Effort to Legalize Kentucky Sports Betting Comes Up Short

Legal sports betting in Kentucky will have to wait at least one more year. The current effort to pass the proper legislation stalled in the state Senate as the 2022 session came to a close.

House Bill 606 was the state’s best chance to change the current Kentucky laws prohibiting legal betting on sports. The bill was recently moved to the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee.

This legislative proposal was originally earmarked for further consideration through the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee.  This happened earlier in the session with no movement forward. Neither committee took any affirmative action on HB 606 and it never advanced to the full state Senate for a vote.

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Kentucky is Back to Square One With Legal Sports Betting Bill

On Thursday, April 14, Kentucky’s 2022 legislation session officially came to an end. Under state law, Kentucky bills do not carry over from one year to the next. This basically eliminates any chance for passage in 2022.

The only exception would be Governor Andy Beshear calling for s special session on the issue which is highly unlikely as this point in time. With the session now closed, the earliest legal sportsbook could launch in Kentucky would be 2024. This is assuming that something can get done in the 2023 legislative session.

On March 18, Kentucky’s state House passed HB 606 by a vote of 58-30. At that time, optimism ran high that the state Senate would address the matter ahead of the session’s close one month later.

Under the terms of this bill, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would be in charge of regulating the industry. The two biggest tracks in the state are Churchill Downs in Louisville and Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington. The primary beneficiary of legal sports betting would have been the state’s public pension trust fund.

Despite the strong support, opponents of legal sports betting in Kentucky have remained extremely vocal. Leading the way was the Family Foundation of Kentucky. Along with other anti-gambling groups, lobbying efforts obviously had an impact on lawmakers in the state Senate.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer has been a strong proponent of HB 606 throughout the legislative session. However, he was one of the first to note that this piece of legislation did not have enough votes to pass in the Senate.

Kentucky Governor Blames State Senate Leader

Governor Beshear came out and blamed Senator Thayer for this year’s inability to pass the proper legislation. At a recent press conference, he stated:

“My thought is if Damon Thayer wanted sports betting to pass, he’d get it passed. It’s time. The people of Kentucky absolutely want this. It’s time we join the modern world and if they’ll pass it, it’ll become law.”

Gov. Beshear had previously stated that he would sign the necessary legislation for legal sports betting if it came across his desk. Senator Thayer was responsible for moving HB 606 from one Senate committee to the other to try and garner more support.

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