kentucky annually on sports betting illegally.
“If you look at the geography of our state, 46 of our counties border a state where sports gambling is legal,” Meredith added.
Meredith also cited recent fiscal note from the Legislative Research Commission estimating that House Bill 551 would bring in about $23 million in annual revenue for the state.
Opponents of the sports wagering bill argued the moral case against gambling, saying there is a “social cost” associated with enacting the legislation.
House Bill 551 does not yet have a reading in the Senate and would need three readings to pass, meaning the bill likely will not pass prior to the veto recess. It needs at least one reading Wednesday or Thursday in order to keep it alive on the last two days of session.