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Kentucky online poker, sports betting, and daily fantasy sports (DFS) legalization efforts are alive again as of yesterday. If the bill becomes law, the southern state will stop being nearly landlocked by legal sports betting states.

However, what sets House Bill 106 apart is its call for legal online poker.

That’s because there are far fewer US online poker marketplaces than sports betting states. Then there are even fewer live poker sites.

That’s likely because the states that allow legal online poker, but don’t have active operators, have smaller populations. Connecticut houses 3.6 million Nutmeggers. West Virginia’s population is 1.8 million.

With 4.5 million Kentuckians – who’ve already been betting on horse racing for years – the state may not have that problem.

Kentucky could then join the ranks of states with legal online poker sites:

  • Delaware
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania

Conversely, 23 states offer legal sports betting.

Meanwhile, DFS is live in almost all states. While it once occupied a legally ambiguous niche, most states clarified its status. So sites already exist in Kentucky, and House Bill 106 will solidify its legal role in the state’s gambling space.

Kentucky Online Poker Would Be a Local Differentiator

The commonwealth’s northern neighbor, Ohio, launched legal online sportsbooks on New Year’s Day. Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and Virginia sites have been taking sports bets for a while.

Only Missouri to the West hasn’t yet joined US online sports betting states. However, even the state with Kentucky’s shortest shared border beat the Bluegrass State to introducing legislation by a day.

Even though Kentucky is a bit behind its neighbors regarding sports betting legalization, the bill lawmakers introduced yesterday would leapfrog it ahead of every bordering state but West Virginia, if it passes. The Mountain State legalized online casino, poker, and sports betting in March 2019.

However, even West Virginia doesn’t have an online poker operator.

So Kentucky online poker could be a regional first.

Online Gambling Bill Passage Unlikely

The bill outlines Kentucky online poker and sports betting tax rates at 6.75% and 14.25%, respectively.

At 52 pages long, House Bill 106 seems thought out and perhaps complete.

However, 2023 is an odd-numbered year. What that means is that the legislative session will be half as long – 30 days vs. 60 – and lawmakers won’t be passing a state budget this year. Consequently, legislators must have a three-fifths supermajority vote to pass measures that raise revenue or appropriate funds.

Plus, the bill’s three sponsors – state Reps. Derrick Graham, Cherlynn Stevenson, and Rachel Roberts – are all Democrats in a House that moved to the right as a result of the 2022 election.

In that election, Kentucky lost its most active gambling expansion advocate, who’d been introducing online poker and sports betting bills for years: Rep. Adam Koenig.

Koenig, himself a poker fan, saw his most recent effort die in April 2022 without a vote.

However, he did succeed at ensuring a parimutuel wagering measure became law. The law, signed by Gov. Andy Beshear on April 8, 2022, creates a uniform 1.5% tax on parimutuel wagering and rounds winnings up to the penny.

In a state known for the Kentucky Derby, that’s not chump change.

Meanwhile, the former state lawmaker changed his Twitter bio:

recovering politician. lover of good public policy. used to be a better golfer.

Yet he still seems to care about legal gambling expansion.

On Jan. 2, Koenig retweeted a sentiment from Rep. David Osborne. The Republican said that at some point, legislators would have to acknowledge that most Kentuckians favor legalizing online sports betting.

About the Author
Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is the lead writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She had her first published byline at age 10, but didn't get paid for her writing until she got her first newspaper job. Fletcher's newspaper career started at Suburban News Publications in Ohio and eventually took her to The New York Times, where she's still a contract freelance reporter for the National Desk. She covers breaking news from Philadelphia, as needed. In March 2021, Fletcher began writing about online casino gambling as the lead writer for Online Poker Report.

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