As it was in 2019, Kentucky is an early contender to legalize online gambling in 2020.
Rep. Adam Koenig has once again pre-filed legislation aimed at expanding regulated gambling in the Bluegrass State in the new year. His bill would legalize online poker alongside daily fantasy sports and multichannel sports betting.
This bill looks a lot like the effort that stalled last year, though the legislative landscape surrounding it has changed a great deal.
There’s a new governor in office, most notably, as Andy Beshear was elected in November to replace the staunchly anti-gambling Matt Bevin. In his previous role as attorney general, Beshear publicly called on lawmakers to expand gambling.
It’s also a budget year in Kentucky and the first of a two-year session. Lawmakers work an extended schedule in 2020, and the threshold for passing gambling bills drops to a simple majority.
Regional peer pressure is also on the rise heading into the new year. Four of Kentucky’s neighbors have legalized sports betting, and West Virginia additionally authorized online poker and casino gambling.
The bill is mostly unchanged from 2019, but a couple of new clauses in the online poker section caught our eye. Here’s the added language regarding suitability in Section 41:
(6) Award of an online poker license under this section shall not absolve any person of any liability which has or may be incurred due to litigation with the Commonwealth over internet poker domain names.
(7) Any person who has been issued a license under this section shall have the license suspended by the corporation if a final judgment is issued against the person for the improper use of internet domain names. The license suspension shall continue until all fines and fees assessed under the judgment are fully paid.
These subsections are plainly directed at PokerStars, the only “person” that meets the criteria listed.
The additions stem from the (apparently ongoing) legal dispute over PokerStars’ operations in the Commonwealth prior to Black Friday, in which the courts initially ordered the site to pay nearly $900 million in fines. An appellate judge subsequently reversed that decision, but the state is still working to collect the alleged debt.
PokerStars is the world’s leading online poker operator, and it has essentially become a new company since the mid-2000s heyday of unregulated gaming in the US.
The poker portion of the bill looks fairly good, but there are some real issues with the sports betting provisions.
Here’s the text of BR 364 in full:Kentucky BR 364