Better luck next year, Kentucky

Kentucky Online Poker Bill Back In The Barn Until Next Year

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One thing is certain about Kentucky politics. No matter how much support a bill seems to have on any given day, that can quickly change.

Case in point, just one month ago a bill to legalize online poker, daily fantasy sports, and sports betting appeared to be on the path to passage. Talks slowly deteriorated, however, and now H 175 has been shelved for 2019.

Rep. Adam Koenig told Insider Louisville that nothing is really dead until the last day of the session, but the supermajority needed to advance the bill he sponsored was “too high a bar.”

Here is more from Koenig:

“We will regroup and reload with a better plan to win the hearts and minds of the public next year. We will only need a simple majority, and it will be a budget year where that $20-48 million [in tax revenue] will look a lot more important. I really like the chances next year.”

The bill would have allowed the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to oversee sports betting and daily fantasy sports operations. The Kentucky Lottery Corporation, meanwhile, would have regulated KY online poker.

Easier path to legalization in 2020

From a votes perspective, Koeing would only need to muster up 31 additional votes from the 100-member House. The bill already has 20 co-sponsors, and Koeing will only need 51 total votes in 2020 — a simple majority.

With Kentucky facing a massive $40 billion pension debt, the relatively small revenue stream garnered bipartisan support.

Last year, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear penned a letter to the state legislature calling for the legalization of casinos and sports betting, with revenue allocated to pension liabilities.

Beshear’s comments did little to advance the narrative in 2019, but things might be different next year. The AG is running for governor, and his comments could carry the weight needed to expand in-state gambling should he be elected.

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Regional gaming landscape in flux

By that time, however, the gaming market in the Midwest and Mid-South might look different.

The Bluegrass State is flanked on all sides by those looking to get into the sports betting market. As time has shown, once a state legalizes one form of gaming, talks on others forms tend to materialize.

West Virginia was one of the early adopters of sports betting following the US Supreme Court decision last year. Now, it is one step away from passing a full-scale online gaming bill.

Additionally, Illinois has introduced online gambling legislation this year, as have Indiana and Ohio. Discussions are even underway in Virginia, as the Commonwealth looks to enter the casino market for the first time.

Rep. Alan Gentry told fellow KY lawmakers that one of his most significant issues was the state not going “far enough on expanded gaming.”

Here are Gentry’s comments to the Licensing and Occupations Committee:

“You can agree or disagree with gambling, but it already exists. People that like to throw dice and play cards and pull a slot machine already do it. The only thing we don’t have is the revenue to deal with the small fraction of people that are not able to control their addiction.”

Although it appears Kentucky’s efforts to pass some form of gaming expansion are not going away, this marks the third straight year in which lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to legalize sports betting.

- Nick comes from West Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in psychology. After a five year stint in Chicago where he wrote about local politics and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Washington, D.C. to write about issues related to gambling policy, sports betting and responsible gaming.
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