The Kentucky House passed sports betting-related bills Friday, taking a further step to eventually regulate it and reap tax revenue from related wagering activities. The bill package, which includes House Bills 606 through 609, will now enter the Senate after clearing the House on a 58-30 vote.
Even though similar measures have died in prior years, Bill sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig remains positive that this year will make a difference in the state. He estimates more than $2 billion are wagered illegally on sports each year in Kentucky. These new measures are crafted “to bring those people out of the shadows and dry up the black market”, Koenig said.
Tax revenue generated from sports betting would flow into the state public pension system, as it is expected to generate at least $22.5 million a year in revenue, according to Koenig.
Bill package presentation by sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig.
Among the bill package now to be discussed in the Senate includes Bill 606, which seeks to allow sports wagering despite strong opposition, as concerns that betting could affect vulnerable families and moral values. To this belief, Koenig has argued that the enrichment of the government at the expense of the impoverished has not occurred in other states where sports wagering is currently legal.
House Bill 609 is also comprised in the package, with the purpose of setting up a gambling assistance fund and board to raise awareness about addiction, as well as establishing programs to help and pay costs associated with treatment. The Bill would use $225 million from a lawsuit against PokerStars, which collected losses from thousand Kentuckians who played on its websites.
— Adam Koenig (@repkoenig) March 18, 2022
House Bill 607 intends to modernize pari-mutuel wagering by establishing a single tax rate for this sort of wagering of 1.5% and eliminating admission tax. According to Koenig, the bill would bolster state revenues by around $27 million in the next couple years.
House Bill 608 proposes a ban on “gray machines”, which look like slot machines and pay out cash prizes to successful players, and have proliferated in convenience stores across the state. According to Kentucky Lottery Corporation CEO Mary Harville, the proliferation of these machines in convenience and grocery stores throughout the state has eroded the lottery’s profits, which support Kentucky college scholarships.
The bill package was presented earlier this month. Koenig stated back then that legalizing sports wagering would allow Kentuckians to “do what they would like to do with their own money”. He said that it would “take it away from the bookies and the off-shore accounts”.
Koenig hopes to combine the multiple proposals in one sweeping measure. However, if his strategy does not work, he will try to pass as many of the individual proposals as possible.
33 states have legalized sports betting, including every state that borders Kentucky except for Missouri.