State Senators are considering legalizing Kentucky online sports betting, poker, and daily fantasy sports (DFS) in a companion bill matching one pending in the House. On Feb. 7, state Sen. David Yates (D-Louisville) sponsored SB 73, which is in committee.
Both bills call for a 6.75% tax rate on online poker and a 14.25% rate on mobile sports betting, which would make Kentucky one of the most affordable online gambling states for operators.
However, even as Yates’s effort gets underway, two of his Republican colleagues are planning to sponsor a rival bill. Theirs would address sports betting and leave out DFS and poker.
State Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) and Rep. Michael Meredith (R-Oakland) told LEX 18 on Feb. 3 about their upcoming proposal. As of today, the online sports betting-only bill hasn’t yet appeared in the Senate.
Meanwhile, much of the Senate’s attention may be elsewhere. The top news in Kentucky today seems to be about the Senate moving quickly on a bill to ban TikTok use days after a Chinese spy balloon passed over US. TikTok is a Chinese-owned social media platform.
Lex18‘s Karolina Buczek tweets:
That means no TikTok on govt phones, computers & devices connected to networks controlled by state govt.
Kentucky Online Poker, Sports, DFS History
On Jan. 5, members of the House introduced HB106, which would also legalize Kentucky online poker, sports betting, and DFS.
It’s essentially the same legislation as what Yates sponsored in the Senate.
The proposed bills are also very similar to what former state Rep. Adam Koenig introduced in 2022 and for several years before that. The outspoken legal gambling expansion advocate lost his reelection bid last year.
What’s different this year is Ohio launched its sports betting marketplace on Jan. 1, upping the pressure on legislators who just learned that thousands of Kentucky’s 4.5 million residents are traveling to the Buckeye State to place bets. They’re why Cincinnati is the top Ohio city by sportsbook geolocation checks, GeoComply told News 5 Cleveland.
Today, in a story about Super Bowl betting, GeoComply told the news organization:
[GeoComply] also recorded just over a million geolocation checks from users who were physically in Kentucky attempting to access a legal Ohio sports book — access that was denied.
So if the Kentucky General Assembly passes the bills, it will stop seeing its residents cross into every bordering state but Missouri to place legal sports bets. Meanwhile, Missouri lawmakers are considering legalizing sportsbooks.
However, lawmakers may be less stressed about Kentucky online poker.
Of the seven border states, only West Virginia offers legal online poker. However, the Mountain State doesn’t yet have a dedicated poker operator. Residents play the game on online casino apps.
Online Gambling Bills Will Have a Tough 2023
The Kentucky General Assembly will have to be quick and united to pass online gambling this year, which is unlikely to happen.
Democrats sponsored the bills sitting in House and Senate committees. Republicans control both chambers.
So even if Republicans Thayer and Meredith propose a sports-only bill, Thayer acknowledged to Lex18 that powerful religious groups might object to further legalizing online gambling in Kentucky. (Betting on horse racing has been legal for years.)
If the legalization effort manages to overcome those hurdles, there’s still the fact that 2023 is an odd-numbered year.
That means legislators will only meet for 30 days vs. last year’s 60.
Plus, there’s no state budget on the agenda this year, so legislators must have a three-fifths supermajority vote to pass measures that raise revenue or appropriate funds.
That’s a difficult hand for Kentucky online poker to be dealt.