The Kentucky sports betting bill needed the approval of at least 23 members of the Kentucky State Senate in order to pass on March 30. Exactly 25 Senators voted in favor of HB551, which Gov. Andy Beshear promised to sign into law once it came his way.
Update on March 31: Beshear signed the bill into law yesterday. Sports betting is legal in Kentucky. The next step is the marketplace launch.
When Beshear signs HB551, Kentucky will become the 34th state with legal online sports betting. Massachusetts was the most recent state to launch its marketplace, which happened on March 10.
However, the most relevant recent launch was on Jan. 1 in Ohio, because that’s the state where many Kentucky sports bettors drive to place wagers.
As for how likely Beshear is to sign HB551 into law, he tweeted at 7:40 p.m. today:
After years of urging lawmakers to legalize sports betting, we finally did it! Today’s result shows that hard work pays off.
Kentuckians will soon be able to place their bets here, and for the first time, we are going to keep those dollars to support our roads and bridges, schools, and communities.
Beshear also said during his Team Kentucky Update on March 16:
I am a pro-gaming governor. I think it’s time we have full-blown casino gaming in Kentucky.
But it’s an industry that absolutely has to be regulated, and it needs to be legal. …
So I will certainly sign sports betting, if it gets to me. I want to be very clear about that. It’s something that I have pushed for for years.
The measure that calls for a 14.25% tax rate on online sportsbooks and a 9.75% rate on retail sports betting may generate $23 million in annual revenue for Kentucky, estimates the Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI). GLI, that city’s chamber of commerce, “strongly” supported the Kentucky sports bill.
Bettors 18 and older can sign up when the marketplace goes live, which Beshear estimates will be in late June.
Kentucky Sports Bill Comes Down to the Wire
The Kentucky General Assembly adjourns today. Senators approved the bill around 6 p.m.
This year’s session is so short because 2023 is a non-budget year, which is also why the Kentucky sports bill needed a two-thirds majority to pass the House. On March 13, HB551 received a 63-34 vote.
So today’s vote on HB551, which state Reps. Al Gentry and Michael Meredith introduced at the late date of Feb. 22, was also a close call for the Kentucky sports bill.
The measure sponsored by Gentry, D-Louisville, and Meredith, R-Oakland, needed 23 Senators to vote “yes.”
That wasn’t a sure thing.
On March 10, state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, retweeted his quote, as chronicled by Erin Kelly.
Kelly, a reporter with Spectrum News 1 Kentucky, quoted Thayer:
If we only needed 20 votes, I think I could speak pretty confidently that we could pass it, but we need 23 and I would say that it’s close, but I don’t know if we’re there yet.
At 9:38 a.m. today, Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones tweeted that one more undecided Senator needed to change to a “yes” vote for the measure to pass, and there were 13 “no” votes.
In the next tweet, at 9:39 a.m. today, Jones named the “no” voters and linked to a Kentucky Chamber of Commerce email form for constituents to urge their state Senators to approve HB551.
That second tweet had nearly 70,000 views by 10 a.m.
By 12:30 p.m., it had more than 247,000 views. At 8 p.m., it had nearly 390,000 views, and Jones was crediting it with helping pass HB551.
Jones tweeted at 6:27 p.m.:
The KSR listeners and Louisville fans that the radio shows there mobilized made a BIG difference on sports gambling
Without those E-mails and comments, it wouldn’t have passed
Well done everyone
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Koenig Given a Hat Tip
Former state Rep. Adam Koenig sponsored legislation for years to legalize online poker and sports betting, He lost his reelection bid last year, but he got shout-outs after HB551 passed.
However, Koenig didn’t tweet today about the bill he supported in a March 27 tweet.
So others made a note of his efforts:
Senate Majority Floor Damon Thayer carried House Bill 551, sports betting in the Senate. Below is his statement upon the chamber's approval: #kyga23 pic.twitter.com/jLinXQ9teX
— KY Senate Majority (@KYSenateGOP) March 30, 2023
Game Over for Kentucky Online Poker?
Today’s vote to pass the Kentucky sports bill was a mixed blessing for the state’s gamblers.
Until now, Kentucky lawmakers attempting to legalize sports betting would add online poker legalization into their bills. Indeed, that happened early in the 2023 session.
The common wisdom was that adding online poker legalization into a sports betting measure would perhaps be the only way to get the form of betting into law.
So poker fans believe the next time lawmakers will discuss online poker will be along with online casino gambling bills, which may not stand much of a chance of being approved even years from now. That belief is also founded in precedent: Most states don’t push for online casino legalization until a retail casino industry is present. Kentucky has no land-based commercial casinos.
In other words, online poker legalization may be at least a decade away.
Or it may even be game over for Kentucky online poker.