Kentucky Sports Betting on the Horizon

Fans of sports betting in the US state of Kentucky could soon be able to bet on their favorite sports as the state is set to legalize betting on sport, at least, according to the state governor, Andy Beshear

Beshear’s comments came in a televised broadcast of his reflections on his first year in office when he was asked whether the time had come to legalize the practice in Kentucky. In response, Beshear said that he believed that the time had been right years ago when most of the states that surrounded Kentucky had it. He went on to emphasize how this contradicted the talk about Kentucky having a competitive business climate and pointed to how easy it was for Kentucky citizens to drive over almost any of the state’s borders and have a bet:

“The fact that we haven’t done it at this point is not only silly but puts us at a competitive disadvantage.”

State Surrounded

Beshear’s point will be well taken by many in the government and political circles in the state. Kentucky is more or less surrounded by jurisdictions where sports betting is legal. 

Kentucky residents can cross the borders into Illinois, Tennessee, Indiana, Virginia, and West Virginia to bet on sports. The remaining two states that border Kentucky don’t yet have a functioning sports betting market, but Missouri has three bills under consideration by state legislations, while Ohio is in the middle of protracted negotiation to introduce sports betting. 

Horse Racing Hurdle

The fight for sports betting in Kentucky will likely be led by state representative Adam Koenig once again. Koenig tabled a sports betting bill last year, which didn’t make it out of committee. 

Koenig’s chances of success in 2021 will involve clearing not just the legislative hurdle but also hoping that another issue relating to betting won’t take up too much time. 

Historic Horse Racing (HHR) machines brought in an impressive $33.8 million in tax revenue during the last fiscal year while also boosting the state’s high profile racing industry. But the machines are under threat after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that some of the systems that feature in the HHR model are not compatible with horse betting rules. 

And Beshear was also clear in his remarks that HHR legalization was an essential aim in the year ahead, given the crucial role that Kentucky plays at the heart of the US horse racing industry and its reliance on the sport for hundreds of thousands of jobs. 

Casinos on the Cards

With legislative time likely to be at a premium, legislators may not have much appetite for two gaming issues, which means the further issue of casino gaming is unlikely to be addressed this year. 

But although Beshear is focused on sports betting and HHR, he also went on record as being in favor of a Kentucky casino sector. Again, his focus was on the tax revenue potential, and he cited the fact that neighboring Indiana makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year in casino tax revenue. He also pointed to the fact that along with Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia also have casinos close to the Kentucky border. 

Given the shortened legislative session in 2021, Beshear acknowledged that casino gaming was not going to be on the agenda in the next twelve months, but he signaled that what he described as ‘full-blown gaming’ was the long term objective. And he added that he believed the majority of Kentuckians would be in support of his aims. 

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